Sunday, July 14, 2024

Indigenous Voice vote an opportunity for Australia to do better: PM

Campaigns have delivered their final pitch to Australia’s voters ahead of the landmark Indigenous Voice referendum on Saturday.

Millions of Australians will head to the polls on Saturday for the country’s first referendum since 1999, and decide whether the constitution will be changed to establish the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, which would advise the federal government on all issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, reports Xinhua news agency.

“We have an opportunity for Australia to do better. To do better to show respect for the first Australians. But also to do something for ourselves, as well, because we will feel better. We will feel better about ourselves on Sunday with a yes vote,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a press conference in South Australia to boost support for the “yes” vote.

In order for the constitution to be changed, at least 50 per cent of Australians as well as a majority in at least four out of the country’s six states must vote ‘yes’ in the referendum.

According to opinion polls, the proposal is set to be defeated.

The latest survey by British-based market research company YouGov, which was published on Thursday, found that 56 per cent of Australians intended to vote against altering the constitution.

Peter Dutton, leader of the federal opposition and the “no” campaign, told state media Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that Albanese had made a “catastrophic mistake” early in the campaign by failing to provide details of how the voice would work.

“He’s instinctively won their hearts because Australians do want better outcomes for Indigenous Australians, but he hasn’t won their minds,” Dutton told ABC radio.

The Voice to Parliament was recommended by a historic document in 2017 called the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Drafted by more than 250 Indigenous leaders, the statement is considered the best — though not unanimous — call to action for reforms on issues affecting First Nations Australians.

It also lays out a longer process of treaty-making and truth-telling.

The issue, however has been a fierce topic of debate for years as country has not had a successful referendum in almost 50 years.

If approved, the vote would recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country’s constitution, and establish a permanent body for them to give advice on laws.

For it to succeed, a majority of Australians need to vote yes.

There also needs to be majority support in at least four of Australia’s six states.

The composition, functions and powers of the body, whose advice would not be binding, would then be designed and debated by Parliament.

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