Coalition open to Indigenous voice talks

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Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is open to a First Nations voice to parliament, but wants to dig into the detail before making a commitment.

The Albanese government has pledged to hold a referendum on enshrining the voice in the constitution.

Mr Dutton appointed Julian Leeser as his spokesman for Indigenous Australians when he unveiled his frontbench on Sunday.

Mr Leeser is an outspoken supporter of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for the establishment of a First Nations voice.

When asked what people could read from his decision to appoint Mr Leeser to the portfolio, Mr Dutton said his focus was improving the lives of Indigenous people.

"In relation to the statement ... I've said we will consider what the government's putting forward," he told the ABC on Monday.

"I want to look at the detail (but) at the moment that detail is not available."

Mr Dutton said Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney had been "open and honest" that it wasn't yet ready.

"I think what needs to take place first is we need for the public to understand what it is that's being proposed," he said.

He said reconciliation also involved improving health, education and housing outcomes for Indigenous people.

"I want to see those people in those communities leading a much better life akin to what we do in capital cities."

Mr Dutton walked out on the apology given to the Stolen Generations by former prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2008.

Labor senator Pat Dodson said Mr Dutton had since acknowledged he made a mistake.

"I thought it was a very courageous thing for him to do, quite frankly," Senator Dodson told The West Australian.

"I thought he was honest and I can see where the pain of the experiences that he cited as the causes for his walking out as conflicting with what was happening in the parliament - sometimes you feel like that in this place."

Senator Dodson said the voice was about "nation building".

"This is about our real opportunity for all of us to do something wonderful for our country and that is to get behind a referendum that supports the concept of a voice for First Nations peoples to the parliament so they can have a say on those key pieces of legislation or on policy matters that are going to impact their lives," he said.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Abbott said he backed changing the preamble in the constitution to recognise Australia's First Nations "heritage," but has questioned the need for a voice to parliament.

Mr Abbott, in an essay published in The Australian on Monday, asked why there should be an enshrined voice, with a record number of First Nations parliamentarians elected on May 21.

"With 10 Indigenous MPs, what's the point of a separate Indigenous voice to the parliament now that Indigenous people are so well represented in the parliament itself?" Mr Abbott wrote.

"With the Indigenous percentage of the parliament (elected without quotas or any form of 'affirmative action') now ahead of that in the population at large, any need for a separate 'voice' to the parliament surely has passed."

Mr Abbott has proposed incorporating the words "to create a nation with an Indigenous heritage, a British foundation, and an immigrant character" in the constitution.

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