Albo’s backflip on Voice decision
The Prime Minister has backflipped on one key part of the Voice referendum after pressure from the Federal Opposition.
Despite earlier trying to dispose of a rule that dictates pamphlets outlining both “yes” and “no” arguments must be distributed to all Australians ahead of a referendum, Anthony Albanese has now agreed to send them out over the coming months.
In introducing their Referendum Machinery Bill last year, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman said times had changed, and there was no longer a need to create – and print – pamphlets, as voters could be properly informed via digital means.
“Modern technology allows parliamentarians to express their views to voters directly and regularly through a wide range of sources, such as television, email and social media, that did not exist when the pamphlet was introduced in 1912,” he said.
This drew the ire of the Coalition, who on Tuesday said they would not pass the legislation through the house unless the government changed its tune and made amendments.
The opposition had previously noted that if the pamphlet had not been distributed, it would have been the first time since “before Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup”.
They had demanded Mr Albanese agree to the distribution of the official pamphlets, as well as split funding both sides of the campaign in order to pass the machinery Bill through parliament.
Mr Albanese is unlikely to agree to this.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has welcomed the move, but indicated he still wanted the Prime Minister to allow equal funding for both sides of the referendum campaign.
Mr Dutton said it was “perfectly reasonable” the government would distribute pamphlets and fund both sides, as governments have done in previous referendums.
“The fact is that many people, particularly those where English is not their first language, they do want to sit down… Particularly older Australians, not online but to do it with the booklet in front of them so that they can, in a language that they feel most comfortable with, read all the detail,” Mr Dutton said.
“The other thing of course the Prime Minister has to do is to provide equal funding for both sides of the argument, that is completely and utterly rational. It’s the precedent.
“It’s about informing Australians and providing them with the most information that you reasonably can in a measured way.”
Mr Dutton said the Prime Minister could not be “tricky” in not providing information on the “no” case, because he’s “proposing a significant change to Australia’s constitution”.
“And the funding needs to be provided because Australians need to be informed, and that’s as it should be,” he said.
Special Minister of State Don Farrell is understood to have begun the process of preparing the pamphlets.
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