Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calling for more detail on a proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament ahead of a referendum later this year.
Dutton accused Albanese of “treating the Australian people like mugs”.
Albanese called Dutton’s letter a “cheap culture war stunt”.
Here’s what you need to know.
The Voice was recommended in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was delivered by First Nations leaders in 2017. The Voice would be an official body that advises the Parliament on laws affecting First Nations people.
The Statement calls for the Voice to be enshrined in the Constitution, which does not currently recognise First Nations people.
Albanese has said he wants the constitutional change to focus on the “simple principle”, and to leave the detail to be voted on by Parliament in the same way as any other law.
This approach is supported by Uluru Statement custodians. Last year, Uluru Statement co-chair Professor Megan Davis told TDA the details of the Voice “will not and should never sit in the Constitution” to allow the Voice to “change and evolve over time”.
To change the Constitution, a referendum is required.
What is a referendum?
A referendum is a vote by the Australian people on whether to change the Constitution.
A referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament will be held later this year. It needs support from a majority of voters in a majority of states to succeed.
The last referendum was in 1999, to establish Australia as a republic and replace the Queen as our Head of State. It did not succeed.
Dutton accused the Government of failing to provide “accessible, clear and complete information” about the Voice, which he believes is “condemning it to failure.” The Liberal Party has not finalised its position on the Voice, but its Coalition partner the National Party opposes it.
Dutton listed a number of questions he wanted “detailed information” on, including its “functions and powers”, its cost, its “on the ground” impact and its selection criteria, including the “definition of Aboriginality”.
Albanese criticised Dutton’s approach in a tweet, saying he “still hadn’t seen the letter” and Dutton had not raised these issues in recent conversations with him. “People are over cheap culture war stunts,” Albanese said.
The Government has convened a working group of First Nations people to lead work on the referendum and to agree “the information on the Voice necessary for a successful referendum”. It is led by Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and Special Envoy Senator Patrick Dodson.