The Coalition is proposing Australia hold a second referendum to include Indigenous Australians in the Constitution if the Indigenous Voice to Parliament fails to pass on Oct. 14.
The comments follow the release of polling that indicates 53 percent of Australians do not plan to tick yes in the upcoming vote, while a further nine percent are undecided.
Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham on Sept. 5 said that if the Voice referendum fails, he hoped that Australia could hold another referendum on simple constitutional recognition for Indigenous people in conjunction with a federal election.
“It’s been a long-standing position that the Coalition supports constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples and first Australians,” Senator Birmingham said.
“I would hope that if the Voice referendum fails, we can go through a proper process that ultimately builds the type of broad consensus and support across the country that enables it to occur without the type of problems that this referendum is encountering, and perhaps in a manner where it could even be held, maybe in conjunction with an election down the track or the like, to ensure that it is a unifying moment, but also one that minimises costs or other factors.”
Pledge to Offer Constitutional Recognition
The comments from the senator come after Liberal Party Leader Peter Dutton pledged to hold a second referendum that would enshrine recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia’s constitution but not the Indigenous Voice advisory body, which has been proposed for the October vote.
“I really believe it’s the right thing to do by Indigenous Australians to recognise just the fact of our history in the Constitution,” Mr. Dutton said on Channel Nine on Sept. 4.
“I’ve been moving around the country over the course of the last six, 12 months listening to literally thousands of Australians—I just don’t think the Prime Minister’s heard them.
“They don’t want the Voice. They do want constitutional recognition, but they don’t want the Voice in the Constitution.”
Mr. Dutton said that he believes if Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had changed the question proposed for the Oct. 14 referendum to ask if people supported constitution recognition separately from the Indigenous Voice, up to 80 percent of Australians would support that which he called a unifying moment.
“At the moment, the prime minister’s marching us down a path which is going to divide our country on October 14, and he knows that unless he provides the detail, people aren’t going to shift their vote, and I don’t see how in good conscience he can continue to take our country down a path that he knows is not in our country’s best interests,” the opposition leader said.
Not Tokenism To Recognise Indigenous Australians
Mr. Dutton has also dismissed criticism that his plan for constitutional recognition would be a token response.
“People can call it, you know, ‘tokenism’ or ‘symbolic’, but the fact is it’s a significant statement, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t do the practical things that are required,” he said.
However, key cross-bench senator, Jacqie Lambie, said the idea of a second referendum was “absolutely idiotic.”