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Peter Dutton’s approach to referendum on Indigenous Voice straight from John Howard’s playbook

Paul Karp reports in The Guardian (14.1.23) on increasing political partisanship around the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament, likening the Opposition Leader’s criticism of the government’s planned Voice referendum to former PM John Howard’s undermining of the 1999 republic referendum.

‘Peter Dutton’s opening salvo of the political year, demanding more detail on the Indigenous voice, may have sounded like more of the usual complaints.

‘In a letter to Anthony Albanese, the opposition leader accused the prime minister of an “unreasonable” and “disrespectful” decision to deprive Australians of details about the Indigenous body. A list of 15 questions was attached.

‘Some of the questions have already been clearly answered by the government. Will the voice be purely advisory? Answer: yes. Another, about how the government will define Aboriginality, was quickly dismissed by First Nations referendum working group member, Tom Calma, as a “non-issue” because it does so all the time.

‘… From the Liberals’ perspective, this tactic is about ensuring voters have complete information. But from the perspective of those who want the body established, it’s a replay of John Howard’s tactic to kill the republican referendum by splitting the votes of those in favour into those who could or could not accept a particular model.’

Albanese needs to be more persuasive on the voice – or Dutton’s wrecking ball could break it

Sean Kelly reports in the Sydney Morning Herald (23.1.23) on the political brinkmanship engaged in by the federal Opposition Leader over the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament, suggesting that Peter Dutton is seeking to play a spoiler role ahead of a national referendum.

‘If opponents of the Voice have an advantage, it lies in this fact: that we have become accustomed to politicians offering us clean solutions, as though the world could be reduced to sharp slogans, clear targets, concrete results and simplistic guarantees.

‘This was the world summoned by Peter Dutton in his recent letter to Albanese asking for details in 15 areas. The principle at work is exactly what has failed for so long: the idea that if we could just get this detail right, or that one, then everything would fall into place. The idea is consoling – to the non-Indigenous, anyway – because it makes it seem as though the answer is just around the corner.

‘But it has failed because our long systemic failure over decades has never been a problem of details, but of the whole attitude being wrong. The principle behind the Voice is that our fundamental approach must change: that parliament must ask, and listen, where it has never properly asked and listened before.’

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