Peter Dutton has stopped short of endorsing a contentious remark from his Indigenous Australians spokeswoman who claimed colonisation had a positive impact.
The opposition leader backed in senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price after address to the National Press Club drew the ire of the government and the Yes campaign
Senator Price told reporters in Canberra on Thursday colonisation was good for Indigenous Australians and cast doubt on Mr Dutton’s promise of a second referendum if the Voice failed.
Mr Dutton argued Senator Price was speaking from her lived experience as a “brave Indigenous women” who grew up and lives in Alice Springs.
“We either accept that people have views, a broad range of views, or we don‘t,” Mr Dutton told Nine’s Today Show.
“The left just say, well, we can only listen to people like Marcia Langton but Indigenous people on the right, like Jacinta Price, we can’t listen to.
“So what, do we just say that her view doesn’t count? That she doesn’t know what she’s talking about?”
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney condemned Senator Price’s comments as “offensive” and a “betrayal”.
Speaking on Friday morning, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the remarks were part of the No campaign strategy to distract from the proposal on the ballot paper.
“She is doing what the no campaign has done for many, many months, which is to talk about anything other than this referendum,” he told ABC’s RN.
Voters will head to the polls on October 14 to decide on whether to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution through an enshrined Voice.
The Yes camp, and the government, have argued the Voice is needed to close the gaps in Indigenous disadvantage.
Mr Dutton has stated his support for local and regional voices, rather than a national Voice, but only if they were legislated and not baked into the Constitution.
He has previously said he wants a second referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition should the Voice to Parliament fail.
Senator Price, and Nationals leader David Littleproud, have failed to back the call.
But when asked about his promise on Friday, Mr Dutton claimed “nobody wants a second referendum”.
“What we’ve said is that we want reconciliation. I don’t believe people if they vote no on October 14 are voting against helping Indigenous Australians,” he said.
“I don’t believe they’re voting against recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution. But they are voting against a Voice.
“So our argument is let’s have a unifying moment instead of a dividing moment. The question should just be recognition.”
Nationals leader in the Senate, Bridget McKenzie, however said Mr Dutton had been “very clear” that “we’re going to a referendum on recognition”.
“We’re going to focus on defeating the Voice, for me from my end, and hopefully winning the next election if we get that great privilege … they’re exactly the questions we’ll be considering,” she told 2GB.