People at a rally against the voice to parliament in Melbourne.
People against the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament have gathered in major cities. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • referenda

‘No’ voters rally to voice their referendum opposition

September 23, 2023

Anti-voice campaigners have gathered in major cities as the prime minister looks to shore up support for the referendum on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

More than 500 people gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park for a rally led primarily by Liberal Democrat politicians and Indigenous activists.

The event was passionate but mostly peaceful and included views ranging from COVID-19 conspiracies to religious freedom.

Liberal Democrat NSW MP John Ruddick told the crowd an Indigenous voice to parliament would create a “two-class structure” in Australia.

“(Labor) thought it was a good idea to have another referendum about a racial issue which has divided the country and that is not a good thing,” Mr Ruddick said.

“We believe people should be judged by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin.”

Budjiti elder and environmental activist Bruce Shillingsworth called the event a “freedom rally”.

“We have a common enemy here. That common enemy is out to destroy your life and they’re out to destroy mother earth,” he told the crowd.

It is understood online commentator Simeon Boikov, who posts anti-vaccine and pro-Vladimir Putin content under the moniker Aussie Cossack, helped organise the Sydney event.

The official ‘no’ campaign has distanced itself from Mr Boikov, with federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton urging people opposed to the referendum not to attend the rallies.

“Anybody who’s pro-Putin has significant issues and they should seek help for those issues,” Mr Dutton said.

In a speech to the Victorian Liberals’ state council meeting in Melbourne on Saturday, Mr Dutton said growing support in the polls for the ‘no’ case was being driven by strong campaigning led by Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine.

“The prime minister has deliberately starved (voters) of the information they need to make an informed judgment,” he told the conference.

“They can win the hearts but they’re not winning the minds of Australians, because Australians aren’t stupid.”

Speaking during a visit to Sydney’s West Ryde Marketplace with Yes23 supporters on Saturday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese highlighted singer Kamahl’s change of heart which led to him supporting the voice.

The 88-year-old said his earlier support for the ‘no’ case had been uninformed and he had changed his view after talking with Aboriginal lawyer and voice supporter Eddie Synot.

“We have a new term that we’ve coined today – ‘Kamahlmentum’,” Mr Albanese quipped, describing the change of heart as courageous.

The prime minister said it was clear while enough money had been spent on Indigenous affairs, it had not flowed through to where it was needed.

“With a voice comes responsibility. You’ll get greater efficiency … you’ll get better value when you consult people who are directly affected,” he told reporters.

Remote voting starts on Monday with 61 sites set up across the country, eventually covering 750 locations in the lead-up to the October 14 poll.

More than 17.67 million people have enrolled to vote in the referendum, ensuring 97.7 per cent of eligible Australians will have their say.