Dutton vows second referendum if Voice fails

An Indigenous advisory Voice would “change the way of government very significantly, because of the broad words”, according to Coalition leader Peter Dutton. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman

Opposition leader Peter Dutton has committed to holding another referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution if the Voice failed.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Dutton said he strongly believed that Indigenous people should be recognised in the Constitution but did not provide a timeline of when a referendum would be held if he wins the next election.

“We went to the last election and the number of elections before that, with that as our policy and that will be our policy going into the next election,” Mr Dutton said.

“I think it’s right and respectful to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution and I will work with the Labor Party to find a common ground.”

The Opposition leader reiterated that he supported “regional voices” instead of a Canberra-based body. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman

Nationals leader David Littleproud said he would support a “proper” constitutional recognition process.

“There'd be no victory from the Nationals if the referendum goes down. In fact, we want to be constructive, proper process of constitutional recognition,” Mr Littleproud told NCA NewsWire.

“That means the constitutional convention whereby not just one cohort of the Australian population turn up and get, determine what should be in our Constitution.”

Speaking at a rally in Melbourne on Sunday, Voice architect and constitutional lawyer Professor Megan Davis said there’s “zero” evidence to suggest that a statement of recognition would lead to impactful changes.

“There’s no use in going to a referendum if it’s not going to change the daily lives of First Nations peoples,” she said.

Professor Davis said Australia has entered a ‘Trumpian-era’ in the lead up to the referendum. Picture NCA NewsWire / Aaron Francis

When asked about his plan to reduce Indigenous disadvantage in lieu of a Voice, Mr Dutton said he would instead “work very closely” with the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland state governments.

He reiterated a $8.3m scheme he and Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Price announced in Alice Springs last year to build accommodation in remote schools.

“We’ve got a scheme on the table which is fully supported by teachers and principals to try and provide accommodation at the places of learning at the school so that the kids can be fed there, they can be accommodated there overnight that reduces the incidents of domestic violence, sexual violence,” Mr Dutton told AM Agenda.

“Restoring law and order would be the first priority.”

Mr Dutton during his visit to Alice Springs in 2022. Picture: Supplied.
Mr Dutton during his visit to Alice Springs in 2022. Picture: Supplied.

Mr Dutton came under fire last year after making broad allegations of child abuse in remote Aboriginal communities during a visit to Alice Springs, in which the peak body representing First Nations families responded by saying there was no evidence to support his claims.

“Data from Territory Families show there has been no escalation in investigations of sexual abuse or exploitation,” CEO of The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) Catherine Liddle said.

“Sexual abuse is a really serious crime, which has a devastating impact on children, families and communities — this is not a political football.”

Greens senator David Shoebridge said the Voice was a scary prospect for the Coalition because they want to legislate without having to listen to First Nations people.

“He (Peter Dutton) would like to be able to legislate as he sees fit, redo the intervention, all of those things without listening,” he told Sky News.

“I think at the root of it, that’s really what that is.”