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Liberal Party briefing notes backed national Voice

Callan Morse -

Briefing notes from a Liberal Party meeting which preceded the formal declaration of the party’s “no” stance have suggested the party room position was different from that announced by opposition leader Peter Dutton. 

On Wednesday, Mr Dutton rejected the government’s proposal of a constitutionally enshrined national Voice, instead formalising the opposition’s preferred Voice model based on an acknowledgement of First Nations peoples in the constitution and legislated local and regional voices.

However according to Liberal Party briefing notes obtained by the Daily Telegraph Newspaper, the party’s position was to support a legislated national Voice, differing to what Mr Dutton told a press conference following the meeting where he said there was “resounding” opposition to a national Voice body from Liberal MPs.

Named “Liberal-Party-in-confidence”, the briefing note obtained by the Daily Telegraph suggested that if the party “is credibly to reject the government’s current model, it must provide an alternative”, with “a suite of measures” including constitutional recognition, a local and regional body and a legislated national body to be part of the opposition’s Voice proposal.

"The third pillar of the pro-posed alternative model is a commitment to a national bodyas (sic) and offering to develop such legislation on a bi-partisan basis in advance of the referendum,” the Liberal Party document states.

Multiple Liberal MPs suggested after the meeting they understood the party’s position to be supportive of a legislated national Voice, contrary to Mr Dutton’s announcement.

One Liberal MP said "obviously if you leave the room with that piece of paper and the leader has endorsed it then that’s what the position is - everyone thought that's what the policy was,” the Telegraph reported.

Another commented on the outcome of the meeting, suggesting although Mr Dutton didn’t explicitly state the party’s support of a national legislated Voice, it was there in black and white.

“In these matters you go on the papers,” the MP said.

A third Liberal MP said it was “absolutely clear” that the party’s position was to support a national legislated Voice following the completion of the meeting, a position they supported.

“We did agree that - 100 per cent that is what we agreed to. It’s in writing.” the MP said.

“It achieves exactly the same thing but without creating the constitutional minefield.”

However a fourth Liberal MP cast ambiguity of the outcome of the meeting, backing the announcement made by Mr Dutton and his deputy Sussan Ley as a reflection of the meting’s outcome even though the briefing notes from the meeting suggested Liberal support of a legislated national Voice.

“Shadow cabinet agreed to what was announced,” the MP said.

In announcing the Liberal Party’s support for a local and regional Voice model, Mr Dutton said on Wednesday that “there was a resounding no to the Prime Minister’s Canberra Voice” from the party at the meeting.

According to a spokesperson from Mr Dutton’s office, Wednesday’s announcement “clearly outlined the Liberal Party room’s position.”

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