Anthony Albanese’s office has sought to explain why it left out part of an answer from the PM about the Indigenous Voice to parliament in the official transcript of a radio interview.
During an interview on 2GB radio on Wednesday, Mr Albanese said “no, no” when host Ben Fordham asked him if the federal government had consulted the Solicitor-General on the upcoming Voice referendum.
But the word “no” was missing from the transcript that was distributed by Mr Albanese’s office and his department later that day.
Fordham seized on the omission when he returned to airwaves on Thursday morning, claiming Mr Albanese’s office had “been caught rewriting history”.
But a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office told NCA NewsWire: “All the Prime Minister’s transcripts are distributed clearly stating E & OE (errors and omissions excepted)”.
The transcript correctly reflects the rest of Mr Albanese’s answer: “We got advice from a range of High Court judges, former High Court judges are on the record, such as Justice French and others.”
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus further clarified the Solicitor-General was involved in the work being done on the referendum and proposed constitutional amendment.
“Many of Australia’s most eminent constitutional legal experts have advised, and will continue to advise, on the draft amendment,” he said.
“In addition to the work being done by the Solicitor-General and other government lawyers, I’m grateful for the work of the constitutional expert group.”
Australians will vote in the second half of this year on whether the Constitution should be amended to enshrine a body to advise parliament on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Fordham peppered Mr Albanese with questions about how the Voice would function during the messy 2GB interview on Wednesday morning, which Opposition Leader Peter Dutton labelled a “trainwreck”.
The exchange that led to the words which were left off the transcript began when Fordham asked Mr Albanese if he had received advice from the Attorney-General about the proposed change to the constitution.
“We had legal advice from the best legal minds in the country. And, of course, the Attorney-General was involved in those processes,” Mr Albanese said.
After Fordham tried twice more to ask about the Attorney-General’s advice, Mr Albanese said the broadcaster was confusing two issues and the Attorney-General “isn’t there to give legal advice”.
“The Solicitor-General is the person, which you are confusing … who gives legal advice to the government,” Mr Albanese said.
“The Attorney-General is a political officer who’s the first law officer of the land.”
Fordham then said: “So, you got legal advice from the Solicitor-General?”
Mr Albanese replied: “No, no, we got advice from a range of High Court judges, former High Court judges are on the record, such as Justice French and others.”
The opposition has been demanding more details on how the advisory body will operate, with Mr Dutton suggesting it be legislated so that Australians can see how it works before they vote on it in a referendum.
But Labor has emphasised that having the constitution amended to enshrine the Voice was the form of recognition that Indigenous leaders called for in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Under the draft amendment, the Voice would be empowered to make representations to the parliament and the executive government about matters, including existing or proposed laws, policies or decisions that have a connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The draft provision does not provide the Voice with a veto power over the functions or powers of the parliament or the executive.