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Australia’s opposition party declares to oppose Indigenous Voice to Parliament in referendum

Australia’s main opposition party on Wednesday announced its opposition to the establishment of a consultative body, an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, through a referendum.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Peter Dutton, the leader of the center-right Liberal Party of Australia, accused Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of dividing the country over a proposed federal consultative body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, also known as the Indigenous Voice to Parliament or The Voice.

“It should be very clear to Australians by now that the prime minister is dividing the country and the Liberal Party seeks to unite the country,” ABC News quoted Dutton as saying.

“We went to the last election with local and regional voices, that is essentially the policy we continue on with, it has been well worked through,” he added.

While his party supports constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, he is opposed to the prime minister’s proposal to establish a consultative body in parliament, he said.

Dutton’s comments came after the Albanese government formally introduced legislation in parliament on Thursday to hold a referendum to recognize Indigenous peoples in the constitution and to set up “the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.”

Prime Minister Albanese responded to Dutton’s latest statement by saying he had seven consultative meetings with the opposition leader, and that his press conference “spoke all about politics and all about politicians.”

“I’m very sad by the response of the Liberal Party today. Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley, at their press conference,” Albanese said this during an interview with a local broadcaster.

“I’m very hopeful that it will pass with the support of the Australian people,” he added, according to a transcript posted on his official website.

Albanese said last week while unveiling the referendum question, that if the constitution is amended, it will have a new chapter titled “Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.”

Following Albanese’s center-left Australian Labor Party’s election victory in May of last year, he announced that his government would include Indigenous peoples as original inhabitants in the constitution.

Since the colonization of Australia by British settlers in 1788, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have faced hardships, ranging from the loss of traditional culture and homelands to the forced removal of children and denial of citizenship rights, according to Australian Human Rights Commission.

“This history of injustice has meant that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been denied access to basic human rights, such as rights to health, housing, employment, and education,” it added.

*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid

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