Nationals leader David Littleproud has declared the party will not back a proposal to enshrine an Indigenous voice to parliament.
The government has been calling for a referendum during this term of parliament to set up an Indigenous voice – one of the recommendations from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
However, Mr Littleproud said the junior coalition party would oppose the plan.
“We’ve got to a position where we don’t believe that this will genuinely close the gap,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“We believe in empowering local Indigenous communities, giving them the power at a local level, not creating another layer of bureaucracy here in Canberra.”
Mr Littleproud said the party wanted a respectful conversation on the issue.
“This should be an opportunity to change their lives for the better. Unfortunately, we don’t believe that this will,” he said.
“Our party room in a genuine way has consulted and consulted particularly those men and women that live in these communities.”
Indigenous coalition senator Jacinta Price said a voice to parliament would create more division.
“Why should I as an Indigenous Australian be governed under a separate entity than the rest of Australia because of my race?” she said.
“There’s no way that we want to support a failed model that went before us already and to see this model be forced into our constitution.”
Senator Price said there was a need for practical measures to support Indigenous communities.
“It doesn’t automatically make you marginalised to be an Indigenous Australian, but we do have a hell of a lot of marginalised Australians and those people are largely out of sight, out of mind.”
The Liberal Party has not yet indicated its formal position on support for an Indigenous voice.
But Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has indicated his stance would be driven by the partyroom’s view.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called for bipartisanship on the issue of the voice.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said better policies would be developed when Indigenous people were listened to.
“We want to take Australia forward for everyone – the politicians who oppose the voice want to hold this country back,” she said.
“The voice is about improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.”
The government will release the latest Closing the Gap report on Wednesday, outlining how work on improving Indigenous wellbeing is progressing.
A Productivity Commission report released in July found five targets were not on course including: children being developmentally on track when they commence school, out-of-home care rates, adult imprisonment, deaths by suicide and sea country rights and interests.