Tony Abbott has claimed his government would not have been able to

Tony Abbott has warned Australians not to “plunge” the country “into the unknown” by supporting the Voice to Parliament, arguing that it will change the way we are governed.

The former prime minister appeared before the parliamentary committee examining the proposed wording for the Voice referendum on the final day of hearings, after the Labor-dominated committee backflipped on its initial decision to block Mr Abbott from testifying.

Speaking to Sky News Australia’s Peta Credlin shortly after his appearance, Mr Abbott said he had long supported constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, but the Voice to Parliament is “much more than recognition.”

The former prime minister said the Voice would change the way we are governed, and that his government would never have been able to stop the boats if the Voice existed in 2013.

“The Abbott government was only able to stop the boats because we didn’t have to get legislation through the Senate. We didn’t have to consult with the states. It could be done entirely through the actions of the executive,” Mr Abbott said.

“Now imagine if, on top of everything else, you had to consult the Voice to do something like that. It would have been impossible.”

Pointing to the submissions from former Justices Ian Callinan and Terance Cole, as well as the University of Queensland Law Professor Nicholas Aroney, Mr Abbott said the Voice would need to be consulted before every major government decision.

“Before any major decision is finalised by Government, the Voice will have to be informed,” he said.

“It will have to be given reasonable time. It will have to be given reasonable information. It will have to be given reasonable resources and then it will have to be given a reasonable hearing.

“And if the government, for whatever reason, decides that it doesn’t actually support what the Voice is arguing for, quite likely there will have to be a period for the Voice to appeal against the government’s decision.”

The former Liberal leader, who served in parliament from 1994 to 2019, said the Albanese government was expecting Australians to sign over a “blank check” on the Constitution.

“What the government is asking us to do is to vote Yes now and then they’ll tell us what yes means afterwards,” Mr Abbott said.

“It’s effectively a blank check on the Constitution… And I just think that’s wrong.”

Mr Abbott accused Mr Albanese of concealing detail about the Voice because Australians would not support it if they know what it will really look like.

“Essentially, the Prime Minister has one message to the general public, ‘it’s no big deal’, and a different message to the Indigenous activists, ‘Yes, it’s everything that you want’, and that’s why no detail will be provided,” he said.

“Because if the detail is provided, the public will say, sure, we’ve got a ton of goodwill towards Aboriginal people, but we do not want an Aboriginal veto on everything that the government of the day decides.”

Mr Abbott said there was “tremendous goodwill” towards Indigenous Australians, and a “tremendous desire” to do the right thing for Indigenous Australians. But that the Voice is a “huge step in the wrong direction.”

“I want Australia to flourish. I think that we are, notwithstanding some problems and difficulties, the world’s best country right now. I want us to stay that way,” Mr Abbott said.

“But making government more difficult than it already is, dividing our country more than it already is, creating for the first time under the Constitution a kind of different status of citizenry. I just think it’s a huge step in the wrong direction, and I hope we don’t make it.”

The former prime minister pointed out that, unlike an ordinary government decision, the Voice decision could not be reversed.

“This is forever. And that’s why if there is going to be change, we’ve got to get it right. And it sure ain’t right now,” he said.  

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