The prime minister has urged Australians to step out and vote ‘yes’ on the last day of parliament before the nation goes to a referendum on an Indigenous voice.
Anthony Albanese joined Indigenous AFL legend Michael Long on the last leg of his long walk from Melbourne to the nation’s capital to encourage Australians to vote ‘yes’ and enshrine an Indigenous voice into the constitution.
Mr Albanese said Long’s efforts paralleled Wiradjuri man Jimmy Clements’ 1927 walk from the Brungle Mission in NSW to the former parliament house to appear uninvited at the building’s opening ceremony.
“Police tried to remove Clements because he’d arrived after such a long walk from Tumut, dishevelled and barefoot,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“The crowd rose up and said, ‘No, Indigenous people have a right to be here’.
“So I say, let us work together in dignity and unison. Any journey is of course about embracing something different.”
The former AFL player retraced the same route he took in 2004 when protesting then-prime minister John Howard’s decision to disband the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
“(Mr Howard) has told Australians to ‘maintain the rage’ but this is not about rage, it’s about love,” Mr Long told reporters.
“It’s about it’s about giving Indigenous people power over their destiny so that their culture can be a gift to this country.”
Meanwhile, the ‘no’ case will be seeking a boost with a keynote speech by an influential senator.
Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price is expected to use her National Press Club address to outline an alternative approach to the voice being enshrined in the constitution.
Senator Price, a former deputy mayor of Alice Springs, is advocating recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution and legislated local and regional voices.
She argues putting an advisory body in the constitution gives three per cent of the population an “extra say” on matters affecting all Australians, negating equality of citizenship.
And the $33 billion spent on programs to close the Indigenous wellbeing gap should be audited to ensure it is getting the biggest benefit, she says.
A bitter debate has raged in parliament in recent days over claims the ‘no’ campaign is using racism to sway voters.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who opposes the voice referendum, of seeking to “drip more poison into the well” in order to get a political dividend.
Mr Dutton told parliament the prime minister’s voice campaign was “dividing families and our nation”.