Australian households have begun receiving a blue pamphlet in their mailbox explaining the upcoming Voice referendum, but like most things to do with the Voice it seems to be more complicated than it needs to be.
Central News has summarised the key points and unpacked what you need to know.
Over 13 million copies are being delivered across the nation in preparation for October 14 referendum, announced in Adelaide today, a date that gives the Albanese government about six weeks to deliver their ‘Yes’ message.
The official referendum booklet, distributed by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), presents the parliamentary cases for and against the suggested constitutional change.
What’s it about?
The question Australian’s will be asked to respond to on Referendum day is as follows:
A proposed law: To alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.’ (p. 6)
The offical pamphlet conveys the core arguments collated by a majority of federal members and Senators on either side of the Yes/No responses to the alteration.
The AEC’s booklet is the only official side-by-side guide to the different campaigns and will be the most widespread physical resource dedicated to the referendum.
What’s in it?
Unlike typical election pamphlets that use minimal content and design, the referendum booklet is 24 pages long.
The booklet includes two sections:
- The official Yes/No referendum pamphlet:
This section contains two essays of 2000 words each; one for the ‘Yes’ case and one for the ‘No’ case (p.5-19).
2. The official guide to the 2023 referendum:
This is a summary of how the referendum will function across 7,000+ polling places and 500+ early voting centres. (p.21-24)
Section 1 conveys the foundations of the parliamentary campaigns surrounding the Voice and is the most substantial of the two.
Unity is the focus of both arguments: one that it will achieve it, the other that it will dismantle it.
The ‘Yes’ case forsees the possibility of ‘a better future’ through the Voice and the opportunity to make ‘a positive difference’ to the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples.
The ‘No’ case centres on the motif, ‘if you don’t know, vote no’, claiming the unknown consequences of ‘the biggest change to our Constitution in our history’.
The key points explored are:
Reading the essays
The essays in Section 1 are structured in a parallel format, to not favour either case, where the ‘Yes’ case is on the left page, and the ‘No’ case on the right.
Reading the pamphlet, you have two choices:
- Reading one essay in its interrupted entirety (left or right pages strictly)
- Reading the essays together, page by page in a call-and-response-like style.
The issue with option (b) is that it creates an expectation of direct rebuttal between the essays.
The points discussed in each case are not placed in strict chronological order and reading across the pages can become messy and distrust cohesion.
The official AEC website does, however, offer a PDF version of the pamphlet where the essays can be read more easily:
The AEC directly states it was ‘not involved in the development of the content in the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ cases.
They also say the AEC ‘does not have legislative authority to edit, amend or fact check the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ cases.’
This means that the content of the essays has not been independently verified for disinformation.
Main image by Tallas Lynch.