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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has given his campaign against the Voice added horsepower by elevating high-profile Indigenous Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price to become shadow minister for Indigenous Australians.

Price has been one of the loudest, most trenchant opponents of the Voice – at the opposite end of the Coalition spectrum from Julian Leeser, whom she replaces. Leeser resigned from the frontbench last week to campaign for the yes case, triggering the frontbench shakeup.

In a significant reshuffle, Dutton has also brought the Coalition’s other Indigenous MP, South Australian Senator Kerrynne Liddle, into the shadow ministry. Like Price, Liddle, a former journalist and businesswoman, entered parliament at last year’s election.

She will become shadow minister for child protection and prevention of family violence. Dutton has brought this issue to the fore in relation to Indigenous communities with allegations of sexual assault against Indigenous children in Alice Springs.

The reshuffle also sees Karen Andrews, who has been spokeswoman on home affairs (and previously the minister), step down to the backbench. Dutton said Andrews has recently told him she would not run again and would be happy to go to the backbench when there was a reshuffle.

Andrews will be replaced by Senator James Paterson, who under the Coalition government chaired the powerful parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security. He is already shadow minister for cybersecurity and shadow minister for countering foreign interference.

Senator Michaelia Cash becomes shadow attorney-general, returning to an area she held in government. She retains her present responsibilities for employment and workplace relations.

The choice of Price had not seemed to be Dutton’s original plan. Coming from the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party, she sits with the Nationals.

Her promotion, following talks between Dutton and Nationals leader David Littleproud, means the Nationals’ representation is above their quota under the Coalition agreement.

Apart from the quota issue, there were other arguments against Price – that she was too inexperienced and that elevating her would put noses out of joint among Liberals who had been around longer.

But over the past week, calls increased for her appointment from vocal supporters, and she featured widely in the media including on the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

Dutton described Price as “a warrior for Indigenous Australians”.

“She’s always fought hard to improve the lives of Indigenous women and kids. She’s done an incredible amount of work to tackle tough issues like the scourge of sexual abuse, domestic violence and the crisis of law and order in some Indigenous communities, particularly Alice Springs most recently.”

Dutton also insisted he had raised the issue of child sexual abuse with the prime minister, despite Anthony Albanese on Monday denying this.

Dutton told his news conference: “There is a systemic problem in Alice Springs, the NT and other parts of the country and a big part of the decision to put Jacinta Price into this portfolio and Kerrynne Liddle into her portfolio is because we want to provide a brighter future for those kids.

“We can’t have a situation where we have young children being sexually abused, the impact psychologically on them, the difficulties it creates within a home environment.

“As we know, in Alice Springs at the moment, there are very significant issues.”

Andrews said that having decided “to call time” on her political career, “I wanted to ensure the Coalition has maximum time to have a replacement in the crucial home affairs portfolio, and the best replacement candidate for [her Queensland seat of] McPherson in place”.

She said in a statement she would continue to to support the Liberals’ position on the Voice. But she told a later news conference: “I won’t be out there wearing a shirt that says vote no. When people speak to me I will go through what
my concerns are, but I want to do that in a very neutral way so that
people are in a position that they can make their own mind up.”

She said she could not support the current words for the referendum, but she was open to working to get a proper set of words.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Jacinta Nampijinpa Price to be Peter Dutton’s right-hand campaigner against the Voice –