Australians are being urged to ignore fearmongering from opponents of an Indigenous voice as the advisory body won’t be concerned with fuelling “culture wars”.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney faced more questions from the opposition about the scope of issues on which the voice would advise parliament and executive government.
Ms Burney said the voice would focus on issues specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or matters that affected them differently to non-Indigenous people.
“The word ‘differently’ talks about things like the 10-year gap in life expectancy, about the higher chance that our young people have of being incarcerated than of them going to university,” she told parliament on Wednesday.
The minister became emotional talking about her experience visiting Indigenous communities “crying out” for a different way of doing things.
“I have been to communities where there are 30 people living in a two-bedroom house … where babies are drinking sweet cordial instead of water because it’s cheaper … where you can’t get in or out because of the road conditions,” she said.
“Do not tell me what I do and do not know about Aboriginal Australia, and do not tell me the proposition the prime minister has outlined is not needed in this country.”
Ms Burney has previously told parliament the voice would not advise on matters such as Australia Day.
But deputy opposition leader Sussan Ley said the government was not being genuine in answering questions about the parameters of the Indigenous voice.
She said voters wanted answers from the government ahead of the referendum, which is due to be held between October and December.
“We’re not asking (questions) for the same political motives that I detect in the government – we’re asking them on behalf of the Australian people,” she said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australians understood the voice was the best practical means the nation had of closing the gap.
“Australians get it because Australians value fairness above politics,” he said.
“Australians value solutions above games and Australians have the sense to look past the fearmongering of some.
“I say to all Australians that parliaments pass laws but it’s people that make history and we have an opportunity to advance reconciliation in the last quarter of this year.”
Independent senator Lidia Thorpe, a proponent of the ‘no’ case, said the voice should have the power to advise on any topic if the referendum was successful.
“There should be no limits,” she told AAP.