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Linda Burney slams "post-truth... Trump politics" used by opponents of the Voice to Parliament

Dechlan Brennan -

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney slammed leading opponents of the Voice in a speech on Tuesday evening, accusing the no campaign of seeking to divide Australians by importing "American-style Trump politics".

In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia at Parliament House, the Wiradjuri MP said the basis of the anti-voice campaign was a "post-truth approach to politics".

"The Australian people are better than Trump politics from the 'No' campaign; a 'No' campaign that has no solutions for the challenges that we face," she said.

Ms Burney told the crowd, which included members of the referendum working group, that the Voice represented "one big opportunity to take Australia forward".

"It is symbolic and practical. Because the Voice will be an independent advisory body selected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," she said.

"It will give advice to the parliament and to government on matters relating to Indigenous people and communities.

"It is an opportunity to ensure we are getting the best possible advice from the ground. It is a mechanism for us to listen."

Ms Burney highlighted the opinion of Chair of the Northern Land Council, Sam Bush-Blansai, who has stated that "Aboriginal people are used to speaking and still being ignored. That's why we need a voice to Parliament. Not to force people to do what we say. Nobody can do that. But just to hear what we have to say. Just to listen."

Ms Burney said that previous groups ostensibly designed to help Aboriginal people had wasted funds - with limited accountability - and it had a detrimental impact on First Nations communities.

"One of the areas I see the Voice taking a leadership role in is remote economic development and employment," she said.

"We have spent years…and billions of dollars on poor policy outcomes and missed opportunities… This happened because there was no structural accountability for local communities, no independent voice that could elevate their needs and aspirations to Canberra, no voice to say that local jobs and community projects are what our community needs."

After espousing the benefits of the Voice, the minister took aim at its opponents, arguing that the 'no' campaign was seeking to divide Australians.

"Its aim is to polarise people. And its weapon of choice is misinformation," she said.

Ms Burney noted that prominent anti-voice groups such as Fair Australia – funded by conservative lobby group Advance Australia and led by Nationals senator and Warlpiri-Celtic woman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price - had spread content on social media that was either "clearly false or taken out of context".

"The 'No' campaign uses an image and a quote of Bob Hawke on social media as if to suggest that the former PM didn't support recognition of Indigenous Australians," she said.

"We know that Bob Hawke strongly supported recognition. Bob's wife Blanche made it clear to me that Bob's greatest regret in his public life was not advancing the cause of Indigenous recognition."

Ms Burney also said the no campaign had been "busted" using social media images featuring a man they falsely claimed was the grandson of land rights campaigner Vincent Lingiari, and that Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie and Angus Taylor were caught deliberately misquoting former High Court judges Robert French and Kenneth Hayne during a parliamentary debate.

The minister's speech to the CEDA conference comes as polling by research firm Resolve shows support for a 'Yes' vote on the Voice referendum falling to 49 per cent.

Ms Burney was adamant that even in the face of attacks from the opposition, the referendum would succeed and ultimately benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"I believe that Australia is the best country in the world. And we can be even greater, if we take this opportunity to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in our Constitution," she said.

"We have come too far as a nation on this journey of reconciliation to turn back now. We have to go forward. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by supporting the Voice."


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