Senior Liberal senator Michaelia Cash has written to the Prime Minister demanding an apology and a retraction of a comment he made in Question Time that invoked apartheid.
As Mr Albanese and his government face a barrage of questions from the Coalition about the Voice to parliament, he on Tuesday told the House of Representatives during a fiery session that “Indeed, Michaelia Cash tried to one up the Barnaby Joyce comment and said ‘if we put the Voice into the constitution … we’re effectively announcing an apartheid type state’.”
He was making reference to an appearance Senator Cash made on former senator Cory Bernardi’s Sky News program in April, when he compared the Voice to apartheid.
At the time, Senator Cash condemned Mr Bernardi’s opinion, and later the comments of Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who accused the Liberal Party of flirting with the “far right fringe”.
After Mr Albanese’s comments in Question Time, she wrote a letter to Mr Albanese saying “I never made this statement”.
“I wholeheartedly reject any comparison between the Voice to the abhorrent system of apartheid and have never made that comparison,” she said.
“Given the seriousness of your incorrect attribution of this statement to me, I request that you immediately go to the House of Representatives Chamber and correct the record.
“I note that during the 2022 election campaign you said: ‘If I ever do make a mistake, I’ll put my hand up. I’ll own it. I’ll take responsibility, and I’ll set about fixing it.”
Indeed, after 5pm on Tuesday, the Prime Minister did return to the House to “add to” the answer.
“Those words were said by another, and Senator Cash agreed with them, but the order of the conversation was as follows – Senator Cash was a guest on the Sky News Bernardi program on April 30, where Mr Bernardi said: ‘if we put the Voice into the constitution … we’re effectively announcing an apartheid type state’,” he said.
“In response to the monologue in which Mr Bernardi made that statement, Senator Cash said, amongst other comments: ‘Cory, you summed it up in one. Mr Albanese is asking the Australian people to put in place a constitutional right to make representations for a very small group of people in Australia, less than four per cent of the population, to make representations to the parliament and to the executive on any matter that concerns them. And that is a right that no other Australian will have’.
“She went on to say, later, in the interview: ‘ … what is more offensive is asking Australians to divide each other on the basis of race.”
Question Time on Wednesday is again expected to feature a fiery round of questions over the Voice.