With just weeks before the Greens are set to decide their position on a voice to parliament, senator Sarah Hanson-Young has emphasised her support for the yes campaign while the First Nations spokeswoman, Lidia Thorpe, has again criticised the idea.
The South Australian Greens have unanimously agreed to support the referendum and vote yes to enshrining a First Nations voice in the constitution. The federal party broadly supports the voice to parliament, but wants progress on all elements of the Uluru statement from the heart, including treaty and truth-telling.
Thorpe, however, has called the referendum a “waste of money” and wants the treaty worked out first. Her position has some in the Greens worried it will contribute to confusion and division over the issue.
Hanson-Young said she looked forward to working with all Greens and South Australians “on having all three elements of the statement of the heart delivered, as the SA First Nations Greens have asked”.
“Our local First Nations members have invited us to participate in a process of respect, recognition and understanding and I support them in their campaign,” she said.
The SA Greens agreed to “take steps to clarify – to members, supporters and the SA public – our support for the Uluru statement and for the referendum, and that we develop a plan to campaign actively for ‘yes’ in the referendum”.
The federal party will meet in early February to decide on a formal position.
Thorpe has been critical of the voice and wants the other elements – treaty and truth – first, as well as an acknowledgement of First Nations sovereignty.
She says Labor’s proposal will mean “that the parliament will get to decide whose voice gets heard, while retaining the right to ignore whatever they say”.
“The voice does not have any legally binding authority to make decisions,” she said.
“Truth and treaty are tools to deliver real power for First Nations people in this country. Decision-making power around our own affairs. Power that has been denied to us since colonisation.”
Truth, treaty, then voice “reflects the consensus of our First Nations network, the Blak Greens”, she said.
The Greens’ acting leader, Mehreen Faruqi, said the party was “in productive discussions with Labor to ensure that any action they take in parliament does not set us back on the campaign to achieve treaty or undermine First Nations sovereignty”.
“This is a historic opportunity to get justice for First Nations people,” she said.
“The Greens want the best possible outcome and it’s our responsibility to apply constructive scrutiny to the government’s plan. It is very reasonable to do that.”
The Nationals declared last year they would oppose the voice, a move which immediately caused ructions in the party.
On ABC Adelaide on Thursday, the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, said the Liberal party would arrive at a position after party room discussions, but that the “time-honoured” ability to cross the floor would be available to dissenting members.
“We’ll work through all of that,” he said.
Dutton has been attacking the government over what he says is a lack of detail in the proposal. In a letter to the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, he listed more than a dozen questions he says Australians want detailed information on.
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has accused him of asking “a lot of questions he knows the answer to”. Hanson-Young said Dutton was using “scaremongering and dog-whistle politics over the voice”.
Albanese has made the referendum and the voice a hallmark of his first term in office, but contributed to the confusion this week when discussing the legal advice the government had or had not received.