Among former ministers for Indigenous Australians and a select number of backbenchers, key members of the Liberal party’s past and present are supporting an Indigenous Voice to parliament.
Since the former minister of Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and current backbencher Bridget Archer’s rejection of Liberal Leader Peter Dutton’s stance on the voice, former shadow Attorney General and minister for Indigenous Australians Julian Leeser is the latest Liberal to vocally support the Voice.
The move means he has had to step away from the front bench, meaning Leeser can vote freely on any piece of legislation.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Leeser said the Liberal party believes in “conscience and freedom.”
“Unlike almost any other party in the parliament, the Liberal party gives backbenchers the freedom to champion the ideas they believe in.
I want to exercise that freedom because I intend to campaign for a yes vote,” he said.
Following Leeser’s resignation, Dutton reiterated the party’s stance of supporting a series of regional voices before establishing a national body, a move the opposition leader believes is more in line with the Calma, Langton report, the document the current national Voice proposal stems from.
“The Prime Minister is at odds with that advice, and that’s why we believe our model has a great chance and a much better chance of providing support to Indigenous people in communities like Alice Springs and it doesn’t change our system of government as we know it,” Dutton said.
The statement comes after a week of the opposition describing the government’s proposal as a Canberra voice.
Former minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt said the Voice would be a grassroots body instead.
Wyatt said the current parliamentary system is unable to assist Indigenous Australians effectively.
“If we went through every member of the federal parliament and asked them if they sat down in the dirt with the communities that have adverse impacts in regional, rural, remote, and capital cities we would find that number very limited,” Wyatt said.
Mr Wyatt was the first Indigenous person to hold the Indigenous portfolio and has since withdrawn his membership of the Liberal Party.
Speaking on ABC Breakfast on Wednesday, Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer, said the voice is an issue that should transcend the standard “political cut and thrust.”
“It’s a moment of nation-building unity in my view, and I think we should be looking at how we can work together and collaborate to make this successful” Archer said.
No referendum in Australian history has been successful without bipartisan support from both major parties.