A senior Labor minister has been criticised for using “invective” designed to silence criticism of the Voice to Parliament.
Speaking about the Liberal Party’s decision to oppose the government’s Voice to Parliament proposal, Education Minister Jason Clare said that under Peter Dutton the Liberal Party “now looks more like Pauline Hanson than Menzies”.
According to Victorian Liberal MP Keith Wolahan, Minister Clare’s “invective” was clearly designed to make criticism of the Voice seem illegitimate.
“When you hear invective like that, he’s trying to tell people of a particular view… your view shouldn’t be heard, Mr Wolahan said.
“It’s not warranted and we need to rise above that.”
The member for Menzies, a former barrister and army officer who has long held concerns about the Voice proposal, said he would always defend the motives of people who supported the voice, and that people with concerns should receive equal treatment.
“It’s important that this debate is conducted in a civil way,” he said
“We need to let people who have concerns about our Constitution have those concerns heard.”
Mr Wolahan said people could “cherish our indigenous heritage” and want to improve the conditions of Indigenous Australians, while still opposing Labor’s Voice to Parliament proposal.
The Victorian MP also rejected the claim – implicit in Minister Clare’s comments – that the Liberal Party’s decision to oppose the Voice meant it had moved too far to the right.
“I’m a liberal and it’s liberal values that I drew me to the party and they haven’t changed,” Mr Wolahan said, before citing Malcolm Turnbull’s previously vigorous opposition to the Voice proposal.
“If you go back to 2017, when the Voice was first announced as an idea… Malcolm Turnbull, who no one would say is from the hard right of the Liberal Party, was opposed to it because he thought the principle of equality of citizenship was important.
“So if that principle now puts you in the hard right, well I think then those words don’t have meaning anymore”
“We have to be honest about what centre and moderate and conservative actually mean.”
As the Coalition’s lead representative on the parliamentary committee set to examine the Voice to Parliament proposal, Mr Wolahan said it was important to “carefully analyse and question the particular wording” of Labor’s proposal.
“That’s what I hope we can do with this Joint Select Committee In the next four to six weeks,” he said.
“We should have had a Constitutional convention. We didn’t, so the work of this committee is important and I will certainly be doing that in good faith, as will my Coalition colleagues.”