Indigenous Voice to Parliament appears unlikely to find majority support despite the latest poll showing a strong move towards Yes – as campaigner Thomas Mayo urges Australians to do one thing when they go to the polls.
A Newspoll poll released Friday shows a three-point swing in favor of the Yes camp over the past week, bringing support to 37 percent, the highest level since the official campaign began in early September.
Speaking to the Daily Mail Australia on Friday evening, Uluru Declaration of the Heart signatory Thomas Mayo implored Australians to speak to a Yes23 volunteer before voting on Saturday.
“Talk to one of the yes-voters at your voting booth and ask any questions you have before you go in,” Mr. Mayo said.
“They are friendly, knowledgeable people, so please, if you don’t know, stop and ask.”
Thomas Mayo is a former ‘wharf’ turned assistant union secretary and indigenous rights campaigner who contributed to the Uluru Statement from the heart.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese could suffer an embarrassing defeat, with every Australian state at risk of returning to a majority No vote after support plummets
Mr Mayo said he felt confident heading into the first national referendum in more than two decades.
“Really consider the issue and the actual change to the Constitution.”
“To cut through all the noise, this is simply an acknowledgment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
“We can improve the lives of indigenous peoples in the future and unify our modern society with our ancient heritage.”
“I’m still optimistic that there are undecided Australians and we have the truth on our side: this is an advisory committee.”
“The No campaign has exhausted its lies and I still have a lot of hope.”
According to the latest Newspoll, 57 percent of voters said they intended to vote no, one point lower than a previous poll on Monday.
Only about 6 percent of voters said they were undecided.
The state with the strongest support is Victoria and appears to be the only one to produce a majority Yes vote.
To succeed, the referendum must obtain a double majority, that is to say a yes from the majority of Australians and also from the majority of the states.
If all states vote No, it would be a significant embarrassment for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, whose support for indigenous constitutional recognition came in the form of a vote well above 60 percent in January.
LATEST NEWSPAPER OF OCTOBER 13
Question to voters: On October 14, Australians will decide in a referendum whether to amend the Australian Constitution to recognize Australia’s first peoples by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Do you approve of this proposed change?
The simpler question was asked of “uncommitted” people: voting in this referendum will be compulsory.
Even if you change your mind, if you had to choose now, would you support this proposed amendment to the Australian Constitution to recognize Australia’s first peoples by establishing a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
Yes 37 percent
No 57 percent
I don’t know 6 percent
Source: The Weekend Australian Newspoll
Mayo became one of the leading figures in the Yes campaign.
He was born in the Larrakia region of Darwin and grew up learning to hunt for food with his father and island dance from the local Torres Strait Islander community of which he was a member.
Speaking at the Judicial College of Victoria earlier this year, Mayo said he was a “really quiet guy” who “never expected to do what I do”.
He said he was motivated by a “dislike of injustice” and had learned most of what he knew “about solidarity and collective action” during his nearly two decades on the dock.
“My mother and father were not involved in politics in any way,” he said. “My dad is the type who just wants to move on and say why we’re complaining.”
“It was older docks (that inspired me). I learned a lot from these union veterans.
Mayo argues that a voice in Parliament would strengthen national democracy and strengthen our social standing among the rest of the world.
Mayo became one of The Voice’s most prominent campaigners after helping to create the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017.
Despite criticism from the right, Mayo said Aboriginal Australia “is not being heard at the moment… it’s not a priority because we don’t have any democratic traction.”
He argued that gaps in life expectancy and higher incarceration rates further prove his point.
“To me, that means justice,” he said. “It means recognizing what should have been recognized from the beginning, when Cook arrived.”
He helped create the Uluru Declaration from the heart, saying his people have “always put forward proposals to have political representation – a voice, essentially”.
“We worked hard. All this search for consensus, these debates, these passionate discussions to find compromises between us. The nature of consensus is never to get everything everyone wants.
Australians are being asked to amend the constitution to recognize “Australia’s first people” by establishing an Indigenous voice in Parliament.
The committee composed and selected by Indigenous Australians would advise Parliament and the government on issues affecting the country’s most disadvantaged ethnic minority.
Indigenous Australians make up just 3.8% of the Australian population. But they die on average eight years younger than the general population, have a suicide rate twice the national average and suffer from diseases in the remote hinterland that have been eradicated in other rich countries .
Mr Albanese cited the war between Israel and Hamas on Friday to highlight why Australians should vote “yes” out of kindness to the indigenous population.
“This week of all weeks when we see such trauma around the world, there is nothing – for free – for Australians who show kindness, think with their hearts as well as their heads, when they go into the voting booth tomorrow and vote ‘yes.'” Albanians said.
“Kindness costs nothing. Thinking of others costs nothing. This is a time when Australians have the opportunity to show the generosity of spirit that I see in the Australian character and where, in the worst of times, we still see the best of the Australian character,” Albanese added.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said polls showing declining support for the referendum over the past year were proof that Albanese had failed to convince voters of the benefits of Voice.
“He instinctively won their hearts because Australians want better outcomes for Indigenous Australians, but he didn’t win their minds,” Dutton told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The Yes and No camps made their final presentations to Australians before the vote.
The result may not be known on the night of October 14 but could be too close to call.
Indigenous activist Robbie Thorpe drew attention to Indigenous divisions on Voice this week by seeking a High Court injunction to stop the referendum. “The referendum is an attack on Indigenous sovereignty,” Thorpe said in a statement Friday.
But the High Court said his application was dismissed on Thursday on the grounds that it appeared to be an abuse of the legal process, frivolous, vexatious or outside the court’s jurisdiction.
Thorpe is among the so-called progressive “no” campaigners who argue that an Indigenous committee without the power to veto legislation is not a sufficiently radical change.
Many progressives argue that the constitution should more prominently recognize that Indigenous Australians never ceded their land to British colonizers and that a treaty was a higher priority than a vote.
Conservative “no” activists argue that Voice is too radical and that courts could interpret its powers in unpredictable ways.
Some Indigenous peoples do not believe that Voice members would represent their diverse priorities.
Kyam Maher, an Indigenous man who is South Australia state attorney-general, said the question he was asked most often by thousands of voters was what outcome Indigenous Australians wanted.
“I can say that an absolute and overwhelming majority of Aboriginal people want their fellow Australians to vote ‘yes’ tomorrow,” Maher said.