Peter Dutton and the Liberal Party are playing a game of “death by a thousand cuts” over the proposed indigenous Voice to parliament, the government has accused.
The Opposition Leader has been accused by the Prime Minister of being “disingenuous” in their opposition, a claim backed in by Government Services Minister Bill Shorten on Tuesday morning.
It follows an open letter penned by Mr Dutton demanding answers to 15 questions about the Voice, including who would be eligible to serve on the advisory council.
Mr Shorten said the Liberal Party “can’t (reach) one point of view” on the Voice, so were trying to raise questions and critique a lack of detail – despite the government’s insistence there is enough available information.
“There is plenty of detail out there,” Mr Shorten told the Nine Network.
“I think some in the Opposition just need to prioritise First Australians rather than their own political goals.”
Mr Shorten said the intention of the Voice was not to replace parliament as the sovereign body, but to “include our First Australians on the nation’s birth certificate – the constitution”.
On Monday night, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he wanted to “look for national unity” in the lead up to the referendum, which will be held later this year.
“It’s a simple proposition, that we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution and that they have a voice, that they be consulted, I regard it as good manners,” he told ABC TV’s 7:30 program.
“But it is also very clear that the reason why some of the debate is disingenuous at the moment about detail is that it misses the whole point.”
The prime minister said Mr Dutton was a politician who looked “for division”, after the Opposition Leader said Australians needed more information about what they were being asked to vote on before they head to the polls.
“It’s obvious that the prime minister has made a political decision based on the advice of his strategists not to provide the detail to the Australian public,” Mr Dutton said in the letter shared online.
“By doing that, I really think he’s treating people like mugs.”
The Opposition Leader then went on to say that Mr Albanese was “setting the Voice up for a fail” by “starving the Australian people” of its detail.
Mr Albanese hit back on Monday, saying he wants national unity on the issue.
“I have made that very clear and that’s why I’ve met with Peter Dutton on a number of occasions, and that’s why I was disappointed to pick up the paper and read that apparently he had written to me, but he forgot to actually write to me, he just gave it to the newspapers, which is the first time that I heard about this correspondence,” he said.
“To me, that isn’t fair dinkum, if you are fair dinkum, sit down, work the issues through, come up with a constructive proposal.”
Mr Albanese also hit back at the accusation that there is not enough information on the Voice, saying that there was “an enormous amount of detail out there”.
The model will follow one outlined in a 2021 report by Marcia Langton and Tom Calma that has previously been taken to the previous Coalition Cabinet by former Indigenous Australians minster Ken Wyatt.