The Voice 'wrap-up'
Post referendum analysis shows weighted average 'Yes' and 'No' polling was correct. 'Undecided' voted 96% 'No' and 4% 'Yes'; then the blame game started.
Result from referendum reviewed against polling reports
Albanese's proposal failed to garner a majority vote having only obtained 39.27% support at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 18h October, 2023 while postal counts were still trickling in. Based on votes counted, not one out of the six states had secured a majority of 'Yes' votes. At least four out of the six states were required to support the Voice together with a majority number of votes.
The weighted average of Yes votes from ten thousand respondents in five surveys of Polling was 38.9%. The actual count that was recorded in the latest count is extremly close with 39.3%.
The final No vote of 61% exceeded the Polls that had been carried out during October by 10%.
The weighted average for 'No' votes had slipped down to 51.45% during Polling over the last week to ten days. 'Undecided' was 9.63%. This suggests that on polling day, the majority of the 'Undecided' voters cast a 'No' vote because the actual count was 60.73% and the sum of weighted No and weighted Undecided votes is 61.08%. If the weighted polling was correct, 96% were submitted as 'No' votes and 4% of Undecided votes were cast as 'Yes'.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton blamed for referendum failure but his win was assisted by Albanese 'own goals'.
In aftermath of the failure of the referendum there was very quick condemnation levelled against the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton.
Federal Greens leader Adam Bandt branded Mr Dutton a master of misinformation.
"Peter Dutton ran a Trumpian campaign of misinformation and fear that has the potential to set back reconciliation in this country unless we address it," he told reporters in Melbourne.
Fact: Opposition Leader Peter Dutton had suggested to Albanese that he should compromise his proposal to ensure it would pass and he would have endorsed it. Albanese rejected this and chose to walk on the path alone at his peril.
Similarly, Australian Council Of Trade Unions President Michele O'Neil said the vote was effectively lost when the Liberal Party decided not to support the proposal.
"April 5th is the day that turned a positive invitation for change into a political and partisan campaign," she said.
"This loss belongs to Peter Dutton and the Liberal Party."
Fact: Peter Dutton repeatedly stated that he had asked the PM in January 2023 for some detail about the Voice with 15 specific questions. In the absence of a reply, he announced his decision not to support Albanese some four months later. Albanese had lost Liberal Party support in April 2023 and the inflection point in the Polls was in June when the No vote of 47% first exceeded the Yes vote at 43%.
Prominent Indigenous activist and academic Marcia Langton suggested Mr Dutton had "cemented race hate into the body politic" in a way the 'yes' camp hadn't foreseen last year.
"He has killed any hope of reconciliation, ably assisted by Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine," she wrote in The Saturday Paper.
During the campaign, the resolve of the public that were inclining to vot 'No' voters hardened when they were alledgedly called rascists by Yes23 campaigners. There were denials when they were called out on the media.
Fact: Marcia Langton was accused of calling No voters racists. Ms Langton is alleged to have made these remarks at a NAIDOC Week event in Brisbane in July. She described “hard No” voters as racist or stupid.
Recording obtained by the media showed her saying: “Ordinary Australians are thinking, ‘Yes, of course I am voting for the Voice’ and that would be 48 to 49 per cent. Then there is hard No voters, and I am hoping they are about 20 per cent, and they are the ones spewing racism.”
She also said: “‘Every time the No cases raise their arguments, if you start pulling it apart you get down to base racism, I’m sorry to say that’s where it lands, or sheer stupidity.”
After that, other past public remarks made by Ms Langton emerged, including her description of conservatives Jacinta Price and her mother as “coloured help” and wishing a “slow, painful death” on Mark Latham.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce shared his observations and says the Voice to Parliament referendum was a “complete and utter botch”.
“It was a hubristic divisive debacle that started with the Prime Minister having an African American basketball player called Shaquille O’Neal announce the start of a referendum.
“Why they didn’t get Patty Mills, I’ve got no idea.
“Then have it supported by the banks and the supermarkets in a cost-of-living crisis.”
