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PM Albanese slams Peter Dutton after Opposition Leader's call for "more detail" on Voice rings hollow

Giovanni Torre -

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has slammed Peter Dutton over "a cheap culture war stunt" after the Opposition Leader's letter demanding more detail on the Voice to Parliament was given to the media before the PM.

Mr Dutton's letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, was dropped to a number of outlets on Sunday.

Later that day Mr Albanese noted that Mr Dutton had had an opportunity to hand over the letter, or otherwise communicate with him about the Voice, in person two days earlier.

"So, even though I talked with Peter Dutton on Friday at the (McGrath Foundation) event, he gives a letter to multiple media outlets as (an) 'exclusive' on constitutional recognition and the Uluṟu Statement - a letter I still haven't seen," he said.

"People are over cheap culture war stunts."

In the letter Mr Dutton echoed a number of Liberal and National parliamentarians by claiming there has been a lack of detail in the proposal for an Indigenous Voice to parliament.

In December 2021, while Mr Dutton was a minister in the Morrison Government, his cabinet colleague, then Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, released a 272-page report on the Indigenous Voice co-design process.

The report proposes a 24-member voice body, with two members from each state and territory as well as the Torres Strait Islands, a third member for remote areas of certain states, guaranteed gender balance, options for choosing members, and processes for consultation by parliament.

In late November last year Mr Wyatt urged Nationals MPs to read the report after the federal party announced it would oppose the Voice.

There has also been the 183-page Final Report of the Referendum Council, and the 264-page report from the joint select committee on constitutional recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, led by Labor Senator Patrick Dodson and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Julian Leeser.

Writing for The Saturday Paper on 7 January, co-chair of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament design group, Professor Marcia Langton AO, noted that the "key gripe" of Mr Dutton and Mr Leeser, "is that 'no detail' has been provided about the Voice".

"What the opponents mean is that they will seek to deceive the public into believing that there is 'no detail', ignoring at least three reports on the matter running to hundreds of pages," she wrote.

More than four weeks ago Professor Langton urged critics of the voice to examine the detail that has been publicly available for some time.

Professor Langton, an anthropologist and geographer, and since 2000 the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, told ABC Radio National in early December that it was "unfortunate the Nationals have injected misinformation and vitriol into this debate so early on".

"I'm seeing this now as a bit like the Adam Goodes saga, which is terribly unfortunate," she said.

"We have to take these matters seriously. This is too important to play nasty electoral politics about … it would be terribly unfortunate for all Australians if the debate sinks into a nasty, eugenicist, 19th century-style of debate about the superior race versus the inferior race."

Fellow co-chair of the group, Tom Calma, told Radio National that calls for more detail didn't stack up.

"This is a bit bewildering really that people say that don't have information when it's been available," he said.

Mr Dutton boycotted then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to members of the Stolen Generations in 2008.

Only in 2022, once becoming Opposition Leader, Mr Dutton provided two distinct "reasons" for the boycott.

At a public event last year Mr Wyatt said Mr Dutton had never discussed his decision to boycott the apology with him, and also said there would be "greater movement and progress to realising the Uluru Statement from the Heart in the next three years than… if the Morrison government been re-elected".


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