Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has denied that the failure of the Indigenous Voice referendum will hurt him or his government politically, and is hopeful it will pass despite poor recent polls.
Polls indicate that the referendum proposal – changing the constitution to enshrine an Aboriginal Voice that must be consulted on all laws affecting indigenous peoples – will struggle to win the required majority in at least four states.
However, Albanese still believes that the Yes campaign can rise.
“Constitutional change is difficult in this country, only eight proposals out of 48 have succeeded, but I am confident Australians will take this opportunity to vote yes,” Albanese told Nine’s 60 Minutes on Sunday.
He denied staking his legitimacy as prime minister or the credibility of the Labor government on the referendum result.
“This is not about me and this is not about any politician,” Albanese said.
‘It’s not my product. It’s a product that came from indigenous Australians and it’s one that I support.
“My plan is to succeed in this referendum and I am determined to stand up for my values and have faith in the Australian people.”
Anthony Albanese (pictured) has been questioned about glaring failures about the Indigenous Voice in Parliament after four recent polls found the referendum will be defeated.
The Prime Minister was also asked what is the point of the Voice when there are already indigenous voices in parliament and the government is already consulting with the communities.
“We don’t have a structured national program,” he replied. “If we do the same thing, we should expect the same results, and those results are just not good enough.”
‘A practical example is when community health programs have involved indigenous peoples themselves and have been heard, better health outcomes are achieved.’
The Prime Minister said that a constitutionally enshrined Voice in Parliament would not override parliamentary structures, prompting Adams to ask him what his real power would be then.
‘His power is the power of the voice,’ he replied.
The 60 Minutes reporter pushed him, saying there were mixed messages that on the one hand he was saying this is a huge historical change and on the other hand that it won’t really affect most people’s lives.
“For most non-indigenous Australians, it won’t affect the way parliament works, things that have a direct impact on their lives,” Albanese said.
“But it could make things better for the most disadvantaged group in Australian society. For our indigenous Australians,’ Mr Albanese said.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that the odds are stacked against Voice’s approval, as only eight of the previous 48 referendums in Australia have passed.
‘I am concerned about the impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; that’s my only concern… It’s not about party politics.
‘This is about improving the lives of indigenous Australians.’
Indigenous Senator Jacinta Price (pictured) is a leading activist against the Voice
The Prime Minister said that a constitutionally enshrined Voice in Parliament would not overthrow parliamentary structures. The Aboriginal flag is displayed during the annual NAIDOC march in Melbourne, Friday, July 7, 2023.
But prominent No activist, indigenous senator Jacinta Price, sees things very differently.
“I think that, on the contrary, it is shown that Australia is divided down the middle by an idea that was intended to unite the nation,” said the spokeswoman for the opposition indigenous Australians.
Price said he had asked if the government could guarantee a voice in parliament they would do anything to save even one life.
“And part of the feedback I got is that it provides hope,” he said. Well, hope makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but hope doesn’t prevent a child from being sexually abused.
‘Hope does not end violence in communities. Hope does not feed a mouth.
Veteran indigenous activist Noel Pearson is directly opposed to Ms. Price and is a prominent advocate for a Yes vote in the referendum.
He addressed some common myths about Voice that have surfaced in recent months, such as the idea that under Voice, Australians will have to pay a percentage of GDP to Voice each year.
‘Absolute nonsense. Nonsense,’ Pearson said, adding that a land tax and royalties for Voice are also ‘nonsense.’ It can’t happen.
When asked why this is so, he said that the Voice would not be a decision-making body.
‘The only people who can collect taxes, or something like that, make policy, is the government. (The purpose of La Voz) is to make representations.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese receives traditional gifts from a young Yolngu during the Garma Festival in Gulkula on August 4, 2023 in East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
Veteran indigenous activist Noel Pearson (pictured) prominently advocates for a Yes vote in the referendum.
“Those are just wacky ideas for scare campaigns,” he said.
For both the prime minister and Pearson, the Voice referendum ultimately boils down to the same word: faith.
“My plan is to succeed in this referendum and I am determined to stand up for my values and have faith in the Australian people,” Albanese said.
“We trust you, the Australian people,” Pearson said. “This is about our country and we have to do it right.”