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"Sad and pathetic" - former deputy Liberal leader Fred Chaney slams party's opposition to the Voice

Callan Morse -

Former deputy federal Liberal leader and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Fred Chaney has strongly criticised his former party's opposition to the Voice to Parliament.

Mr Chaney told the ABC that opposition leader Peter Dutton's stance on the Voice is "sad and pathetic".

"(It's) a massive disappointment really. I'm sadly not surprised because I think they're desperately looking for political advantage on this instead of treating it as the serious issue that it is," Mr Chaney said.

"To work on this as indeed the previous government did to develop ideas about the Voice and then try to sabotage the referendum is, I think, tragic."

Mr Chaney said he saw the Liberals' "no" stance as an attempt to both damage Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and complicate the notion of a constitutionally enshrined Voice.

"I think the important thing for the Liberal Party at the moment or for those who are taking this decision is to try to bloody the Prime Minister's nose than look at the issue of substance," he said.

"They can see there's a need for a Voice, they want the legislative voice, but they've been looking for reasons to complicate the constitutional side of it. To be quite honest I think it's sad, and it's pathetic."

Before Wednesday's announcement where Mr Dutton confirmed the Liberal Party's "no" stance, he along with Liberal frontbenchers called for the government to release more detail about a constitutionally enshrined Voice.

Mr Chaney said the party's actions were party-political tactics.

"The fact is they're playing politics with this. I think they've been doing that for months now... This whole question about more detail has been a cover for their desire to oppose it," he said.

The Liberal Party lost last week's Aston by-election, with Labor MP Mary Doyle winning the seat ahead of the Liberal candidate, Roshena Campbell.

Mr Chaney said the result, which marks the first time in more than a century where a sitting government has won a seat from the opposition in a federal by-election, shows how disconnected the party is from its own supporters.

"They wouldn't come on this (the Voice) since after the Aston by-election," he said.

"The Aston by-election has shown how out of touch they are with their own voting base. And I think this is another sign that they're pandering to the most extreme elements within the party. It's pathetic."

Following the announcement that the federal Liberal Party would oppose and actively campaign for the "no" campaign, state MPs including Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff, Australia's only current Liberal premier, publicly opposed the federal Liberal Party's view.

Mr Chaney said that was a sign of party members distancing themselves from Mr Dutton.

"I think it's an indication at least some Liberals around the states indicate that they don't want to go to hell in a handbasket with Peter Dutton," he said.

"He's going to take them into territory, which is alien to the wishes of the Australian community, why should they follow?"

Overall, he said the Liberal Party's position was primarily about internal party politics.

"Their main concern seems to be to retain control of the party," he said.

"Instead of saying, what does good government in Australia mean in 2023? How do we serve the people of Australia?"How do we work on good government? How do we do that instead of playing politics?"

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