Peter Dutton has taken a sassy dig at the Yes campaign after Aussie music legend John Farnham gave permission for his iconic anthem to be used in support of the Voice referendum.
But comedian Wil Anderson said the joke appears to be recycled, having invoked the lyrics earlier this year while on The Project.
Farnham's hit, You’re the Voice, will be featured in the History is Calling campaign that will air on TV and the internet across the country in the lead up to the October 14 referendum.
It marks the first time the former Australian of the Year and ARIA Hall of Famer has given permission for the classic song to be used in a commercial.
“This song changed my life. I can only hope that now it might help, in some small way, to change the lives of our First Nations Peoples for the better,” Farnham said, after announcing last week announced he was cancer-free.
But Mr Dutton dryly noted the song’s lyric could backfire on the Yes camp.
“In a sense, it’s the appropriate theme song for the Yes campaign, because remember that the key line in the lyrics there is, you know, ‘you’re the voice, try to understand it’,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“I honestly don’t think most Australians understand it. And they want to be informed.”
Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash backed in Mr Dutton on Monday morning, saying he had been “dead right” to highlight “the irony” of the song choice.
“People want the details... So you try and understand this Voice, but guess what - you can’t,” she told Channel 9.
Appearing on The Project on Sunday night, Anderson was played back a clip of Mr Dutton calling out the song choice, before an archived clip of the comedian making the same dig about the lyrics back in April.
Asked whether he was now writing Mr Dutton’s jokes, Anderson said while the beauty of democracy meant people could vote as they wished, he urged Australians not to fall for the line “if you don’t know, vote no”, which is being used by the No campaign.
“If you don’t know, go and find out. I reckon if you do find out, you might actually vote yes - you’ll understand it might be this really powerful think we go through together,” Anderson said.
“That slogan ‘if you don’t know, vote no’, that is a slogan that could come back to haunt... I imagine there are advertising agencies right now thinking about the next election and about whether Peter Dutton can be the next prime minister of Australia... well ‘if you don’t know, vote no’.”
Mr Dutton has repeatedly criticised the government for not providing more detail about how its proposal would work.
The government has said the Voice would be an advisory body chosen by Indigenous people based on the wishes of local communities.
Voice supporters, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, have called the Voice vote a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
The Yes campaign ad tracks a family from the 1980s as they witness iconic moments throughout Australia’s history, including the Mabo decision, the 1966 gun law reform, Cathy Freeman’s win at the 2000 Olympics, the 2008 apology to the Stolen Generation and the marriage equality plebiscite in 2016.
Farnham’s close friend Tim Wheatley said the iconic tune “is not aligned with any political party” and the referendum was the perfect moment to loosen the tight grip the singer and his manager, Tim’s father Glenn Wheatley, had kept on the song.
“It is aligned with humanity. It’s a song for all Australians. Always has been, always will be,” he said.
“Win or lose this referendum, this song will forever remain on the right side of history. Both John and my father have fiercely protected this song’s use for decades, I think for this very moment.”
Throughout the campaign, Voice supporters have attempted to draw parallels between the referendum and big moments in Australian history.
“You’re the Voice is the nation’s unofficial anthem,” said Uluru statement from the heart architect Megan Davis.
“It’s been the consistent theme of my life of the last six years … we had people asking ‘have you thought about The Voice?’, ‘have you thought about Johnnie Farnham?’.
“Some time around the NRL final it was suggested we reach out to (Tim) Wheatley … I got a response (from John Farnham) in January, and he said yes, which was exciting.”
Professor Davis said the Yes campaign had been working on the campaign in secret for six months and managed to keep it under wraps.
“It will have a monumental impact on the campaign,” Professor Davis said.
“It speaks to the agency of the Australian people, it's a rousing song, a call to arms, and that’s what this referendum is.
“There’s robust debate and bucketloads of disinformation, but what Australians need to keep their eye on is while we’ve been uncertain in decision making, we are a nation who’ve made good decisions.”
Professor Davis said disinformation was, in her opinion, one of the biggest hurdles the Yes campaign had faced.
“In all the referendums that have come before you’ve never had this sort of disinformation, you’ve never had a referendum in a ‘Trumpian’-era,” she said.
“One of the core work we do is face-to-face talks with Australians … what we’re hearing is they’re not getting factual information through the media, so things like this song helps Australians step up and get that information to make an informed decision.”
Mr Albanese on Wednesday fired the starter’s gun on the six-week referendum campaign.
The Yes camp has denied claims by Mr Dutton that it has a $100m war chest at its disposal for an advertising blitz.
Supporters have said they want to doorknock 250,000 homes as part of a volunteer-led grassroots campaign.
In his first major interview since announcing the date of the referendum, Mr Albanese this week made a big pitch to middle Australia.
“For many years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have advocated for constitutional recognition through a Voice,” Mr Albanese told A Current Affair.
“Our government, along with every single state and territory government, has committed to it. Legal experts have endorsed it.”