The Indigenous voice to parliament should not be the subject of partisan debate, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has said, promising to “reach out” to any opposition politician who wants to discuss how the voice will work.
He opened a national week of action on the referendum in front of an enthusiastic crowd in his home electorate in Sydney’s inner west on Saturday.
“For those people of privilege in the parliament, they are participants not observers,” Albanese said, in an apparent rejoinder to the opposition leader, Peter Dutton.
“The parliament will get to determine function, the powers, the procedures of the voice. And I will reach out to any parliamentarian across the political spectrum. Because this should not be the subject of partisan debate. This should be the moment where we come together as a nation.
“To those in positions of political leadership, do not miss this opportunity this time,” Albanese added – in what could be read as another dig at Dutton, who last week apologised for boycotting Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations in 2008 as he had “failed to grasp” its significance.
Albanese said there was “a lot of misinformation out there” about the voice, but it was “a very clear proposition being put to the Australian people”.
“The referendum working group has also worked through and published very clearly the principles,” he said. “They’re there for every parliamentarian to understand.”
On Friday, Dutton said the Indigenous voice referendum was on track to fail and blamed the prime minister for a “conscious decision” to withhold detail.
Dutton attended a working group for a second time on Thursday, and made the comments at a doorstop the following day.
He was heavily criticised by working group members Thomas Mayo and Marcus Stewart as being “disingenuous”. Mayo said he felt that Dutton’s personal views expressed at the meeting were at odds with his public statements, while Stewart, the co-chair of the Victorian First Peoples’ Assembly, accused Dutton of “playing politics” with Indigenous people’s lives.
“We want to work with him, but you can’t say one thing to us, then walk outside and say something completely different,” he said. “It’s why our people don’t trust governments or oppositions and I think he needs to come back to the table in good faith.”
Dutton has been sought for a response.
On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people attended leafy Petersham Park to hear the prime minister, the minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, and one of the key architects of the Uluru statement from the heart, Pat Anderson, speak about the upcoming voice to parliament referendum.
Burney told the crowd she hoped they would vote “a big fat yes” to the voice in the referendum, expected to be held between October and December.
“I want you to imagine how you’re going to feel the Sunday morning after the Saturday of the referendum, you will walk taller, you will walk more proudly,” she said.
“Those who are not with us are looking to the past.”
Pat Anderson said the referendum was “probably the most significant thing that all of us are going to do”.
“Our challenge is to continue that conversation, to continue to talk to our friends and colleagues and families so you to understand about the Uluru statement from the heart.
“We’ve tried everything, how many committees? We try to educate, we’ve cajoled, we’ve been sensitive, we’ve been kind. And now … the only way we can move forward here is to use their big law, and the big law is the constitution,” Anderson said.
Earlier in the day, the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, hosted a community forum with Burney and the senior Australian of the year, Tom Calma, at the University of Technology Sydney, billed as the first event of the yes campaign.
Fielding questions about a treaty, Burney said the government was committed to the sequence of the Uluru statement, with the voice to come before a treaty.
She said the Albanese government had committed $5.8m to establishing a Makarrata commission to look at a process of treaty-making and truth-telling, and would soon announce the first steps to establish a Makarrata group of four senior First Nations people to start that process.
“Treaty will be a part of this … there is an absolute commitment to that,” Burney said.