Yes or No?

Are we there yet?

Like many of us, the feeling is that this debate has been going on for a while with lack lustre arguments all around. My general position in terms of any referendum is to vote no, and it is my understanding that it is the responsibility of those who want to change the Constitution to put before the people a sufficient and cohesive reason for the change, what it would achieve, and why it is worth doing. In an adversarial democracy, this will generally mean that effective change will almost always require bi-partisan support.

Especially in Australia where a referendum requires what is called a double majority, namely a majority of all the people, and a majority of people in a majority of States. NSW and Victoria have about 56.9% of the population, whilst Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania account for 40.4% of the population, and the Nothern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory account for 2.7%. For a referendum to pass, you will need most people in NSW and Victoria and at least two other states. The indications are that this is unlikely to happen, though the Right Honourable Anthony Albanese, the Prime Minister remains optimistic.

Successful Referendums in Australia, and there have been 8, have all had bipartisan support. My view is that if they were deeply genuine about wanting success, they would have ensured that before launching it, and even though that would not have guaranteed it, without it, it will be a near impossibility.

How will I vote?

As we live in a democracy I don't have to tell you. I also have no intent of telling you how you should vote, however, I can share with you the reasons why I am thinking the way I am thinking. Of course, there is plenty of time left for 100 decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.


At this time there was a movement towards the Federation of the Colonies, and there were many meetings, gatherings, conferences, and consultations, that ultimately led to a vote in each colony. As it happens the First Peoples of the colonies were not part of this process, they were not part of the consultative process and they did not get a vote. Many will want to describe that as racism, though perhaps it is more accurately described as the cultural filters of the time. The Constitution was accepted and passed in the UK with Royal Ascent, and so on the 1st of January 1901, the Commonwealth came into being, and the principal charter of its existence was in this Constitution.


As we look at it now we realise that this has to be the document for all Australians, and one of the ways we can help ensure that the group who were once excluded are now specifically included. We all need the Constitution to work for all of us, not just for some of us.


Despite the failure of the Yes Campaign to provide an intelligable case, (and equally, the No Campaign has also been less than impressive), at the present moment I believe that there is sufficient good cause for a change akin to what is being proposed.

It is not about the Voice!

The question is not whether should there be a Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Meaningful policy for any group or subculture requires consultation. It would be madness for a Government to fund a new football stadium without consulting with the codes most likely to use it. The same has to be true for projects aimed at improving the lot of the First Peoples of our Nation. ALP Policy has recognised this for some time, and indeed the LNP also realise the truth of it, and given that we now have a Labor Government, the expectation is they will legislate for this to come about. One big question is why they have not already done it.

So the question is really if such a principle should be enshrined in the Constitution. It certainly can, and probably will, exist without being in the Constitution. It could exist outside of Government, in the same way other bodies do (Sports Apex Bodies, Employer Groups, etc). The logistical structure needed to be inclusive of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders mean it is likely to be more effective and more representative if it is a legislated body. As such it will have a charter to uphold, and accountability for the way it goes about ensuring it fulfils its charter.


At this stage, the poll will happen sometime in October or November. The Football Grand Finals (both codes) are on the weekend of the 30th of September and the 1st of October. From a practical point of view, you need about 6 weeks for the Australian Electoral Commission to organise, in that they need to organise venues, staff, printing, and the rolls. In December people are too preoccupied. I am more inclined to think November, and clearly not on the 11th, so most likely the 4th or the 18th. My guess is that the Yes campaign will ramp up a charm offensive, once the date is announced, however, I think they may have let the No campaign get up too much traction, and they may have trouble reversing it.

Cost of Yes

The Yes Campaign tells us it won't cost anything. (Everyone immediately checks their wallet as Government normally saves our money rather than saves us money!) What this really means, as this is going to happen anyway, the cost of putting it in the Constitution is minimal.

The No Campaign, and certainly a number of uninformed outliers have imagined all sorts of costs, most of which are largely fanciful, and have led to changes of misinformation.

Cost of No

There may well be a cost associated with a 'No' outcome to this Referendum. That cost may well not be financial, so much as the social cost or a deeper divide being driven through our community. How will a No Vote be perceived in our community, and how will it be perceived in the communities of the First Peoples of our Nation? This is especially true given that this is tied to recognition, which I am fairly convinced everyone would want to see.

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