Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says the Liberals do not support Labor's "Canberra voice". (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)
The Liberal Party has confirmed it will formally oppose the Indigenous Voice to Parliament ending months of speculation over its final stance on the referendum.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced on Wednesday his party would back constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a different form of words to that proposed by the government.
He says the Liberals will advocate for a legislated regional and local voice rather than a national body.
“It should be very clear to Australians by now that the prime minister is dividing the country and the Liberal Party seeks to unite the country,” he said.
“We went to the last election with local and regional voices, that is essentially the policy we continue on with, it has been well worked through.”
The opposition will seek to amend the bill which was introduced in March and is expected to be voted on in June after a parliamentary inquiry.
Indigenous academic and one of the Uluru Statement’s architects Noel Pearson said it was a sad day for Australia that there would not be bipartisan support for such an important national enterprise.
While party backbenchers will be given a free vote on the decision, front benchers who support the proposal will be required to resign or fall back in line.
Noel Pearson, a Cape York Indigenous leader from the Guugu Yimithirr Aboriginal community at Hope Vale, told ABC radio the Liberal Party had made a “disgraceful attempt” to derail the Indigenous voice but he remained confident the referendum would succeed.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. I was troubled by dreams and the spectre of the darkness of the Liberal Party’s Judas betrayal of our country,” he said.
“I’ve got a great belief that the Liberal Party is greatly out of step with the sentiment of the Australian people on this issue.
“The Australian Constitution actually puts the power in the people to decide this question and thank God we have the Australian people deciding this question rather than the Liberal Party.”
The Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney is hoping that the Liberal party is not “repeating mistakes of the past”.
Speaking to the Press after the announcement, Minister Burney, a Wiradjuri woman hopes the opposition reconsider’s it’s position.
“There is enormous support and momentum in the Australian community for this referendum.”
The Voice to Parliament referendum is expected to be held on a Saturday between October and December this year.
No Australian referendum has been passed without bipartisan support.