When statements have been reviewed from the campaign trail, Albanese made claims that may not have been entirely consistent and sometimes contradictory and this may have eroded his credibility.
* Albanese denied that he had commited to holding a Voice referendum during the 2022 election.
Fact: Stan Grant reported Albanese’s first commitment in his victory speech on election night was to pledge a referendum to enshrine a voice for First Nations people in the Constitution.”
* Albanese maintained that the Voice was a "modest" change.
Fact: A Resolve poll reported that the majority of 44% of Australians said that the Voice is a significant change to Parliament. A modest 23% agreed with Albanese who said at the outset that it is a modest change. 32% were unsure or undecided.
* Anthony Albanese tried to give assurances that the Voice would not lead to calls for Treaty. After parliament resumed, Albanese was asked why he had worn a T-shirt to a Midnight Oil concert calling for “voice, treaty, truth” but his light-hearted attempts to convince the opposition and the public that treaty and voice would always be independent were unsuccessful.
Albanese probably had the best intentions when he gave his assurance but it was misguided because the government of the day would never have any control of the Voice if/when it was implemented. Views would be presented from Indigenous people.
For some unknown reason, the Prime Minister distanced himself from the statements in extracts from Minutes from 13 ‘regional dialogue’ consultation events held in 2016 and 2017. The dialogue consultation events, which were attended by around 1200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, were part of the national consultation process about how best to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. He prefers to look at the cover sheet from the Uluru Statement and block out the preamble from the 1,200 Indigenous people that provided input. There is talk about 60,000 years of history so why is there an attempt to white wash discussions amongst these people 8 years ago?
Fact: The Freedom Of Information documents that were posted by William Summers on 21st April 2023 show “working group five” at the Hobart event proposed the constitutional recognition process should be used “to progress treaty negotiations”. The working group went on to propose: “Treaty must include: Land and sea rights / A fixed percentage of Gross Nation (sic) Product. Rates/land tax/royalties / Right to self-determination / Timeline to achieve / Aboriginal control” (page 11).
The Adelaide regional dialogue event additionally reported there was “strong support” for “economic measures like seeking a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)” (page 64).
Albanese is reported by Courteney Gould on 1st August 2023 in news.com.au to have committed to the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart in full, including a Makaratta Commission to oversee “treaty” and “truth-telling” with Indigenous Australians.
Asked in May if the Voice would lead to treaty and truth-telling, Mr Albanese said: “They are very much a part of the next phase, if you like.”
The Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, also became involved in the discussion about risk from Treaty through the implementation of the Voice because of the lack of resolution.
According to news.com.au on 31st August 2023, Waleed Aly pointed out a common fear among potential No voters that a successful Yes vote could open the door to fresh demands, such as reparations or a treaty, and asked whether the Voice could be the “first step” towards such an outcome.
But the question was bluntly shut down by a clearly frustrated Senator Wong.
“No, of course it is not."
Fact: On 5th September '23 it was reported in Daily Mail that the activist Lidia Thorpe had publically demanded a Treaty amongst other things.
This public demand for the Treaty discredited the assurances that had been given by Albanese and Wong that this would not be manifest in the future. Support for the Voice continued to erode and during September the No vote in polls was exceeding 50%. By this stage, the referendum had been lost even though it took another month before the Undecided votes were transformed into No.
While Albanese tries to isolate the 'Voice' from Treaty, Truth and Reparation; the impression is being given during the confusion of this referendum is that Indigenous people want to use the Voice to encompass anything and everything that they would like. Despite the persistent lack of clarity, some facts cannot be ignored. In Queensland where there are ongoing financial costs, there is a Treaty Minister. Clare O'Connor is Minister for Treaty, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Minister for Communities and Minister for the Arts.
Fact: The Queensland Government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and non-Indigenous Queenslanders participated in the signing of Queensland’s Path to Treaty Commitment on 16th August 2022.
The process has already started in Queensland. This state received 1,891,239 'No' votes which was 69% and the highest proportion in a state.
