Op-Ed: Referendum is the Voice of division

On Saturday 14 October, Australians will be casting their vote on whether we should enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution.

The Prime Minister has been talking about his referendum proposal for months – yet Australians are none-the-wiser to what the Voice is, how it will operate, and how it will make a tangible difference to the lives of Indigenous Australians. 

How can Australians make an informed choice in casting their vote, when the Government is withholding essential information from public scrutiny?

This is one of the many reasons I’ve joined with people including Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine AO to support the No Campaign.

There’s no doubt that changing our Constitution, Australia’s founding document, is no small matter, therefore any proposed change should be legally sound. We simply cannot afford for any change to our constitution to create legal uncertainty which can be exploited by activists and be open to interpretation by the courts.

But of even greater concern, inserting a new body into the constitution for one group of Australians will divide our country. And we know this, because we’ve already seen the seeds of that division in some of the rhetoric coming out of the Yes campaign.

Leading Voice advocate Professor Marcia Langton, while at a speaking event in Western Australia said: “Every time the No case raises one of their arguments, if you start pulling it apart you get down to base racism. I'm sorry to say it, but that's where it lands—or just sheer stupidity.”

It’s highly insulting to suggest that Tasmanians and indeed Australians who are voting No are doing so because they’re either racist or stupid - even more so when the Government is refusing to provide the detail of how the Voice will operate. 

Professor Langton’s comments not only fail to address the very real concerns many Australians have about the Voice, they also fail to account for the many Indigenous Australians who will be voting No on October 14.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t want to provide more effective support to Indigenous Australians and improve the outcomes of those living in regional and remote Indigenous communities.

But Labor’s Voice to Parliament won’t address this; it will only add another layer of ineffective bureaucratic oversight that divides our country. 

If you don’t know, vote no.

*This opinion piece appeared in the Advocate newspaper on 5 October 2023.