Campaigners for both sides of the Indigenous voice referendum have hit the hustings as early voting opens across the country.
The ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns have less than two weeks to make their case over whether to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body in the constitution, with Australians set to cast their ballots on October 14.
Early voting has opened in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
Polling stations will open in NSW, the ACT, Queensland and South Australia on Tuesday, after public holidays in those parts of the country.
The prime minister remains optimistic the voice will get up despite published polls indicating the contrary, saying some undecided voters cast ‘yes’ ballots after talking through the proposal.
While fear campaigns were powerful they did not inspire hope, Mr Albanese said.
“No country ever enlarged itself and got better through fear campaigns,” he said.
“What enlarges the country is optimism and hope.”
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney pointed to the largely preventable and manageable diseases of trachoma and rheumatic heart disease, which First Nations communities disproportionately suffered from, as a reason why governments needed to listen better.
“I get quite emotional when I come to things like this because it is such a shot in the arm for us to keep going and it says to me … (from) non-Aboriginal Australia: ‘we are with you, we are seeing you and we are hearing you’,” she told a rally in Hobart.
Yes23 campaign director Dean Parkin was on the hustings in Melbourne alongside Labor, Greens and independent politicians with Victoria widely considered a “must win” state.
There was plenty of time to engage with the public and have the conversation about voting ‘yes’, he said, with Australians only starting to pay attention closer to polling day.
Penrith Panthers star Nathan Cleary used his first day after securing a third consecutive NRL premiership to throw his support behind the voice.
“No voice, no choice, come on Australia, vote ‘yes’,” the grand final’s best on ground said with two thumbs up in a video posted to social media.
A Vanuatu politician has warned a ‘no’ vote would ruin Australia’s standing in the Pacific, where Indigenous culture is ingrained in everyday life.
“It is almost inconceivable to us that this may not happen, but that possibility fills us with dread,” Ralph Regenvanu wrote on social media.
“A ‘no’ vote will be a blow to our relationship, especially perceptions of Aust in our general public.”
The ‘no’ campaign used the first day of pre-polling to shore up support in Western Australia, where analysts expect a majority of people to vote against the voice.
Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman and prominent ‘no’ campaigner Jacinta Nampijinpa Price was in Perth for an event.
The senator recently toured regional NSW with opposition leader Peter Dutton to encourage people to vote ‘no’ and offset what is expected to be a high ‘yes’ vote in metropolitan areas.
The coalition has argued the voice proposal lacks detail and would be legally risky in the constitution.
Various published polls have predicted Queensland and WA would vote ‘no’ and Tasmania ‘yes’.
With South Australia seen as a swing state, Victoria and NSW need to vote in favour for the voice to succeed.
Almost 98 per cent of eligible Australians are enrolled to vote and Indigenous enrolment is at a high of 94.1 per cent, surpassing 90 per cent for the first time.
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