Could Dutton drive Voice voters to the Yes camp?

There is a profound irony in the current Voice debate – could Dutton be one of the Yes campaigns significant vote winners?

Dutton is deeply unpopular and deeply distrusted. Given this could Dutton’s opposition to the Voice actually persuade more people to vote Yes than vote No? The data suggests it’s more than possible.

There is no recent list of the top 10 distrusted politicians in Australia but in the last – the Roy Morgan Research Trust and Distrust Report in March 2022 just before the Federal election – Dutton was the second most distrusted politician in Australia. The most distrusted back then was – you guessed it – Scott Morrison.

Now that Morrison is gone the probability is that Dutton would top the list.

Incidentally in the survey Clive Palmer came top but was kept in a separate category all of his own.

Dutton is also not doing well in the preferred PM stake with the Newspoll on preferred ratings giving Albanese a 58% to 20% lead over Dutton. Resolve Strategic was 55% to 20% and Essential is also tracking badly for him.

Away from opinion polls the Aston by-election was a real-world example of the trouble the Liberals are in under Dutton.

The recent Party meeting, where Dutton got most members to agree to his Voice opposition, was rushed after the Aston by-election when a wise person would be taking stock rather than charging back into battle.

What emerged was a series of grabs about yes to this, yes to that but no to the Voice (dubbed the Canberra Voice). It was a clear indication that Dutton and his staff had spent more time thinking about the messages than the principles. This, of course, is one of the main things turning people off politics – glib sloganeering rather than conversations and logical arguments.

The fall out was quick. The only State Liberal Premier, Tasmania’s Jeremy Rockliff (as did his predecessor, Peter Gutwein) came out saying he would campaign strongly for the Voice. The former Liberal MP and Indigenous Affairs Minister, Ken Wyatt, quit the Liberal Party. Most Liberal State Opposition Leaders came out in support. Several Liberal backbenchers vowed to campaign Yes and a number of Shadow Cabinet Minister, supposedly bound by Cabinet solidarity are distinctly uncomfortable about the party stance.

This last group is in an interesting position. Step down on a matter of principle or stay on what is the short-term party room winning side and position themselves for the next post- election leadership ballots.

Some Liberals perhaps think indications of narrowing Voice approval in opinion polls makes it worth the risk of saying No and ending up on the winning side. But this ignores the don’t knows in the surveys. It also ignores the recent Resolve Strategic poll which showed that voters, when pushed, split 60% to 40% in support of the Voice.

You would have to believe that other polls’ undecideds on current numbers have to split in dramatically different ways to Resolve to come up with a win for No.

Then there are the campaigns. Roll out Tony Abbott, John Howard and a motley collection of ageing Right wing cultural warriors against tens of thousands of young people; middle class men and women who rejected the Liberals in the 2022 Federal election; Teal MPs campaigning to get more Yes votes than any other seats; political researchers and strategists normally in the Liberal camp but now in the Yes camp; and, massive community grassroots campaigns.

The no campaign is now headed by an unpopular, uncharismatic Opposition Leader who doesn’t look like Australia’s most empathetic politician. Not a great recipe for success.

Incidentally, there is much talk about Queensland being the State most likely to vote No. Not having seen any research from there it’s hard to tell. Two indicators might be the stances the independent, Bob Katter, and Warren Entsch the Liberal MP from Far North Queensland could take.

Katter, with his hat and boots, is often dismissed as a bit of joke despite the fact that he continues to be re-elected, has always polled well among Indigenous voters and is actually very smart whatever his attire and persona might suggest.

Entsch’s electorate also has a very high proportion of Indigenous voters. Among those on the rolls in the electorate is Noel Pearson. Entsch has said he will not campaign for Yes or No – which is less a cop out than a rejection of the Dutton No policy.

So far bookmakers don’t seem to be offering odds on the referendum seemingly pre-occupied with The Voice TV show odds. But it’s a sure bet that the odds on No will be encouraging sceptics to have a punt while the odds on Yes will be tight enough to avoid big losses for the bookies.