Anthony Albanese has pleaded with the thousands of undecided voters to drown out the “absurd” misinformation and vote Yes, as Australians begin to vote in the Voice to parliament referendum.
The Prime Minister, insistent that a Yes vote will prevail on October 14 despite polls pointing towards a defeat, says he is confident Australians will look at the question before them and accept the “very modest request”.
It comes as early voting centres open across the country, with the Australian Electoral Commission confirming 124,000 people in Victoria, Tasmania, WA and the NT voted on the first day of operations.
Early voting commenced in every other state and the ACT on Tuesday.
With less than two weeks until polling day, the Prime Minister has kicked off a nationwide media blitz with a hopeful plea to Australians to accept the request put forward by First Australians and supported by 80 per cent of Indigenous people to enshrine an advisory body into the Constitution.
Mr Albanese said he was hopeful that undecided and “soft no” voters could tune out the “full sweep of disinformation”, citing examples of claims made regarding the Reserve Bank, private land ownership, and the United Nations.
“It’s just absurd,” he said on the hustings in Tasmania.
“But to me, I think that is being countered by the goodwill that is overwhelmingly coming from the Yes campaign. The patient, extraordinary leadership from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves who … have spent a lifetime just asking for a crack.
“If Australia votes yes, it will show respect for the First Australians, but it will do something else as well. We’ll feel better about ourselves as a nation.”
A record 17.5 million people set to cast their ballots over the next two weeks in the first referendum since 1999.
The majority of polls have pointed towards a No vote, although the most recent Guardian Essentials poll showed a slight uptick in support for the constitutional alteration up to 43 per cent, although 49 per cent still plan to vote the Voice down, and eight per cent still undecided.
Mr Albanese pressed there was enough time for one-on-one conversations with undecided voters.
“In voting yes, we’ll give three per cent of the population the opportunity to be heard, on matters that directly affect them, and they’ll be able to have a voice and be listened to and we’ll get better outcomes,” he said.
“You’ll get better results, you’ll actually save money – not spend money.
“My plea to voters … is to look at what the question is before the Australian people. It says very clearly, in recognition of Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia – that’s the recognition bit – and it just says ‘there shall be a body, called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. It may make representations … on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’.
“There is nothing to fear here, everything to gain.”
Mr Albanese had earlier said the consequences of a No vote would be “more of the same” and Australia “can do better”.
“What I get, including from the volunteers who I met with in Hobart yesterday afternoon, is that when people have those one-on-one conversations with people about what the question is, when I myself have pointed out to people, sat down with people and asked them to read the question – people who are either undecided or soft no voters declare, yeah, that’s fair enough. This is the right thing to do,” he told ABC Radio on Tuesday morning.
Key figures of the vote No campaign have also bolstered efforts to sway undecided voters ahead of October 14, with Indigenous Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price telling a Perth event on Monday that the country did “not want a future where our children aren’t proud to call themselves Australian”.
“These corporations are being funded to push through reconciliation while the rest of us are just wandering around being reconciled,” Senator Price said.
Mr Albanese criticised Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on Monday on his call to hold a second referendum for constitutional recognition for First Nations people, an idea opposed by Senator Price.
“He talks about the cost of a referendum but he wants to have another one,” Mr Albanese said.
“This has been a process (that) has been around for a long period of time. This is a request from Aboriginal people and what they have said is they want constitutional recognition but they want recognition with some substance to it that makes a difference, which is why they want the opportunity just to be listened to – not to have the right of veto, not to have power over the parliament but just to be listened to.”
Australia’s will vote Yes or No on Saturday October 14 to the following question:
“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?”