Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has launched a scathing rebuke of the upcoming Conservative campaign against a referendum on an indigenous vote for parliament, attacking his long-time rival Tony Abbott for suggesting the body would change Australia’s system of government.
Responding to the former Liberal prime minister, who has argued the vote could undermine the functioning of parliament with veto-like powers, Rudd said the proposed constitutional changes to establish the body were “modest” and ensured the body would only have an advisory role to governments.
“Although these are modest proposals, we still have inbred bad actors like Tony Abbott screaming that such amendments would ‘change our system of government’ by establishing Voice as ‘part of our Parliament’ and enabling ‘judicial intervention’ to strike down laws. ,” Rudd added in an opinion piece Sydney Morning Herald and The age.
“On both counts, Abbott is wrong. It says a lot that his most trusted Indigenous adviser in government, Noel Pearson of the Cape York Institute, has strongly backed Albanese’s proposal. As with climate action, Abbott seems determined to stoke anxiety and fear.”
Responding to Rudd’s remarks, Abbott said he did not want to get into “a snakefight with a former prime minister” but stood by his concerns about the way the body would operate.
“What’s the point of the Vote if it’s not to change the way government works? And any constitutional amendment requiring the government to consider ‘representations…on matters relating to’ Indigenous affairs leaves government action more open to legal challenge ,” Abbott said.
The opposing views of the two former prime ministers give a taste of the upcoming rival Yes and No campaigns on the Vote, as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese looks set to hold a referendum this term on whether the body should be enshrined in the constitution.
Entering The Australian, Abbott suggested the Voice would have “something approaching a veto” over decisions in Parliament, and would change the way government works “because a certain group will have an unspecified influence, over unspecified issues, with unspecified consequences” .