Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto to vote No on Indigenous voice
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Victorian Liberal leader John Pesutto has revealed he will vote ‘No’ in the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to federal parliament because he believes the objectives of the Voice can be achieved without changing the constitution.
His decision leaves just one Victorian Liberal publicly supporting the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, despite the party’s MPs being granted a free vote on the issue in this year’s referendum.
Liberal leader John Pesutto has revealed he will vote no in the upcoming referendum on the Voice.Credit: Justin McManus
Pesutto said while he strongly supports recognition of First Nations people in the constitution, he has adopted “a cautious disposition on matters of constitutional amendment”.
“I greatly respect many Yes advocates who are urging constitutional change and I embrace the same exalted aims for our country that would see all First Nations people share in Australia’s limitless promise,” Pesutto said.
“Reasonable differences of opinion over our path need not foreclose common bonds over our destination: to eliminate disadvantage suffered by First Nations people and honour the sacred traditions and culture bequeathed by their ancestors down the ages.”
The referendum, to be held on October 14, will ask Australians whether they support altering the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Victorians are more supportive of the Yes vote than constituents in other states, with 51 per cent of those polled backing constitutional change, according to the Resolve Political Monitor survey. Support for the Voice has fallen below 50 per cent in every state except for Victoria and Tasmania, according to the survey.
Pesutto was the last opposition leader in Australia to reach a public position on constitutional change and made the announcement on the same day a damning report from Victoria’s truth-telling commission recommended an overhaul of the state's police and child protection systems, to benefit Indigenous Australians.
Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff, the leader of the country’s sole Liberal government, has backed the Voice, as have ACT Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee and NSW Liberal leader Mark Speakman.
Pesutto’s announcement comes just days after a heated exchange in a Liberal partyroom meeting in which conservative Liberal MP Bev McArthur confronted Pesutto over his position on the Voice. Her question prompted a fierce defence from Pesutto according to three Liberal MPs in the room, who spoke to The Age on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party matters.
McArthur has publicly declared she will vote against constitutional change. Other Victorian state MPs planning to vote No include frontbenchers Georgie Crozier, David Hodgett, Brad Battin, David Davis, Matthew Guy, Brad Rowswell, Renee Heath, Trung Luu and Nick McGowan.
In May, the Victorian shadow cabinet agreed to give MPs the right to campaign and vote Yes or No, rather than forcing them into a party position. That position put Victoria at odds with the federal frontbenchers who are required to oppose the Voice.
Last month The Age contacted all Victorian Liberal MPs who were yet to state their public position, with just one – Kew MP Jess Wilson – confirming she would vote Yes in the referendum.
Of the 29 MPs in the state Liberal party room, 20 have now publicly confirmed they will vote No.
Sam Groth, Michael O’Brien, Cindy McLeish, Roma Britnell, David Southwick and Wendy Lovell are among those yet to settle on their public position.
The South Australian Liberals will join with their federal colleagues in voting against the Voice. Queensland Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli has also said he will vote No.
Northern Territory Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro recently revealed she will vote against the proposal to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. In WA Liberal leader Libby Mettam has said she would vote No, having previously said she would back the Yes campaign.
Pesutto said his position was a personal decision and he would not be campaigning against the Voice.
“If the referendum succeeds, I commit to working positively to make the Voice a success,” he said.
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