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Indigenous voice to parliament: Australia rejects constitutional change as Albanese says vote ‘not end of the road’

Josh Butler reports for The Guardian (14.10.23) on the defeat of the referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, with every state and territory bar the ACT voting against the proposition.

‘Australian voters have resoundingly rejected a proposal to enshrine an Indigenous voice to parliament in the country’s constitution, with voters in every state and territory bar the ACT opposing the change. The Australian Electoral Commission said 59% of the country voted no as of 10.30pm AEDT on Saturday. The state with the highest yes vote was Victoria, at 46%, while Queensland had the lowest yes vote, at 32%.

‘On Saturday night, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, called for Australians to show kindness to each other and defended his decision to push on with the referendum, calling himself a conviction politician.

‘“Just as the Uluru Statement from the Heart was an invitation extended with humility, grace and optimism for the future, tonight we must meet this result with the same grace and humility. And tomorrow we must seek a new way forward with the same optimism,” he told a press conference in Canberra as he conceded defeat. “Tonight is not the end of the road and is certainly not the end of our efforts to bring people together.”

‘… The Yes23 campaign director, Dean Parkin, said “we will be back”, vowing the campaign for reconciliation and recognition would return. But Prof Marcia Langton, an Indigenous academic and prominent yes campaigner feared the result meant reconciliation was “dead”.’

If there is to be any healing after the Voice referendum, it will be a long journey

Frank Bongiorno writes in The Conversation (15.10.23) about the path forward following the defeat of the Indigenous Voice referendum, reminding how difficult it is to achieve an ‘affirmative’ referendum result in Australia.

‘The result of the Voice referendum on Saturday was unexceptional if considered in light of the constitutional history of this country.

‘With a “yes”/“no” split likely to be about 40/60%, the defeat was no more or less resounding than several other proposals since Federation that became buried in contention, partisanship and opportunism. The “no” side’s clean sweep of the states has also occurred before – on a quarter of all referendum votes, in fact.

‘There will now be many a post-mortem, and many a “what if?” There will be an abundance of wisdom after the event. What if Opposition Leader Peter Dutton had offered bipartisan support? What if there had been a constitutional convention? What if the government had negotiated with the opposition over the detail? What if it had released a draft bill? What if the referendum were held next year? What if “yes” had run a different campaign? What if there had not been a cost-of-living crisis? What if there had been less lying?

‘…The “no” result will be deeply disappointing to many Australians, and most of all to those Indigenous people who have worked patiently for years to achieve constitutional change. There will be many broken hearts. These people have had to endure some of the very worst impulses at work in this country, and some of the nastiest instincts that disfigure its public life. That, too, is unexceptional in the history of this country. If there is to be any healing, it will be a long journey.’

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