Shortcuts / 19 October 2023

The Voice referendum result

The Voice Referendum is now done and dusted, and even though there are still votes to count, the result is clear. Australians returned an overwhelming ‘No’ vote, with all states – and around 60% of the country – saying they don’t want an Indigenous Voice to Parliament enshrined in our Constitution. So in this Squiz Shortcut, we break down how Aussies voted, what’s being said about what it means, and where we go from here…

Talk about a quick result…
It sure was… ABC election guru Antony Green called the vote for the ‘No’ side at 7.24pm eastern daylight saving time on Saturday night. That happened after it became clear that a majority of voters in Tassie, NSW, and South Oz had voted ‘No’.

Why was that a pivotal moment?
Because the referendum needed 4 states to vote ‘Yes’ to succeed.

Why so quick?
The votes were quite easy to count because ballot papers were just a simple Yes/No proposition, so it only took an hour after the polls closed for the numbers to point to where things were heading.

What are some of the main takeaways from the result?
One big one was that many safe Labor seats rejected the Voice. Green said there was a 16% swing of Labor voters against the Voice, with close to 80% of all federal Labor seats voting ‘No’. In other words, 19 out of Labor’s 78 seats voted ‘Yes’.

So the vote didn’t stick to party lines?
Nope – the result was more aligned to an inner city/outer regions divide. Areas with the highest incomes and highest education levels are clustered tightly in every capital city, and those were the electoral pockets which voted ‘Yes’. It’s about 20km out of those areas where support for the ‘No’ vote starts.

Did most Indigenous Aussies support the ‘Yes’ vote?
We can see from the Australian Electoral Commission’s breakdown of individual polling booth results that Indigenous populations were more likely to vote ‘Yes’. This became a contested point after the ‘Yes’ campaign claimed that 80% of Indigenous people supported the Voice – the ‘No’ side said it was nowhere near that high.

Who was right?
Well, the ‘Yes’ campaign was mostly on the money. There was a ‘Yes’ vote of 72% from the 10,000 ballots counted from the booths in remote Indigenous communities. And within some of the rural Queensland seats with the highest ‘No’ votes, there were strong pockets of ‘Yes’ support at booths with the largest Indigenous populations in places like Palm Island, Mornington Island and Hope Vale, which all returned around 75% ‘Yes’ votes.

Why was the referendum so roundly defeated?
That’s what many are asking… ‘Yes’ campaigner Marcus Stewart said the proposal was perceived as “niche” and “people voted ‘No’ because they think there’s a better pathway than constitutional enshrinement”. And Labor MP Mike Freelander said the ‘Yes’ campaign “was an echo chamber, elites talking to elites and patting themselves on the back”. But many from the ‘Yes’ side say misinformation from the ‘No’ campaign was a factor in the result.

So what happens now?
Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney says they’ve got to “let the dust settle” and find out what Indigenous communities want to do next. PM Anthony Albanese says the government remains committed to improving outcomes for First Nations people, but in the meantime, he’ll honour a request from some Indigenous leaders to maintain a week of silence as they reflect on the result.

And after that?
Well, there’s little argument that things need to change for Indigenous Aussies. Progressive ‘No’ campaigner Lidia Thorpe says she is now focused on pursuing truth telling – another element of the Uluru Statement of the Heart.

What’s that about?
Thorpe says that Australians have to have a reckoning with our history and until we do that we can’t move forward. That’s been echoed by Catherine Liddle, the boss of the national peak body for Indigenous children and families – she reckons Aussies need to understand why there’s this huge gulf between Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks.

But the Albanese Government hasn’t committed to next steps yet?
No – the PM has made it clear that despite his election night promise to implement the Uluru Statement in full – including Voice, Treaty, and Truth – he respects that Australians have rejected the Voice. But work is underway on the other 2 parts of the Uluru Statement.

What’s happening?
So Labor put nearly $6 million towards establishing an independent Makarrata Commission in the Budget last October. That’s essentially a forum that would supervise agreement-making between governments and First Nations communities as well as truth-telling about the past. What that commission will look like is still TBC.

So there won’t be another referendum?
It doesn’t look like it – Coalition leader Peter Dutton has backtracked on his pledge to hold another referendum on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Aussies, saying “the Australian public is probably over the referendum process for some time”.

What else is on the Coalition’s post-referendum agenda?
Dutton said Indigenous Senators Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Kerrynne Liddle are now reviewing Coalition policy on Indigenous Affairs but they remain committed to a Royal Commission into child abuse in remote Indigenous communities and an audit into funding for Indigenous programs.

So there’s a lot to settle…
That’s for sure. Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Aussies has long been a difficult road, and what’s next remains TBD.

Squiz recommends:

The demographics that felled the Yes campaignThe Sydney Morning Herald

What will happen to South Australia’s First Nations Voice to Parliament following referendum defeat? – ABC News

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