Vote Yes and Vote No signage at an early voting centre
A new poll shows support for the 'yes' case has edged higher but the 'no' vote is still in front. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

‘Scaremongering’ concerns despite uptick in voice vote

Dominic Giannini October 4, 2023

Optimism remains for the inclusion of an Indigenous voice in the constitution, with an uptick in support for the first time in months, but concerns persist about misinformation.

That 600,000 people have voted early ahead of the October 14 referendum is a good sign, according to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“I take great heart in that, that Australians are eager to vote ‘yes’,” he said in Sydney on Wednesday.

A concerted effort is being made to engage Australia’s multicultural communities.

The Sydney Alliance, made up of more than 40 civil society organisations, is translating how-to-vote material into migrant languages in the city’s west.

The alliance is tapping into feelings of disempowerment to explain why an Indigenous advisory body is needed in the constitution.

“There’s not a lot of acknowledgement of the history of Indigenous people in Australia, so a lot of our conversations are filling in that background,” organiser Chantelle Ogilvie-Ellis told AAP.

Emma Moxom, the Yes23 campaign captain in the outer Melbourne electorate of Lalor, said the multicultural community there was equally receptive. 

The main question from migrant and refugee communities was why such an advisory body was not already in place, she said. 

“They understand what Indigenous people have been through and they’ve been through things quite similar.”

Pacific leaders have also thrown there support behind the voice. 

“It would be wonderful to see Australia vote ‘yes’ because it would elevate Australia’s position and maybe even credibility on the international stage,” Pacific Islands Forum secretary-general Henry Puna told reporters in Fiji.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton continued his campaign against the voice on the hustings in Western Australia, while also reminding people of the risks of failure.

“The prime minister predicted months ago this would set back reconciliation, that it would create an international reputational risk for us,” Mr Dutton told reporters.

“Did he stop? Did he change the wording? Did he tighten the wording? No, he did none of that.

“The country should not be going to this referendum as the prime minister has proposed it.”

Indigenous Australians had been hurt by fear, scaremongering and lies spread by the ‘no’ campaign, Central Land Council executive Barbara Shaw said.

“It reminds me of John Howard’s threats that people would lose their backyards if native title got up,” she said.

“I appeal to you to ignore the ‘no’ camp’s talk of war and focus on what’s actually on the ballot – an advisory body to help us achieve outcomes together.”

The referendum was never meant to become so politicised, the Uluru Dialogue’s Bridget Cama said. 

“We’re not dabbling in the lies or the misinformation, we’re focusing on the facts and information,” she said.

“I would just encourage young people to make an informed decision.”

Support remains highest among young Australians (58 per cent) but an overwhelming number of people over 65 are against the voice (68 per cent), according to a YouGov poll.

The poll put ‘no’ support at 53 per cent overall compared to 38 per cent for ‘yes’ and nine per cent undecided.

The ‘yes’ vote also lagged behind ‘no’ in the latest Guardian Essential poll, despite a two percentage point increase in recent weeks.

Eight per cent of respondents were undecided ahead of the referendum which requires the support from a majority of Australians and states to pass.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905