Huge blow to Peter Dutton as his Indigenous affairs spokesman quits after the Liberals announced they will vote no to the Voice
- Julian Leeser set to quit Coalition frontbench
- Indigenous affairs supports Voice in Constitution
The Coalition’s Indigenous affairs spokesman has quit Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s shadow cabinet over the Liberal Party’s aversion to the Voice.
Julian Leeser announced his resignation from the frontbench on Tuesday morning.
It comes after Mr Dutton last week announced the Liberal Party will campaign against Anthony Albanese‘s proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament, like its junior Coalition partner the Nationals.
Mr Leeser, who has long been a supporter of having an Indigenous Voice in the Constitution, will hold a media conference at 11am AEST.
But on Facebook, he said that as a backbencher, he would be free to campaign for the Voice, with a referendum likely to be held later this year.
‘Our tradition in the Liberal Party is grounded in a belief in conscience and freedom,’ he said.
‘While shadow ministers are bound by the decisions of the shadow cabinet and the party room, backbenchers are free to vote on every piece of legislation according to their own conscience.
‘Because I intend to campaign for a yes vote, I have resigned from the shadow ministry.’
The Coalition’s Indigenous affairs spokesman is set to quit Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s shadow cabinet over the Liberal Party’s aversion to the Voice
Mr Leeser is a ‘constitutional conservative’ who supports having a British monarch, King Charles, as Australia’s head of state.
His resignation from the Coalition frontbench is occurring just days after former Indigenous Australians cabinet minister Ken Wyatt resigned from the Liberal Party, having made history in 2010 as the first Aboriginal member of the House of Representatives.
Andrew Gee in December quit the Nationals to sit as an independent over the same issue.
Unlike Labor, the Liberal Party allows backbenchers to remain in the party even if they campaign against the position of the frontbench.
Mr Leeser last week told the National Press Club there needed to be more detail to get the Liberal Party to potentially support the proposed referendum.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (pictured with wife Kirilly) will campaign against the Voice, like the Nationals
‘What we have witnessed – in word, deed and actions, has been a repudiation of the collaborative spirit that has marked this process since 2014,’ he said.
‘Good process builds consensus. It helps narrow the issues for debate in a referendum.
‘But Labor is messing this up.’
Mr Lesser also holds the affluent seat of Berowra, taking in parts of Sydney’s upper north shore.
Berowra is also next door to the teal independent seat of Mackellar on the northern beaches.
It borders Mr Leeser’s frontbencher colleague Paul Fletcher’s electorate of Bradfield, where a teal independent last year seriously challenged the Liberal Party’s dominance in a once safe seat.
His predecessor in Berowra, Philip Ruddock, in 1988 crossed the floor to support a motion from then Labor prime minister Bob Hawke’s government calling for non-discriminatory immigration policies, following then Liberal Opposition Leader John Howard’s call to reduce Asian immigration.
Just eight out of 44 referendums have been carried since Federation in 1901 with the last successful yes vote occurring in 1977.
A successful yes vote for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution would be the first proposed by a Labor government since 1946.