Another politician quits: What it means now the Liberal Party said they don't support the Voice to Parliament.

Last week, Peter Dutton made an announcement that didn't exactly surprise the Prime Minister.

The Opposition Leader confirmed the Liberal Party will oppose the government's model for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, following a meeting with Liberal MPs in Canberra on Wednesday. 

"We have been clear we don't support his [Anthony Albanese's] Canberra voice. It is divisive and won't deliver the outcomes to people on the ground," said Dutton, who confirmed he will actively campaign for the 'No' campaign in the lead-up to the referendum. 

Speaking to ABC Radio after the announcement, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was saddened by the Liberal Party's decision. 

"I'm not [surprised by the decision]," he said. 

"It appears some people don't want a voice – they'd rather have a whisper."

Albanese said Dutton had done all he could to undermine the referendum and the decision would make it harder to succeed.

"This isn't something that's come from politicians, this is something that's come from the ground up, from Indigenous people themselves."

So, what happens now? 

Can the Voice still become a reality even without the Liberal Party's support?

Here's everything you need to know. 

First up, what is the Voice to Parliament?

One of the key elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the constitution. 


'Enshrining' a Voice to Parliament in the constitution will mean that it cannot be dismantled by the government of the day. 

The government proposes that the Voice will be an "independent, representative advisory body for First Nations people. It will provide a permanent means to advise the Australian Parliament and Government on the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on matters that affect them".

'Advisory body' is a key term here. The Voice will be 'subservient' to Parliament and won’t have the power to veto legislation.

However, a constitutional change such as this requires a referendum — a yes/no vote that is compulsory for all Aussies who are registered on the electoral roll. Last month, we heard the question Aussies will be asked in the referendum before the end of the year. 

Read more: The question for the 'Voice to Parliament' Referendum has been revealed.

How did people react to the Liberal Party's opposition to the Voice? 

For a start, the former minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt quit the Liberal Party over its decision to formally oppose the Voice last week. 

Wyatt, who was the first Aboriginal person to hold the portfolio, told the West Australian that he still believes in the Liberal Party values but doesn't believe in what the Liberals have become. 

"Aboriginal people are reaching out to be heard but the Liberals have rejected their invitation," he said.


Now, shadow attorney-general, Julian Leeser, has announced he's also taking a step back. 

On Tuesday, the Liberal frontbencher, who was instrumental in building the foundation of the Voice, announced his resignation from the shadow cabinet to campaign for a 'Yes' referendum vote.

"With a referendum due later this year, I believe the time for the Voice has come," Leeser said on Tuesday.

"I believe in a national voice, drawn from local and regional bodies, and support the referendum being put this year.

"I believe the voice can help move the dial on Indigenous education, health, housing, safety and economic development."

Meanwhile, Pat Anderson AO, Co-Chair of the Uluru Dialogue, said the Liberal Party's decision "ignores" the years of work and campaigning to get to this point. 

"After 12 years, seven processes and ten reports, the Liberal Party have made a decision to campaign for a 'No' vote. This ignores the majority of First Nations Peoples at the grassroots across the country, ignores the months of work done by three referendum working groups to ensure the wording is sound, and ignores the majority view of their own constituents," she said in a statement last week. 

Thomas Mayo, a member of the referendum working group, said he was "deeply disappointed" the Liberals had joined the Nationals in opposing the model.


"They've chosen to refuse us the fairness of a voice," he wrote on Twitter.

In a press conference, current Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney also criticised the Liberals' choice and said that it was about internal politics and had "nothing to do with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or taking Australia forward together." 

Burney also said that while the Liberal Party have an 'obsession' with Anthony Albanese, the referendum is "not about politicians" and claimed that Dutton will end up on the wrong side of history. 


Does this decision mean that no Liberal MP can vote for the Voice?

No, Liberal backbenchers are free to vote with the government on the Indigenous Voice referendum bill, which is expected to happen in June, after a parliamentary inquiry.

However, the shadow cabinet is bound by the party position not to support the model.

At least four Liberal backbenchers will campaign for a 'Yes' vote, including Tasmania's Bridget Archer.

Albanese also said he was aware of Liberals who were considering resigning from the front bench to support the government's model.

On Tuesday, shadow attorney-general, Julian Leeser, became one of them.

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So, if the Liberal Party doesn't support the government's model, what do they want to see instead? 

Instead of an Indigenous Voice in the constitution, the Liberal Party have proposed symbolic recognition in the Constitution and a legislated Voice.

The legislated Voice, which is not enshrined in the constitution, would focus on local and regional Voices, rather than a national Voice. 

"We want to make sure that we can get the best possible outcomes for Indigenous Australians," said Dutton. 


"We do that through recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution and by providing for their say, their voice to be heard by government, in a very clear way but at a local level."

However, the Uluru Statement from the Heart has rejected both suggestions, calling for an enshrined Voice and structural reform rather than symbolic recognition. 

Is there still hope for a Voice?

Despite the Liberal Party's stance, Albanese remains hopeful about the referendum. 

"I'm very hopeful that it will pass with the support of the Australian people," he told ABC radio. 

Pat Anderson from the Uluru Dialogue also said she will "not be deterred" by the Liberal's decision. 

"It’s the Australian people who will decide the outcome of this referendum... Our focus remains on educating the Australian people about how important this reform will be to the lives of First Nations Peoples – to give us a say in the policies and laws that impact our everyday lives."


'Yes' supporters will also be reassured to know that more than half of Australians (54 per cent) support the Voice in the constitution, according to the latest Newspoll by The Australian. 

A study by IPSOS in January also found 80 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people support the Voice.

As the referendum draws closure, Anderson says, "We call on all Australians to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future."

- With AAP. 

This article was originally published on April 6, 2023 and was updated on April 11, 2023. 

Feature Image: Martin Ollman/Getty/AAP.

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