As it happened: Liberals to oppose Voice to parliament, set to detail alternative approach; RBA says inflation has peaked – Sydney Morning Herald

As it happened: Liberals to oppose Voice to parliament, set to detail alternative approach; RBA says inflation has peaked - Sydney Morning Herald

Key posts

Today’s headlines

By Anna Patty

Thanks for joining us today. Here’s a recap of some of our main headlines:

  • The Liberal Party has decided to formally oppose the government’s model for a Voice to parliament. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says that while he is in favour of constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, the Coalition will oppose the government’s Voice referendum proposal saying it would divide Australians.
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he is not surprised by the Coalition’s opposition, accusing it of playing politics.
  • The man who kidnapped four-year-old Cleo Smith and held her captive inside his home for 18 days has been jailed for 13 years and six months.
  • The Reserve Bank has left open the threat of more pain for home buyers and businesses to quell inflation despite holding official interest rates steady for the first time in a year. After lifting interest rates at its past 10 consecutive meetings, the RBA board on Tuesday decided to hold the cash rate at 3.6 per cent.

  • Finance Minister Katy Gallagher says billions of dollars leaking from Medicare each year need to return to government coffers as Labor prepares May budget reforms of a healthcare system no longer fit for purpose.
  • The National Gallery of Australia will get a $76 million in federal government funding to bolster its operations and an extra $42 million to fix its leaky building.
  • The Victorian government may allow home builders to pass on cost increases to customers in an attempt to stave off a crisis in the building industry after the collapse of Porter Davis left home buyers with unfinished houses and subcontractors facing substantial losses.

Why is the Reserve Bank determined to get inflation below 3 per cent?

By Rachel Clun

The Reserve Bank boss Philip Lowe is explaining why it is important to bring inflation back below 3 per cent.

He went through the reasoning during his National Press Club address in Sydney this afternoon.

“It is important we do this because persistently high inflation is corrosive and damages our economy. It erodes the value of savings, puts pressure on household budgets and hurts people on low incomes the most,” Lowe said.

“High inflation makes it harder for businesses to plan, and it distorts investment. And if inflation becomes ingrained in expectations, it requires even higher interest rates and a larger increase in unemployment to get it back down again.”

The Reserve Bank’s tool for fighting inflation is interest rate rises, and Lowe said it was the best tool they had.

Higher interest rates helped slow household and business demand, which balanced demand and supply pressures, he said.

There were plenty of supply issues during the pandemic, and while most abated (shipping container prices have fallen back down to pre-pandemic levels), Lowe said the bank was keeping an eye on a couple of persistent problems.

Those were housing, and energy, he said.

WA Liberal leader to defy federal counterparts on Voice

By Hamish Hastie

The leader of Western Australia’s parliamentary Liberal party will defy her party’s official position and vote in support of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

In January WA Liberal leader Libby Mettam held similar concerns to her federal counterpart Peter Dutton about a lack of detail surrounding The Voice.

Following the federal party’s official opposition to constitutional recognition Mettam revealed she would support it at the referendum.

WA Liberal Party leader Libby Mettam.

WA Liberal Party leader Libby Mettam.Credit:Trevor Collins

“Personally, I will be voting yes as I support recognition of our First Nations people in the constitution, but I also strongly support all Australians being able to make their own decision,” Mettam said.

“Given this is a Commonwealth matter, which will ultimately be decided by a referendum, the priority must be to ensure Australians understand how the model will work at a practical level to improve the lives and outcomes of First Nations people.“

Mettam leads a depleted state Liberal party and is only one of two Liberal MPs in the WA’s lower house after the McGowan Labor government swept back into government in 2021.


Greens accuse Liberals of continuing legacy of ‘racism and division’

By Anna Patty

Greens Leader Adam Bandt has accused the Liberals of being “a small racist rump sliding into irrelevance” in response to the party’s failure to support the Voice to parliament referendum.

“The rest of the country is starting to reckon with its past as we march towards a treaty, but Peter Dutton is trying to ignite a culture war,” Bandt said.

“Peter Dutton sat out the apology, and under his leadership, the Liberals have found themselves on the wrong side of history yet again. The passage of the Voice referendum is a crucial pathway towards Truth and Treaty, and its failure would set back these important reforms by decades.

“We will be strongly campaigning Yes at the referendum.”

Leader of the Greens Adam Bandt.

Leader of the Greens Adam Bandt.Credit:Rhett Wyman

Australian Greens First Nations’ spokesperson, and Yamatji-Noongar woman, Senator Dorinda Cox said she was disappointed, but not surprised, by the Liberal Party’s decision to oppose the Voice referendum.

“The Liberals continue to stop progress in this country by muddying the waters and pandering to their dwindling conservative base, rather than listening to the communities they claim to represent,” she said.

