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Anthony Albanese has emphatically predicted Australia will vote Yes in the Voice referendum as Penny Wong revealed her distress witnessing “racism” in what she called the worst public discourse since the Mabo debate in a secret recording made of the pair at a dinner last week.
Addressing Labor’s Socialist Left leadership in Brisbane, Albanese declared his loyalty to the faction, promising he would return once his prime ministership ended.
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed a Left faction meeting last week.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen and Rhett Wyman
In his most declarative comments to date, the prime minister predicted the Yes case for constitutional change would succeed, telling his audience at Brisbane’s Howard Smith Wharves last Thursday night: “I firmly believe that not only can we, we will seize the opportunity and vote Yes.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong also spoke and cited attacks on Voice campaigner and unionist Thomas Mayo, revealing she struggled to contain her frustration when listening to Senate opponents.
“It has always been thus. Remember the Mabo and Wik debates for those of you who were around. One of the most shameful moments in our nation’s history that I can remember was John Howard holding up, on television on [ABC’s] 7.30, a map of Australia to show how much land the Aboriginals had,” Wong said of a 1997 interview conducted by the then prime minister.
“We are in many ways back there… That’s why we have to recommit ourselves to what we did with Mabo and Wik, and that is to win the debate.”
This masthead obtained a recording of the dinner from an attendee at the dinner who agreed to provide it on the basis they remain anonymous.
Wong said she found the debate in the Senate difficult.
“We’ve seen some of the racism and the aggro. We sit in the Senate, and we listen to [shadow attorney-general] Michaelia Cash. I have to turn around sometimes and look at Katy [Gallagher] and Murray [Watt] because I’m so angry,” Wong said.
Senator Cash said: “These comments appear to confirm that Senator Wong does not like it when the Albanese government is held to account for their poor decisions. We saw in the last sitting fortnight her refusal to answer questions about how their proposed Voice to Parliament will work and whether they still support a Treaty.”
As prime minister, Albanese no longer attends factional meetings, something he said was a relief, but he praised the Left as the engine room of ideas in a modern Labor Party.
He promised his former factional colleagues that he remained true to their core beliefs and that he would rejoin once his leadership finished.
“This group should take pride in the fact that I joined the Labor Party to support the Left, I have been a member of the Left my whole life, and I’ll be back in the faction once, because it all ends at some stage,” Albanese said to applause.
“I’ll be back.”
Albanese described the experience of attending his party’s triennial national conference as leader as “an out of body experience”. He intervened on the floor of conference on Friday to ensure the party’s support for the AUKUS defence deal, a contrast to his previous contributions to conference debates such as 2015 when he defied the party leadership to oppose the turnback of asylum seeker boats.
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