Anthony Albanese has delivered a stirring speech to reboot the Voice to parliament campaign and called the date for the referendum on October 14.
Speaking to a ‘Yes’ campaign rally of 400 people in Adelaide this morning, the Prime Minister set out the Constitutional question in clear terms and urged the public to do something for the future rather than choosing to do nothing.
Albanese reassured voters on the fence, or against the proposal, that the Voice to parliament did not have any legal power but instead would give Indigenous Australians a direct link to Canberra, which they had never had before.
“Australia will have a once-in-a-generation chance to bring our country together,” Albanese said in the speech, which was televised live around the country, and met with loud applause.
If you’re unsure, it’s easy to find out more.
“We will be able to hear directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about the challenges they face in health and education and in jobs and housing.
“Recognition. Listening to advice. Parliament continuing as decision maker. That’s the clear, positive, and practical request from Indigenous Australians.”
The Prime Minister will be hoping his performance provides a reset for the struggling ‘Yes’ campaign, which has seen a healthy lead steadily eroded into negative territory.
He urged Australians to inform themselves prior to voting, saying “if something is unclear to you or you haven’t even had a chance to think about this yet, I encourage you to ask questions because if you’re unsure, it’s easy to find out more”.
“Voting ‘Yes’ won’t fix everything overnight … but voting ‘No’ closes a door on this opportunity to move forward. I say today don’t close the door on constitutional recognition,” he added.
“You are not being asked to vote for a political party, or for a person. You’re being asked to vote for an idea. To say ‘Yes’ to an idea whose time has come.”
The announcement of the date, the worst kept secret in Australia, launches a six-week campaign for a constitutionally enshrined, independent advisory body for First Nations people.
What is the Voice to parliament?
Keeping his tone upbeat throughout today’s speech, the Prime Minister never hectored, despite numerous warnings that a win for the ‘No’ side would be an opportunity lost.
He set out the Voice in clear and simple terms, cutting through much of the confusing debate that has overtaken the campaign.
“It is a committee of Indigenous Australians, chosen by Indigenous Australians giving advice to government so that we can get better results for Indigenous Australians,” he said.
We will be able to hear directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about the challenges they face.
“The idea for a Voice came from the people and it will be decided by the people.”
Originating from the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017, this permanent body of First Nations people would represent different areas around the country and give advice on matters that affect them.
The Voice will act separately to both the executive and parliament. It won’t be able to veto proposed policies or bills, and there will be no legal requirement to follow its advice.
How does voting work?
All Australian citizens aged 18 and over are legally required to vote on October 14.
The referendum falls after school holidays and major sporting events like the AFL and NRL finals, and before the wet season begins so that more Indigenous communities in remote areas can easily access polling stations.
Information about voting can be found in the Australian Electoral Commission pamphlets which began arriving in letterboxes last week.
Australia will have a once-in-a-generation chance to bring our country together.
The referendum’s success depends on a double majority – a national majority of ‘Yes’ votes as well as a majority in at least four out of the six states.
This referendum will make history as “the first one this century,” said Albanese. Given the last referendum occurred in 1999, no Australian citizen less than 42 years old has voted in a referendum before.
South Australia, where the official voting date was announced today, is considered a swing state. Along with Tasmania, its votes will be vital in determining the referendum’s outcome.
What will Australians vote on?
The question asked on October 14 will be:
“A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”
In addition, the Voice will incorporate a new chapter called “Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples” into the constitution. This will be the first constitutional recognition of First Nations people and their over 65,000-year connection to Australia.
If successful, this will be the ninth change to Australia’s constitution since its creation in 1901.
“It’s up to all of us to write the next chapter together,” urged Albanese.