Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has lashed out at those speaking against the upcoming Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum, stating that he is “not surprised” that there are “some radicals” who are opposing it.
The referendum, set to take place in the second half of this year, will ask Australians whether to enshrine the Voice – an Indigenous advisory body for the government on issues that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – in the Constitution.
The Voice was proposed through the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which Albanese committed to “in full” following Labor’s election victory in May last year. However, the Prime Minister is facing significant opposition to the measure, with a recent poll showing waning enthusiasm for the body and protesters holding up “vote no to referendum” banners at Invasion Day rallies on Thursday.
At a press conference in Tasmania on Friday, Albanese was asked whether he believed the messages from Indigenous voices at Invasion Day rallies calling on people to vote no in the referendum will harm the campaign. “People will have different views on this and just like any section of society, to think that it is homogenous is, I think, just not realistic,” he responded.
“I very firmly believe that the Uluru Statement from the Heart was very clear about the priority that Indigenous people, after hundreds of consultations, came together and they said they wanted Voice as the first thing. What people will vote for in the referendum, if they decide to support it, is they will vote for recognition of Indigenous Australians in our constitution and they will vote for consultation with Indigenous people on matters that affect them,” he added.
Albanese also went on to reference the draft wording of the Constitutional change that he unveiled at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory in July last year.
“I have not had one suggestion come forward from anyone across the political spectrum of a proposed change to the wording that has been put forward,” he said.
Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff, who stood alongside Albanese at Friday’s press conference, reaffirmed his support for the Voice, while the Prime Minister said New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet did the same thing on Thursday night.
“We, across the country, every state premier, every chief minister, is supporting yes at this referendum because this is about progress going forward,” Albanese said.
“It is about reconciliation. It’s not a radical proposition. So I’m not surprised that some radicals are opposed to it because this is a mainstream proposition. This is a modest and gracious request.”