Sunrise host Natalie Barr has taken a swipe at Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek after she accused the Coalition of running a “scare campaign” over the Voice to parliament.
Ms Plibersek appeared on the Channel 7 breakfast show to defend the “lack of momentum” in support for the referendum, now less than three weeks away.
The latest Newspoll shows just 36 per cent of surveyed voters plan to vote yes, down two points in the past three weeks and the lowest level of support thus far. Opposition has risen to 56 per cent, up three points since the last poll.
Barr pointed out lingering uncertainty among undecided voters over the design of the Voice, how it will function and the extent of its powers.
“People are saying to me that questions aren’t being answered, there are these great big motherhood statements but people are saying to me, ‘Will this have the ability to shut down mines in WA’,” Barr said.
“Can you guarantee the Voice to Parliament won’t slow down the actions of government, will a decision time after time be taken to court?
“Can you guarantee that decisions that are made by ministers and by the government won’t get bogged down in the court?
“That’s what every day Australians are [asking]. Do you think your campaign is answering those questions?”
Ms Plibersek insisted the answer to those types of questions is “really clear” – that the Voice does not have veto power over government decisions and that the parliament will “always be the ultimate decision-maker”.
It’s at this point that Nationals Senator Matt Canavan interjected, attacking the response as being “not true”.
“That’s not true because the High Court will decide,” Senator Canavan said. “You won’t decide, you can’t give those guarantees. The High Court will decide on our Constitution.”
Ms Plibersek fired back: “This is the exact scare campaign that is the problem…”
A frustrated Barr jumped in and cut her off, saying: “Matt, you have your say and then we’ll get Tanya to respond. What do you see the problem as?”
Senator Canavan said the problem with the Voice proposal was “exactly as you’ve outlined” and said many Australians are concerned about the list of “unanswered questions”.
“It will be an unelected judge in the High Court that will decide whether or not the Voice has actual traction on these issues,” he said.
“We are very proud of our Constitution. As the 10th oldest constitution in the world, it’s been changed just eight times in our history.
“There is a rightly very high bar for change and I don’t think the government has met that because they haven’t been able to expand these issues, they haven’t provided the detail and it seems like Australians, as usual with constitutional change, are rightly cynical about the government putting changes on this.”
As support for the Voice wanes, Senator Canavan said many voters are “cynical about governments pushing additional change, and I think rightly so”.
“We could have a voice. I don’t know why we have to change our Constitution.”
Earlier in the segment, Ms Plibersek acknowledged the lack of momentum the Yes campaign has managed to build.
“Look, obviously we’d love the numbers to be stronger but I’m focused on the next three weeks of the campaign and I’ll be out every day talking to people about why I’m voting yes,” she said.
“I’m voting yes to reconciliation, voting yes to listening and, most importantly, voting yes to better results. We know we get better results when we make decisions with the people who are affected. Our democracy works better when we are listening.”