The ‘detail’ question
For weeks Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has been calling on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to release more detail on what the Voice to parliament would look like in the form of a draft bill.
While the government is sticking to the strategy of legislating the Voice after the referendum, Albanese changed his language last week in responding to criticisms about a lack of detail.
Previously he repeatedly referred to a 250-page report by Indigenous academics Marcia Langton and Tom Calma, which the government has not adopted as its policy, but there has now been a shift to focus on what the Voice is and how it will improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Davis said a lot of criticism about a “lack of detail” was premature, considering the working groups advising the government have not yet come back with their advice.
“It was a very clear process set up by Albanese and there’s been three working groups working on the amendment to the Constitution and the amount of detail that’s required for Australians to have an informed vote,” she said.
“We’re at the tail end of that process because they need that information for the referendum vote to be set up – so it’s not far off from being released.”
But Davis said the level of detail being requested by ordinary Australians was very different from that being demanded by politicians and a lot of the media, according to focus group research.
“They’re not so much interested in the minutiae of a clause in the Constitution or a fully stood-up bill,” she said. “The detail that they’re seeking is: how will this make a difference if we vote yes?”
Along with answering questions on detail, the government and the Yes side are also dealing with the aftermath of the Invasion Day rallies in which Indigenous speakers, including Greens senator Lidia Thorpe, publicly opposed the Voice on the basis that it could cede First Nations sovereignty.
Campaigners on the Yes side are confident that they can convince wider Australia that the Indigenous voices critical of the Voice are in a minority.
Polling conducted by Ipsos, conducted in the week leading up to January 26, showed 80 per cent of First Nations people support the proposed Voice to parliament.
Davis said media coverage of the rallies “amplified the voices of a very small minority in the community”.
“If you were at all the marches, most people weren’t clapping for the anti-Voice sentiment,” she said.
The campaign strategy
The groups supporting the ‘Yes’ side have already spent around $1 million on advertising and that figure is expected to significantly increase over the coming months. They are, however, planning to save most of the advertising spend for the final weeks of the campaign.
The campaign will look to run localised messages across the country, with a focus in rural and regional areas on reminding both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians that the Voice started as an “anti-elitist” idea out of the Uluru dialogues. Australians will be told that the Voice will take on the government bureaucracies and the Indigenous industry which has held First Nations people back for decades.
“It was anti-elitist in the sense of our own sector, our own people. There was a strong sentiment in the [Uluru] dialogues and ever since that our own people need to be accountable to our own people,” Davis said.
“Our mob are sick of this big industry that thrives and flourishes on our disadvantage. They’re not active players in their own lives.”
Labor MP Marion Scrymgour, who represents the electorate of Lingiari which takes in Alice Springs, said if the Voice had existed since 2014, “then perhaps many of the issues that have erupted now would not have occurred”.
“A Voice will make a difference to communities like Alice Springs. It will mean government and bureaucrats need to listen to us. A Voice might even give people in Alice some hope,” she writes in an opinion piece for this masthead.
The No side
Former ALP president and Bundjalung man, Warren Mundine, is still in the process of setting up his outfit which will coordinate the No side, which will launch its campaign in either late February or early March.
Mundine said announcements will be made in the coming weeks on directors. Former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader John Anderson already declaring he is interested in some kind of role in the campaign.
Mundine confirmed that the No side would adopt an official position of supporting constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians while opposing the Voice, with the potential slogan: “Recognise A Better Way.”
“We’re not against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution, but there are better ways to do it,” he said.
Mundine said the funding was “getting positive” but conceded his side would be massively outspent by the Yes campaign.
“They’ve got a lot more money than us and they’ve got a really good team together running their campaign – probably some of the best campaigners in the country.”
He said he was growing increasingly concerned about the vitriol appearing online from people opposed to the Voice, naming the “idiots” and “stupid people” who were criticising Voice co-designer Tom Calma’s appointment as senior Australian of the year.
“I’ve known Tom Calma for 40 years… I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and he deserves all the accolades he has got,” he said.
“So that’s why I try to catch up [with Yes campaign] for a chat so we don’t go into this incredible crazy space that just divides everyone.
“It’s only early days – when it starts to get to the last couple of months this thing could become quite divisive.”
Mundine said if Australians do vote for a Voice, he will “help make it successful”.
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