19.04.2024

Australia’s Albanese sets date for historic vote on Indigenous Voice forum

Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese has officially announced the date for a historic referendum to take place for Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Australians will participate in a vote to decide whether to establish a body within the constitution that would provide advice to the parliament and executive government on matters concerning Indigenous Australians.

“The idea for a Voice came from the people and it will be decided by the people,” Mr Albanese said on Wednesday.

He said the referendum will take place on 14 October. “On that day every Australian will have a once-in-a-generation chance to bring the country together and change it for the better,” he said.

During his initial term in office, Mr Albanese placed significant emphasis on the Voice, dedicating a substantial amount of political influence to ensure its success.

“Our government, along with every single state and territory government, has committed to it. Legal experts have endorsed it,” Mr Albanese said.

“People on all sides of the Parliament have backed it. Faith groups and sporting codes and local councils and businesses and unions have embraced it. An army of volunteers from every part of this great nation are throwing all of their energy behind it.

“Now, my fellow Australians, you can vote for it.”

Out of the 44 Australian referendums held since the country’s federation in 1901, only eight have achieved success, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The most recent referendum held in 1999 –on whether Australia should become a republic and whether to insert a preamble into the constitution –ended in failure.

If the upcoming referendum on the Voice achieves a positive outcome, it would mark the most significant policy change concerning the Indigenous population, or First Nations people, in over five decades.

Indigenous advocates in favour of the Voice say they want it incorporated into the constitution as a means of safeguarding it against potential interference by future governments. Any amendments to the constitution necessitate a referendum that must secure both a majority of overall votes and the endorsement of a majority of the six states, a principle known as the “double majority”.

Although Mr Albanese has expressed his support for the Voice, recent polls indicate that public backing for this initiative is diminishing.

The idea of this proposal originated from a historic gathering in 2017, where over 250 Indigenous leaders convened to deliberate on constitutional reforms. The gathering took place at the sacred Uluru site in central Australia.

Pat Anderson, one of the architects behind the Uluru statement, asserts that incorporating the Voice into the nation’s constitution would offer formal acknowledgement to “the First Peoples of this beautiful continent of ours” and would elevate the institution beyond the realm of daily politics.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton, however, said the referendum on a Voice to parliament is “unprecedented” in its lack of detail.

“It’s without precedent that a prime minister would go to a constitutional referendum without providing the detail to Australians,” Mr Dutton said.

He said the referendum will be a “tight vote”, but said this is due to the vast resources available to the Yes campaign.

“The Yes campaign, thanks to the unions and thanks to big business bosses, has somewhere between $50m and $100m,” he claimed.

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