Contributed by Glen Davis
Referendums in Australia are notoriously tricky to succeed. You need a majority of votes in a majority of states, for a yes vote to get up. In Australian history, only 8 out of 44 referendums have succeeded.
We remember the failed 1999 attempt at a republic. The last referendums succeeding in Australia were in 1977 when Australians voted yes on the following issues: Senate Casual Vacancies, allowing residents of Australian territories to vote in referendums, and introducing 70 as the retirement age for judges.
Will the coming referendum be the next successful one?
Very soon we’ll vote on an alteration to the Australian Constitution to allow an indigenous Voice to the Federal Parliament, and Government, on matters impacting on indigenous Australians. Not a particularly radical proposal, and something that should have been in place a long time ago.
Much of corporate Australia, and leaders in civil society support a yes Vote for the Voice. Should we, the overwhelming majority of Australians go along with this?
Leading the opposition appears to be role for the News Ltd Media, and the usual rag-tag bunch of parliamentary reactionaries, and their hangers on. This does not deny there are many Indigenous Australians who want a no, as they consider a Voice limited, preferring Treaty. In their view, the referendum is a distraction.
A considerable proportion of Frist Nation Australia is opposed to the referendum for genuine reasons mostly ignored by the media
At this point it appears the yes vote has the stronger support overall. This doesn’t mean it will get up. support is starting to fall according to the polls, and it is uncertain where the balance will be when the voting comes. Then there are the structural difficulties in the way of a yeas vote.
I’ll touch on an infamous vote in another nation, where it seemed the yes vote was a certainty. In 1994 Norway held a referendum about taking membership of the European Union.
Though there were differences within the membership of the primary political parties, within the Labour Party, and the Centre party, there was much support, and this extended through the community. Regular polls showed the yes vote in front. When the vote came, however, the NO vote got 52.18 percent. Not that easy, is it?
Soon we will vote for a Voice to bring about well over-due changes to the Australian Constitution. If it gets up, supporters will expect that this will pave the way for better representation for the First Australians.
Let’s remember the achievement of 1967 when 90.77 percent of Australians voted yes, to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders in the Australian Constitution and allow the Commonwealth of Australia make laws for to back this. The result was important. But it is clear that in the end, it did little to put an end to the dispossession, discrimination of 200 years, nor did it introduce autonomy and self-determination. It did not end horrific poverty, lack of basic services, and lack of opportunity, and of course, deaths in custody continued.
I’ll vote yes. I don’t see the Voice as a magic cure. Perhaps, a successful referendum will provide the structure for negotiating a treaty/s. If it does, it will prove to have been worthwhile.