Contributed by Glen Davis
I wrote in The Pen a few months back. May 8 to be exact, about some of the difficulties of winning referendums in Australia.
Referendums in Australia are notoriously tricky to win. A majority of voters in a majority of states are required. Since Australia’s Federation there have been 44 referendums, and only 8 have succeeded. Interestingly, of the 25 referendums proposed by a Federal ALP Government only 1 won the yes vote.
Later this year, the Australian voters will be called to vote on a Voice to Parliament, a Voice that will recognise the First Nations people of Australia in the constitution with having a permanent, and independent, body advising on their needs. This campaign kicked off with lots of support, as polls showed the Yes vote had the numbers.
The Yes campaigners were initially greatly confident with this apparent large numbers of voter support. They also received support with much of the top end of the town coming out strongly for the Yes vote. This included the ANZ, and Commonwealth Banks, Coles, Woolworths, and Qantas. The heads of major Australian sporting codes such as the AFL, and the NRL, gave their support a Yes vote.
Image from Reconciliation Australia
The Murdoch empire are certainly not supporters of a Yes vote. Murdoch is heading the no case along with the Liberal and National parties.
Over time, despite its early support, despite much resourcing, the Yes campaign has lost support among voters, and now, more and more Australians are turning towards No, until there is a growing sense that the No vote will carry the day.
A lack of transparency and clarity on the details and considerable opposition form First Nations peoples hasn’t helped the yes case this time around. Nor has suspicion of the big end of town support, when the rest of Australia is fearful of the future and has a growing perception of rising corruption among the business sand political elite. These factors were bound to have an impact on attitudes towards this referendum. Finally, the yes campaign insisting that a vote for the voice will bring any significant change raises the question, why bother?
There is considerable opposition to the referendum from First Nations peoples
The drop of support for the Yes vote in the Voice referendum, makes me think of a similar situation back in 1994, when Norwegians voted about joining the European Union, (EU). The governing Labor Party led by Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland oversaw the proposal.
Though there were divisions in the Labor Party over this, the Party presented a united face on the referendum. Much of the leadership in civil, and corporate, society supported joining the EU. Most Norwegians also backed joining the EU, or so the polls read. The opposition Centre Party opposed the referendum. On the day of the vote, the overwhelming feeling was that the Yes vote would win; it didn’t. Despite high support at the start, despite backing from large corporate, and civil bodies, the vote failed. A No vote from 52.18 percent of voters carried the day. Nearly three decades later Norway remains out of the E U.
Is there a message her for the Yes campaign: Is the support of high-profile individuals, and corporate bodies, guaranteed to get you over the line?
The old political certainties are going. When so much of the elite, and wealthy urge a Yes vote, yet apparently many ordinary Australians might vote No, where Is politics at in Australia?