Dutton referendum vow is 'out of touch': voice backers


Peter Dutton's promise to hold another referendum to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution if the upcoming voice vote fails shows he is not listening to Indigenous people, 'yes' campaigners say.

The federal coalition leader on Sunday said Australians would be heading back to the voting booths if he wins government at the next national election due by 2025.

"Yes, I believe very strongly that is the right thing to do," he told Sky News.

"But enshrining a voice in the constitution is divisive."

The opposition is against the current referendum, which would enshrine a voice to parliament in the Constitution, but would support broader recognition - with no voice - in the nation's founding document.

Under Labor's plan, which follows the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the voice would be able to advise parliament and the executive government on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mr Dutton again argued the voice would "divide the country down the middle" and fail to deliver practical outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Megan Davis said it had long been known First Nations peoples and Australians would not accept a form of recognition that failed to change people's lives.

"There's a unity ticket among Australians on this point: there is no use going to a referendum if it's not going to change the daily lives of First Nations peoples," Professor Davis, one of the architects of the Uluru Statement, told reporters on Sunday.

"There's zero evidence anywhere in the world that a statement of recognition (on its own) changes anything."

Uluru Dialogue strategic advisor Kirstie Parker said Mr Dutton's comments showed he was not listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the majority of whom are in favour of the voice according to YouGov and Ipsos polls conducted earlier this year.

"Some people have said the referendum is an expensive exercise and yet here we have an opposition proposing to spend the same amount of money on something that would not change lives," Ms Parker said.

Prof Davis added that while electoral experts predicted an avalanche of "Trumpian misinformation" would come for the 2022 federal election, it instead came for the referendum.

"The Trumpian era has arrived on Australian shores, and there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation circulating," she said.

The Uluru Dialogue - the organisation dedicated to advancing the Uluru Statement - would continue to combat that through "face-to-face yarns" with Australians, Prof Davis said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced the referendum will be held on Saturday, October 14.

Nationals Leader David Littleproud backed his Liberal counterpart on Sunday, saying if the referendum was solely about constitutional recognition "it would've passed with flying colours".

"If it does go down on October 14, I'm pledging my leadership to restart a process to make sure we do get to constitutional recognition," he told Nine's Weekend Today program.

The 'yes' campaign on Sunday announced it had secured permission to use John Farnham's famous song, 'You're the Voice', in a film about the referendum.

The film, which pairs the song with transformative moments in Australian history, was launched in Melbourne by the Uluru Dialogue.

Asked if he thought Farnham's support would make a difference to the 'yes' campaign, Mr Littleproud claimed Australians don't understand what a voice to parliament means.

"I think the line, 'you're the voice, try to understand it', is a big one," he said.

"The prime minister might want to have a little think about that today."

The referendum's success depends on majority support across the country and in four of six Australian states.

The referendum question is: "A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?"

If successful the government will design the specific form of the voice, which will be implemented via legislation debated and passed by federal parliament.