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Warren Mundine claims Anthony Albanese unleashed ‘horrible racist abuse’ and ‘attacked’ voice opponents

Leading no campaigner, Warren Mundine, has claimed without evidence that the prime minster, Anthony Albanese, has “attacked” opponents of the voice, unleashing “horrible racial abuse”.

Despite Albanese’s promise that “the yes campaign will be a positive campaign”, Mundine responded to the announcement of the referendum date on Wednesday by linking public debate over the Indigenous advisory body to his own mental health struggles.

Mundine appeared with the Nationals senator, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, at a press conference in Tasmania, vowing to “fight this” voice, after Albanese confirmed the referendum to entrench it in the constitution will be held on 14 October.

“This thing is about division and dividing this country and the racial abuse that we’ve been hearing over the last few months,” Mundine said.

“You know, everyone knows the pressure that was put on me to send me almost to suicidal positions. And this is what this prime minister has done.

“This prime minister from day one had attacked people who had a different opinion to him, called them names, and that opened up the floor for the whole division to start, with all the horrible racial abuse, with all the horrible, a bigotry that’s been going on out there and it’s all Albo.”

“He’s the one who started this, he’s the one who’s [brought] it out.”

On Wednesday Mundine did not specify any comments that Albanese had made about opponents, and Guardian Australia does not suggest he has ever used those or other terms of abuse. Guardian Australia contacted Mundine for comment.

Albanese’s office was approached for comment.

In July Mundine revealed in News Corp tabloids that abuse from unnamed antagonists such as “puppet”, “coconut” and “uncle Tom” had left him suicidal. “I tried to commit suicide twice, it does have an effect on you,” he reportedly said.

No campaigners have previously complained that in the Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration in May Albanese said that Australians were skeptical of “doomsayers” and “Chicken Littles”.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, urged Australians not to feel “bullied into a position” on the voice referendum.

“We’ve got a prime minister who is deliberately keeping detail from the Australian public until after the vote takes place,” he told reporters in Brisbane. “But there’s no precedent for that in our country’s history.”

Shortly after Albanese’s confirmation of the referendum date in Adelaide, Dutton put his name to a Liberal Party fundraising email asking for donations to “push back and defeat this risky and divisive Voice.”

“However, we can’t stop this without your support. Can you help us with a donation today?” Dutton said in an email sent from Liberal Party headquarters.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation also sent donation request emails to supporters, as well as spruiking their line of merchandise which is critical of the voice.

At the announcement of the referendum date in Adelaide, Albanese said the referendum was “pretty clear and pretty straightforward”.

The principles guiding the voice are “recognition, listening to advice [and]
parliament continuing as decision-maker”, he said.

“That is the clear, positive and practical request from Indigenous Australians.

“That is the hand out asking us, non-Indigenous Australia, to just grasp that hand of friendship.”

On Tuesday, Albanese told reporters in Adelaide that it will be a “will be a positive campaign”.

But the former Liberal prime minister, John Howard, urged opponents of the voice on Sky News to “maintain the rage”.

The foreign minister and Labor leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, told Radio National on Wednesday “I don’t think this should be about anger or fear”.

“It’s about … recognition, not about rage. It’s about recognition, and it’s not about anger and fear. It’s about listening and getting better outcomes.”

“And I don’t think this is something that should be approached with anger and fear.”

Wong said that Australians who had questions about the voice should be encouraged “to listen to the discussion rather than to be told to maintain the rage”.

Albanese is expected to appear in Tasmania on Thursday, while Indigenous Australians minister Linda Burney is in Queensland.

Yes campaigners, particularly Indigenous spokespeople like Noel Pearson, Thomas Mayo and Rachel Perkins, are expected to play very prominent public roles in coming weeks.

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