Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended the government’s focus on the voice referendum as Australians struggle at the checkout and the bowser.
Mr Albanese says his government is “doing the lot” when it comes to the economy, environment and cost of living.
“But we also think after 122 years, the simple proposition that we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Australia’s first people in our nation’s founding document is a very modest request,” he told Triple M radio on Wednesday.
“When we talk about budgets, there’s been a whole lot of money put into Indigenous affairs, it clearly hasn’t been effective, the system hasn’t worked up to now and so that’s why we need to do better.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton attacked the prime minister, saying he was dividing the nation and failing to provide enough detail on the advisory body.
“Australians haven’t got the detail that they require to make an informed judgment,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“That’s why Australians are angry …what sort of prime minister says to the Australian public, ‘I’ll explain to you what it is you’re voting for after you vote’?.”
The government has disputed this, saying the whole point of the referendum was to vote on the principle of having a constitutionally enshrined advisory body.
The make-up of the body would then be determined by the parliament through legislation and it can be changed and amended by successive governments.
The referendum will not enshrine a specific model but rather just that an advisory body exists that can make representations to the parliament and government on issues that significantly affect Indigenous people.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said the voice was “simply an advisory body” that would consult with local communities and not have any veto powers over government policy or the parliament.
“The voice will be concerned with things that affect the daily lives of First Nations people, for example, health, education, housing and employment,” she told ABC radio.
“It is not going to be dealing with submarines or some of the other spurious issues that people have raised.”
It comes as Australian legend Cathy Freeman has thrown her voice behind a new ‘yes’ campaign ad.
Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley said Ms Freeman would always remain an icon but she didn’t agree with her position despite wanting to see her in parliament.
She said it was okay to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but “what’s not okay is the type of disrespect and abuse that people experienced only a day or so ago in Adelaide and the yelling at members of the ‘no’ campaign”.
Australians will head to the polls on October 14 and will be asked whether they want to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution by enshrining an advisory body that can make representations to the government and parliament.