Australians could still be convinced to vote in favor of recognizing Indigenous people “conversation by conversation,” even though major polls suggest the country will reject the proposition in a referendum next week, a senior government minister said.
(Bloomberg) — Australians could still be convinced to vote in favor of recognizing Indigenous people “conversation by conversation,” even though major polls suggest the country will reject the proposition in a referendum next week, a senior government minister said.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney acknowledged in an interview with ABC Television on Saturday that the so-called “Yes” vote was behind in the polls but said that “when people take a few minutes to actually talk and understand what the referendum is about, what the question is about, they very, very much say ‘well, that sounds fair enough’.”
The government’s proposal, known as the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, is to include an Indigenous advisory body to Parliament in the constitution. The nationwide referendum will be held on Oct. 14 and campaigning on the issue has become increasingly divisive in recent weeks.
All major surveys show the “No” side leading, although an Essential Media survey released last week found the “Yes” vote rising to 43% from 41% and opposition to the proposal sliding to 49% from 51%. It was the first gain for “Yes” after months of worsening figures.
“Australians have legitimate concerns about this constitutional change,” Liberal Party opposition leader Peter Dutton wrote in a column for the West Australian newspaper Saturday. “Yet for merely asking reasonable questions they have been called Chicken Littles, doomsayers and fearmongers.”
Indigenous Australians experience high levels of social and economic disadvantage. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are more likely to be imprisoned, earn lower wages or be unemployed, and have a shorter life expectancy than non-Indigenous people.
The Indigenous Voice was originally suggested by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders in 2017, and was picked up by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese before his election win in May 2022. Early referendum balloting has begun, including in remote Indigenous communities, with Albanese casting his vote Saturday morning.
Two former Australian Liberal prime ministers, John Howard and Tony Abbott, said a Voice to Parliament will not improve practical outcomes for Indigenous people in central Australia, The Australian reported Saturday.
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