The prime minister’s office and department published a transcript of a radio interview which omitted a key part of an incorrect answer about legal advice on the voice referendum.
In an interview on 2GB radio on Wednesday – which the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, described as a “train wreck” – Anthony Albanese replied “no, no” when asked if the government had consulted the solicitor general on the referendum – but these words were omitted from the transcript.
Albanese continued “we got advice from a range of high court judges, former high court judges are on the record, such as Justice French and others” – words which were correctly recorded in the transcript, distributed by his office at 8:49am and published by his department.
Both transcripts are marked E&OE – meaning “errors and omissions excepted”. Mark Dreyfus has since clarified the solicitor general is working on the constitutional amendment.
The incorrect answer and transcript omission adds further pressure to Albanese over the interview which included several testy exchanges over details of the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament.
The answer came at the end of an exchange in which broadcaster, Ben Fordham, first asked Albanese if he had received advice about the proposed change to the constitution from the attorney general.
“We had legal advice from the best legal minds in the country,” Albanese said. “And, of course, the attorney general was involved in those processes.”
After Fordham made two further attempts asking about the attorney general’s advice, Albanese replied: “The attorney general isn’t there to give legal advice … The solicitor general is the person which you are confusing, is the person who gives legal advice to the government. The attorney general is a political officer who’s the first law officer of the land.”
When Fordham then asked: “So, you got legal advice from the solicitor general?” Albanese replied: “No, no, we got advice from a range of high court judges, former high court judges are on the record, such as Justice [Robert] French and others.”
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, told Guardian Australia that “many of Australia’s most eminent constitutional legal experts have advised, and will continue to advise, on the draft amendment”.
“In addition to the work being done by the solicitor general and other government lawyers, I’m grateful for the work of the constitutional expert group,” he said.
That group comprises former high court justice Kenneth Hayne, Noel Pearson, professors Greg Craven, Megan Davis, Cheryl Saunders, Anne Twomey, George Williams and Asmi Wood.
Dutton, the opposition leader, told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday the interview showed “the prime minister didn’t know what he was talking about”.
“The prime minister on 2GB … had a train wreck of an interview with Ben [Fordham] – it was just a shocker.
“So, I’d just say to the Australian public: if Anthony Albanese can’t explain the voice and Anthony Albanese doesn’t understand how the voice will operate, how can Australians be expected to understand how the voice will operate without the detail?”
Dutton also accused Albanese of being “very tricky” for refusing to say whether Labor might legislate the Indigenous voice to parliament in the event the referendum to constitutionally entrench it fails.
In 2018 the Labor frontbencher Linda Burney admitted her office made “a mistake” incorrectly transcribing an interview, omitting her call for a “time limit” on how long people were held in offshore immigration detention.
In 2022 the office of then financial services minister, Jane Hume, landed in hot water over a request to Hansard staff to delete references to a $10 cut to the price of medicines which she mistakenly referred to in parliament despite the fact it had been cut from the budget.
The prime minister’s office and department of the prime minister and cabinet were approached for comment.