In hindsight now, the Leader of the Opposition may have been correct to ask the Prime Minister questions about the Voice processes because the referendum was about locking the Voice permanently into the Constitution. The repeal of the botched Aboriginal cultural heritage laws and restoration of the original Aboriginal Heritage Act of 1972s demonstrated how easily bad legislation can be fixed but many Australians heeded the risk of doing a botched job with the constitution because the Prime Minister said "It is the right thing to do."
Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Michaelia Cash says the Voice to Parliament proposal is “risky and unknown”.
“If you don’t know, vote ‘No’” and this resonated over the next two months.
On election day, it appears from my analysis that 96% of the 'Undecided' heeded Peter Dutton's advice and voted 'No'. This increased the 'No' vote by 9.28%.
* Up until 10 days before the referendum Albanese said that 80% of Indigenous people supported the Voice being incorporated into the constitution. On election day Yes23 supporters were wearing shirts with 80% indigenous support.
Fact: Two polls surveying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's views on the Indigenous Voice commissioned in early 2023 by The Uluru Dialogue. Ipsos ran a survey of 300 from 20 to 24th January 2023 using a sample of 300 Indigenous subjects. 80% said Yes to the Voice, 10% said No and 10% were undecided. YouGov ran a poll of 15,060 from 1 to 21st March 2023. 51% said Yes, 34% were No and 15% undecided. In this sample there were 738 Indigenous respondents. 83% supported the Voice.
Resolve conducted a few polls at this time but did not publish them because of the small samples. Between 22 September and 4th October 2023 they surveyed 4,728 and the Yes vote was 38%. No was 49% and Undecided were 13%. There was a more robust sample of 420 Indigenous people and a consistent methodology so the Yes vote of 59% was reported. The Age newspaper published research showing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in favour of the Voice sitting at 59 per cent but neither the Prime Minister nor Yes23 updated the number that was quoted nor displayed in campaigns including on the day of the referendum.
Presentations from Political Leaders after results were reported and aftermath
Peter Dutton was critical that Albanese had proceeded with the referendum when the detail of the process had not been undertaken so it had been inevitable that it had been rejected. He extended the spirit of reconciliation to Indigenous people and called for a Royal Commission into sexual abuse of youths and an audit of expenditure into Aboriginal Affairs. There was criticism that the agenda had been hijacked by activists. Senator Price appealed for grass-roots help for the most disadvantaged Indigenous people.
Afterwards a distraught Anthony Albanese and Linda Burley spoke but no Plan B was offered by the Prime Minister who had been driving this agenda for eighteen months.
Jacqui Lambie launched a stinging attack on Monday on the Prime Minister and federal Labor government for focusing too heavily on the Voice without a backup plan if it failed. Speaking on the Today show, the Tasmanian senator said the federal government had “done nothing for two years” and now have “no Plan B” for Indigenous communities which she described as being on “life support”. Senator Lambie questioned why the Labor government “couldn’t speak and chew gum at the same time” and work on addressing Indigenous disadvantage while also campaigning for the Voice to Parliament. The outspoken Senator said her “heart goes out” to First Nations people but she “wasn’t surprised” by the result and expressed confusion as to why the ‘Yes’ side believed Tasmania would vote for the Voice. “My heart goes out to you, but there is always a losing team, As much as it kills me to say that there is going to be a lot of hurt out there,” she said. “In the meantime, the last two years, basically the Labor Party has put Indigenous communities out there on life support … They’ve done nothing for two years. Host Sarah Abo agreed, saying “that’s the problem, it has been two years” before questioning whether Anthony Albanese should have “changed course after polls predicted this result”. Indigenous leaders who campaigned for the Voice have asked for a week of silence for Australians to grieve and reflect on the outcome of the referendum. But Senator Lambie said communities didn’t “have a week left”. “We’ve been sitting there for two years on this,” she said. “We need to get into those communities and make them better.”
A survey had shown that 58% of Australians support Constitutional recognition without a Voice for Indigenous people so this endorses Peter Dutton's comment that Australians support reconciliation. However, the expectation that Australians would write a Voice into the constitution - especially in the abscence of requested information about the process - that Albanese singlehandedly steamrolled was bound to fail. And it did. 61% 'No' was the final count.
