Barnaby Joyce has sensationally taken aim at the government over the Voice to Parliament, insisting it is not racist to vote against the proposal.
After months of consultation, the federal government unveiled the wording of the referendum question and proposed constitutional change in an emotional press conference on Thursday morning.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a tearful plea to Australians to support the Voice, due to come to a vote between October and December this year.
Just hours later on the floor of parliament, the former Nationals leader issued a dramatic statement in which he accused the government of being “belligerent” by not releasing the further detail about the body.
“I say they don‘t trust you. If they don’t trust you to (release the detail), do not trust them with your vote,” he said.
“It is not racist to vote no.”
Barnaby Joyce has taken aim at the federal government over the Indigenous Voice to parliament. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin OllmanMr Joyce has been a long-time opponent of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Taylor
His speech was met with outcry from the Labor MPs who had shuffled into the chamber ahead of question time.
“You’re a disgrace,” Early Childcare Minister Anne Aly cried out.
Cabinet gave the proposed question and wording the rubber stamp on Thursday morning after the referendum working group handed back its advice on Wednesday.
The government will put the constitutional alteration bill to the parliament next Thursday to be voted on no later than June.
Like Mr Joyce, Liberal leader Peter Dutton remains unconvinced by the proposal.
Asked what level of detail could convince him, the opposition leader claimed a response to the list of the 15 questions he penned to Mr Albanese would be a good start.
“If you’re proposing a very significant change to our founding document, how will it deliver practical outcomes for Indigenous Australians? And if you can’t provide that detail, then he needs to explain why,” he said.
“It’s not just millions of Australians who are not Indigenous who want the detail, but many, many Australians of Indigenous heritage also want the detail and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for.”
Anthony Albanese unveiled the wording of the referendum question and proposed constitutional amendment in an emotional press conference. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
While the Liberals have yet to confirm their position, last year the federal Nationals declared they would not support the Voice.
Mr Joyce has long opposed the proposition of a First Nations advisory to parliament, falsely claiming it would constitute a third chamber of parliament following the Uluru Statement of the Heart.
Two years later, he admitted his characterisation was wrong.
“If I got it wrong, I apologise. There you go. Unreservedly,” he told the ABC in 2019.
“What I do say, we’ve got – we’ve got to take this debate forward … take the debate forward in a form that succeeds. There’s no point going to a referendum with something that is not going to work