On Wednesday, 30 August, prime minister Anthony Albanese announced that the referendum on the Indigenous voice will be held on 14 October, officially kickstarting a 45-day campaign at a yes rally in the suburb of Elizabeth in Adelaide.
This is Australia’s first referendum day since 1999.
“The idea for a voice came from the people and it will be decided by the people. Today I announce that referendum day will be 14 October,” Mr. Albanese told a packed theatre of yes campaign supporters, to loud applause.
“You are not being asked to vote for a political party, or for a person. You’re being asked to vote for an idea. To say yes to an idea whose time has come.”
Speaking with conviction, and putting on his strongest and clearest advocacy for the yes vote, Mr. Albanese described the voice as “a committee of Indigenous Australians chosen by Indigenous Australians, giving advice to government so that we can get a better result for Indigenous Australians.”
In an attempt to win over the undecided and the no campaigners, Mr. Albanese said the referendum was a simple change that would lead to better policy results and cost savings through more efficient spending, without really going into any details about the current difficulties causing waste of resources and how the voice was the only way to improve outcomes.
“Giving locals a say of course means that we save money too. Because we’ll be making sure the funding actually reaches the people on the ground.
“No more waste. Better results, where they are needed.”
Explaining the question on October 14, Mr. Albanese said:
The Question is:
A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Do you approve this proposed alteration?”
As are the provisions.
It’s the advantage of working on it for so long.
First, the recognition. It says this:
“In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:”
That is what it says. Simple. Clear. Straightforward.
Then the what.
- There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
Again, straightforward. Clear.
The second provision:
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
That is the what, what will it do. That is what it will do.
Straightforward. Clear. Unambiguous.
For the legally minded readers, what happens to the representations made to the Parliament and/or the Executive, whether those will be binding or not and what independence will be left with the parliament to make laws with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People – are only some of the many uncertainties which can throw Australia’s Westminster system into legal chaos and deadlock.
But the PM, to the cheers of the already convert, continued.
Then, the how, including a clear declaration of the primacy of our Parliament. It says this:
- The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.
Again, pretty clear and pretty straightforward.
Recognition. Listening to advice. Parliament continuing as decision-maker.
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.
The federal Opposition is campaigning against the voice and immediately went into overdrive to raise funds to wage strong campaign to defeat the yes vote.
Following the announcement of date of the referendum, federal opposition leader Peter Dutton sent a fundraising email to Liberal supporters, asking for donations to help the party oppose the referendum.
“The result will be close. The yes campaign are backed by big unions and corporations. We know they will spend many millions on advertising. We need your support to push back and defeat this risky and divisive voice,” the email, exhorted the party faithful.
The email was sent from the Liberal Party headquarters.