Advocates for the Indigenous Voice are launching a last-ditch appeal to voters to “wake up to a new nation” by voting Yes to practical recognition for First Australians, as millions prepare to cast their ballots and campaign insiders admit the No side appears set for victory.
Yes campaigners are aiming to mobilise 70,000 volunteers in the hope they can win over undecided voters in the final day of voting in the historic referendum, while the No side is launching an advertising blitz to warn that the proposal would divide the country.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attends a Yes campaign event in Hobart. Credit: AAP
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese assured voters it would cost them nothing to help Indigenous Australians through recognition in the Constitution, pointing to the conflict in the Middle East to contrast war overseas with a chance to think of others at home.
“This week of all weeks, where we see such trauma in the world, there is nothing, no cost to Australians in showing kindness with their heart as well as their head when they enter the polling booth tomorrow and voting Yes,” he said while campaigning in South Australia on Friday.
“Because, my goodness, kindness costs nothing. Thinking of others cost nothing.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton signalled his plans in the event of a No vote by saying the next step should be practical change to ensure federal money went to those in the greatest need.
“I hope it’s a No vote on the weekend because it hasn’t been properly explained, it’s divisive, it’s permanent once it goes into the Constitution, and I just don’t think in their millions Australians are going to support it,” Dutton told the Nine Network.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he would look to promote positive changes for Indigenous people if the referendum was rejected. Credit: Kate Geraghty
“It won’t be a message of rejection to Indigenous Australians, quite the opposite. We want practical outcomes for people in Indigenous communities.”
In a final message to link the Voice to Australian history, the “freedom riders” who campaigned against discrimination in 1965 with Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins issued a joint statement to back the Voice as a way to promote national unity.
“The difficulty we have had as a nation in closing the gap indicates clearly that we are not yet the land of a fair go for all,” they said.
The statement was signed by Gary Williams, Jim Spigelman, Ann Curthoys, Aidan Foy, Pat Healy, Brian Aarons, Beth Hansen, Alec Mills, Chris Page and Warwick Richards. They said they would vote Yes in honour of Perkins, who died in 2000.
Rachel Perkins says her father Charles Perkins’ experience shows Indigenous advisory groups “just get shut down” as governments change. Credit: Getty
Filmmaker Rachel Perkins, a leading figure in the Yes campaign, said her father’s experience provided the answer to critics of the Voice who claimed the change did not need to be permanent, saying he worked on three advisory groups that were set up but later dismantled by governments.
“It’s not a lesson of history, it’s something we live every day. It’s about the way that government policy changes in Indigenous Affairs – every couple of years, depending on the political cycle, they shut stuff down,” she said.
“It’s policy incoherence and it’s a waste of money because taxpayers’ money is wasted on these things that we create and then shut down.”
Perkins urged voters to ignore No campaign claims that the national Voice was unnecessary because local and regional Voices could make practical change.
“Local and regional Voices absolutely are the answer, but the Commonwealth government makes a lot of the policy and laws about us, so we also need a Voice at that Commonwealth level,” she said.
“The local and regional voices would filter up to a national voice bringing those regional perspectives, which are so diverse.
“People deliberately characterise this as a Canberra voice. It’s not. It’s a regional voice going into Canberra.”
With about 5.6 million early votes already cast and 2 million postal votes expected, the Australian Electoral Commission issued a reminder that voting was compulsory, although campaigners acknowledged the prospect of low voter turnout on Saturday.
Polling places open at 8am and close at 6pm on Saturday. Final votes will be cast in Western Australia about 9pm AEDT, three hours after booths close in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
Dutton gave a firm instruction to apathetic No voters in a Sky News interview on Friday, saying: “You need to go out and vote, that is a very clear message we’re putting out.”
The Yes campaign’s daily tracking poll, which ended on Thursday, has shown a small tightening in the vote in the final week, according to campaign sources speaking anonymously to detail confidential information, but this was not expected to lead to victory.
The Yes campaign’s best-case scenario, the sources said, was a national result of about 45 per cent support and majorities in three states – Victoria, NSW and Tasmania. However, the support might only be in the high 30s with all states rejecting the proposal.
An unexpected number of high-profile endorsements – from footballers Nathan Cleary and Darcy Moore to actor Russell Crowe, social media star Abbie Chatfield and broadcaster Hamish Blake – have created a sense of momentum for Yes campaigners.
The Yes side has also claimed an advantage at polling places because it estimates it has increased its volunteer numbers to 70,000, about 20,000 more than expected. The No side said it would have about 25,000 volunteers with the assistance of Liberal and National Party members.
The Palmer advertisements, allowed under electoral laws on the grounds of free expression, include claims that the Voice means Australians will have to “pay the rent” even though this is a false claim denied by Albanese and the government.
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