News / Featured / 7th September 2023
Six weeks out from the Voice referendum
Last week, during a visit to Adelaide, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the date for the Voice referendum will be held on Saturday, 14 October.
The fast-approaching referendum has sparked much debate across the nation, but the decision will ultimately be made by Australia, when the public comes together to vote either in favour of, or against the proposed alteration to the Australian Constitution.
For the referendum to succeed it requires a double majority, meaning the majority of voters will need to vote ‘Yes’ across Australia and in the majority of states.
This means four out of six states would require a majority of voters to vote ‘Yes’ in order for the referendum to be successful.
Australian political parties and celebrities have shared their own positions on the Voice referendum including the Labor party and the Greens, who are in favour of the Voice, while the Liberal and Nationalpartiessupport the ‘No’ side.
As part of his ‘Yes’ pitch, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has gained support from Australian music legend, John Farnham, who has granted permission for his iconic song ‘You’re the Voice’, to be the soundtrack for the ‘Yes’ campaign in ads that are currently being aired across Australia, which Farnham has said is “what this song has been waiting for.”
Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, who advocates for the ‘No’ side, recently announced that should the Voice referendum fail, and should the Coalition win the next election, they would hold a second referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution.
Mr Dutton said that it was “right” and “respectful” to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution, but finds that enshrining a voice in the Constitution would be “divisive” and would not provide practical outcomes.
Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton said that with the Voice to Parliament referendum edging closer, he had observed many different points of view amongst constituents.
“My feeling is that the majority in the Parkes electorate lean towards voting ‘No’,” he said.
Mr Coulton was a representative on the Nationals’ Voice to Parliament Committee and explained this committee looked at both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ positions, eventually making a recommendation to the Party Room to back the ‘No’ side, which Mr Coulton said was for “various reasons.”
For people who are unsure about what the Voice to Parliament actually is, Mr Coulton said there were numerous avenues for obtaining information both online and through pamphlets.
The Australian Electoral Commission’s official pamphlets will soon be posted to all Australian households, outlining general information about the Voice as well as the official ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ cases.
As Member for Parkes, Mr Coulton represents one of the largest Aboriginal populations and his hope is to see complete equality and inclusion in all aspects of life for Aboriginal people including employment, education, and health.
“It should be noted that many improvements have already been made and continue to be made, including higher numbers of Aboriginal students completing Year 12, as well as growth of employment opportunities,” Mr Coulton said.
“Much of the success seen in communities in my electorate is led by positive local leadership at a grassroots level – this is what I have supported and will continue to support.”
Looking from a state perspective, Member for Barwon, Roy Butler said as the referendum was being held at a Federal level, the State Parliament had no official role in determining the outcome.
“How a person chooses to vote on the referendum should be entirely up to the individual,” Mr Butler said.
“It’s not my place to take a public side for or against it - what’s important is that people respect each other’s views and treat each other with kindness.
“It’s important for people to gather their own information to make their own informed decision on a matter like this.”
Aboriginal Land Council
The official stance of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) is in support of the ‘Yes’ campaign.
NSWALC chairperson, Cr Danny Chapman said this referendum was Australia’s chance to make a “real difference’ in the lives of First Nations’ people.
“I would respectfully say to people who don’t know what the Voice is about, don’t just vote ‘No’ as your back-up position. There are many resources out there so you can make an informed decision,” Cr Chapman said.
On a local level, Coonabarabran Local Aboriginal Land Council (CLALC) CEO, Brandon Nixon said most people who had come into the CLALC office were not sure about how the Voice would actually work and what it would do for Indigenous people.
Mr Nixon said he has found most of these people were leaning more towards the ‘No’ side due to the lack of information available as to how the Voice would actually work.
Official information pamphlets are available at the Coonabarabran LALC office.
A short survey
On Wednesday, 30 August 2023, the Coonabarabran Times conducted a survey on the Voice to Parliament through its Facebook page, to gauge the local community’s views on the upcoming referendum.
There were over 30 responses to the survey, however, the data collected provided merely a snapshot and is not necessarily indicative of the whole community.
In this survey the Times posed two questions, the first was ‘How will you be voting in the Voice referendum?’
The results found that 30 per cent of respondents will be voting ‘Yes’ in the referendum and 70 per cent had decided to vote ‘No.’
The second question asked the community, ‘Do you think there is enough information readily available to make a well-informed vote?’
The results found that only 29 per cent of respondents think there was enough information, while the remaining 71 per cent think there is not enough information available.
The Coonabarabran Times does not encourage the public to make their decision based solely on this data, and to make a well-informed vote based on reputable information – such as that available on the Australian Electoral Commission website.