Liberal MP Julian Lesser has urged proponents of the Voice "yes" vote to be more “respectful” towards those who have doubts.
The former opposition frontbencher’s call for “civil and respectful debate” came after prominent “Yes” campaigner Noel Pearson wrote a column in The Australian at the weekend accusing readers of the national broadsheet of “casual racism” and insisting that reconciliation had no chance if it relied upon them.
“The boomer readership of this paper … are mostly obscurant and borderline casual racists in their views,” Pearson wrote.
“If the referendum relied on those readers then we would have no chance.”
Lesser said Pearson’s attacks on people who disagreed with him were unhelpful.
“It’s important that we remember we’re all Australians and that it’s important that people who are advocates for the voice hear the reasonable concerns of those people in doubt,” Leeser said.
“Just as it is important that people who are opponents of the voice hear the concerns of Indigenous Australians and others that this could make a difference.”
As well as having a go at readers of The Australian, Pearson lined up long-time public servant Mick Gooda for suggesting that the referendum might have more chance of success if the wording was changed to remove executive government.
Pearson accused him of “wetting the bed”.
He also wrote that fellow Indigenous leaders, Warren Mundine and serving MP Jacinta Price were puppets controlled by white people.
Lesser said he feared that the referendum was not “on track to get the sort of handsome yes vote result that I want to see it get”.
He said the tone of the argument needed to chance or it risked putting people off.
He also said the wording of the constitutional change needed to delete any reference to executive government if it was to enjoy majority support.
“I think the voice should be able to advise executive government, but that doesn't need to go into the constitution to make it so,” he said.
But Pearson, who has called Liberal leader Peter Dutton a “Judas” and an “undertaker” for opposing the Voice, accused Lesser of “damaging the cause of recognition” by even suggesting a change.