A lack of bipartisanship and misinformation have been blamed for the failure of the voice to parliament referendum, as ‘yes’ supporters begin a painful post-mortem.
The proposal to create a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory body was declared defeated within 90 minutes of polls closing along most of Australia’s east coast.
It failed to garner a majority vote, with the ACT the only state or territory to vote ‘yes’ across the nation.
Australian Council Of Trade Unions President Michele O’Neil said the vote was effectively lost when the Liberal Party decided not to support the proposal.
“April 5th is the day that turned a positive invitation for change into a political and partisan campaign,” she said.
“This loss belongs to Peter Dutton and the Liberal Party.”
Prominent Indigenous activist and academic Marcia Langton suggested Mr Dutton had “cemented race hate into the body politic” in a way the ‘yes’ camp hadn’t foreseen last year.
“He has killed any hope of reconciliation, ably assisted by Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine,” she wrote in The Saturday Paper.
Federal Greens leader Adam Bandt branded Mr Dutton a master of misinformation.
“Peter Dutton ran a Trumpian campaign of misinformation and fear that has the potential to set back reconciliation in this country unless we address it,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who resigned as shadow minister for Indigenous Australians over his party’s voice stance, said he did not blame Mr Dutton for the result but acknowledged people on both sides of the debate had said “bad things”.
“I’m worried about extremes in our politics (from the) Corbanite left and the Trumpian right,” the ‘yes’ campaigner told ABC TV.
“Australians always have to focus on the vast middle and yesterday the vast middle voted no.”
The Australian Medical Association, St Vincent de Paul Society, Business Council of Australia and Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation all expressed dismay at the result.
Former prime minister and Beyond Blue chair Julia Gillard said it was a moment for Australia to reflect.
“While the referendum result is not the one I had hoped for, I remain hopeful that all Australians want to heal divisions and create a better future together,” she said.
“The referendum result will be distressing, particularly for many First Nations people.”
As some Indigenous leaders began a week of silence, Victoria’s democratically-elected First People’s Assembly urged Aboriginal Australians to be gentle on themselves and others.
“We know the referendum has been hard going for community,” the assembly said.
“We’re mob. We’ve been here for more than 60,000 years and we’re not going anywhere.”
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