“Constitutional recognition has been pursued by First Nations leaders across this country for generations, including Yunupingu who passed away this week. How much longer do we have to wait before First Nations people are recognised as the First Peoples of this continent? How many more of our Old People need to die before we gain this recognition and respect?

“As a Greens member of the Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum, I will ensure that the wording of the referendum meets the expectations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. I won’t let the wording be watered down by conservatives catering to racist ideologies who want to divide us and hold Australia back.”

Liberal Party has ‘turned its back’ on invitation from Indigenous Australians

Dean Parkin, director of the Yes Campaign Alliance, has released a statement in the wake of the Liberal partyroom decision to Oppose the Voice to parliament in its current form.

He says Constitutional recognition through a Voice to parliament is an invitation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the nation. And, it has come after decades of discussion and consultation.

“Today, the Liberal Party has turned its back on that invitation,” he said.

The statement went on to say:

While today’s decision was made by a number of politicians in Canberra, the referendum is a decision for the Australian people. Indigenous people have put their faith in the people of Australia, because they will get it right.

We are confident that this year we will see the country unite and vote yes for practical and meaningful change, and in the process bring Australians of all backgrounds together to connect with 65,000 years of continuous culture.

The parliament is finishing important work in the public consultation and we urge people to voice their support in that process. Then, the referendum will be out of the hands of politicians and in the hands of the Australian people and we are confident they will vote yes.

‘No surprise to me’ that Coalition will oppose the Voice: Albanese

By Paul Sakkal

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he expected the opposition to formally oppose the Voice.

“The press conference today, it was all about politics,” Albanese said on ABC Radio Sydney.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“It appears some people don’t want a Voice, they would prefer a whisper.”

Albanese said he had worked as hard as he could to foster bipartisanship, a claim Coalition figures strongly deny.

“There’s been an extraordinary level of consultation and openness,” Albanese said.


Albanese says Dutton’s Canberra Voice’ jibe was a ‘cheap shot’

By Anna Patty

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s description of the Voice referendum as the “Canberra Voice” was a cheap shot.

Albanese told ABC Radio Sydney’s Simon Marnie that the accusation that the process was all about Canberra “is a pretty cheap shot really, which diminishes the extraordinary amount of work done particularly by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but other people in the process as well who have arrived at this position.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony AlbaneseCredit:Alex Ellinghausen

The prime minster said he remained hopeful the referendum proposal would pass with the support of the Australian people. He said the proposal was the culmination of years of work involving more than 1200 people in the process.

“This isn’t something that’s come from politicians. This is something that’s come from the ground up from Indigenous people themselves,” Albanese said on the ABC.

“It’s pretty obvious that there’s no genuine position from the Coalition, tragically, coming forward.”

Burney accuses Dutton of misleading Australians

By Paul Sakkal

Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney has accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of misleading Australians on the Voice.

Responding to the Liberal Party’s decision to oppose the government’s referendum model, Burney said Dutton skipped the apology to the stolen generations delivered by then prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Mr Dutton boycotted the apology and I hope Mr Dutton doesn’t repeat his mistakes of the past,” she said.

The Liberal Party has proposed local and regional voices instead of a national Voice, arguing Labor’s “Canberra Voice” will not lead to practical solutions.

“I want to say loud and clear, loud and clear, the Labor government supports regional voices,” she said, referring to Indigenous representative bodies created in recent years in Victoria and South Australia.

“The Voice will make sure those in remote and regional communities are heard, and it’s simply misleading to suggest anything otherwise,” she said. “I hope the Liberal Party is not repeating the mistakes in the past.”

Watch: Linda Burney’s response to the Coalition’s opposition to the Voice referendum

LIVE: Hear what Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has to say in response to Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s opposition to the Voice referendum.


One-vote win: Paul Toole’s narrow victory in NSW Nationals leadership challenge

By Lucy Cormack

Former NSW deputy premier Paul Toole has held on to the leadership of the National Party by one vote in a tight ballot less than two weeks after the Coalition was swept from government by voters.

The party’s leadership team will remain unchanged despite a strong challenge for the top job from Dubbo MP and former agriculture minister Dugald Saunders at the first party room meeting since the March poll.

Sarah Mitchell, Gurmesh Singh and Bronnie Taylor with Paul Toole (right), who has confirmed his leadership of the NSW Nationals.

Sarah Mitchell, Gurmesh Singh and Bronnie Taylor with Paul Toole (right), who has confirmed his leadership of the NSW Nationals. Credit:James Brickwood

Toole confirmed his leadership flanked by senior colleagues Sarah Mitchell, Gurmesh Singh and Bronnie Taylor, who had gathered for coffee on Macquarie St earlier on Wednesday in an apparent show of support for the unsuccessful Saunders.

The former deputy premier retained the leadership by eight votes to seven, with one informal vote, but insisted the decision was a strong result showing that the NSW Nationals “stick with their leaders”.

Taylor, the former regional health minister, retained her position as deputy leader and remains the party’s most senior female, fending off a challenge from Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall.

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