The Queensland government appeared to heed the lack of support for the Voice there so it didn't become embroiled in the campaign. The Yes vote only reached 31% in Queensland. South Australia was considered to be a more likely Yes prospect so the Prime Minister launched the campaign there on 30th August 2023 and also wrapped it up with the South Australian permier on 13th October. The final count for South Australia was 65% No.
Findings from the Resolve poll just before referendum shared that the majority of Australians said that the No campaign was better (42% No campaign better, 24% Yes23 campaign better and 34% unsure).
The majority of Australians said that Corporate involvement was not appropriate (44% Yes, 29% No and 26% Unsure).
The conclusion from the Resolve poll is that more that Australians have seen or heard of this debate, and the more they have engaged, the more they have been turned off the proposition.
The inflection point had been reached in June 2023.
The Indigenous Voice to Parliament had been a polarizing social issue and it was met with significant public rejection. Yet, a majority of the ASX top 20 companies had thrown their weight behind this cause. Prominent names like Wesfarmers, Coles, Woolworths, and the big four banks stood out in stark contrast to their stakeholders’ sentiment.
The Yes23 campaign with an army of 20,000 volunteers to directly engage with voters, spent $60 milion of corporate funding most notable from BHP, Rio Tinto but the momentum that had started when Jacinta Price stood up could not be reversed. The final count was 39% Yes.
After the failure the blame game began. Adam Bandt, picking on Peter Dutton again, announced on Monday that he wants a truth and justice commission. The Green Party's biggest contribution to the Voice debacle was to give a platform to vocal Lidia Thorpe who is another Indigenous No Voice campaigner.
Sky News host Paul Murray has criticised the reaction of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese after the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum failed. “This was total repudiation, remember where this started, 60-40 the other way,” Mr Murray said. “Everything from the way that it was prosecuted, the way that it was arrogantly dragged out, the way that it was overly treated by the media – all of it – every decision and advocacy of it ended up turning people away.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison has criticised Anthony Albanese, claiming the failed Voice referendum has set recognition back many years. Talking to Sky News host Sharri Markson, Mr Morrison said Saturday's vote was an "elitist indulgence by the Prime Minister" and slammed Mr Albanese's "arrogance". Mr Morrison also rejected suggestions Labor was ever open to bipartisan support for constitutional recognition unless it included the Voice. “I’ve never seen a lead so big be blown in such a short period of time,” Mr Morrison said. “As it was clear the arrogance of this approach to the Australian people, and they rightly rejected it.”
Sky New's Paul Murray estimated that the Voice to Parliament referendum will cost Australian taxpayers $450 million. “This is an extraordinary amount of money that has been wasted on a prime minister trying to bully his way through to the history books,” Mr Murray said. “He had plenty of times to split questions, to change the question, to change the wording, to delay the vote but he thought he had it sewn up. “$450 million was spent on an idea that now defeated of course results in nothing. “$450 million could well have been spent the exact same $450 million on an awful lot of things that would have changed practical results all over the country.”
As the ink of the Voice referendum result dried, a hush fell over the house of Jacinta Napinjinta Price, a remarkable woman who had stood at the frontline of the No campaign. But the quiet was not to last. In the veil of the Saturday night, the peace was shattered. Price, a Nationals senator, discovered that her home was not her sanctuary anymore. It was a target. The assailants were faceless, their motives scribbled in the yolks of eggs hurled at Price’s home. The walls bore the brunt, sticky and defiled, a stark contrast to the serenity within, where the family had just started to process the referendum’s outcome. The attackers were anonymous, but their message was clear: the reprisals for Price’s stance had begun. The harassment didn’t deter Price, who remained resilient and unshaken. She was no stranger to threats, having weathered the storm of death threats during her campaign against the Voice to parliament. But the new attack was not just against her; it was against her family, against David Price and Bess Nampijinpa, who had beamed with pride at their daughter’s conviction. Their belief in equal treatment for all Australians had been ridiculed and attacked. Despite the shadows of the night, Price remains committed to her cause. The defeat of the referendum wasn’t the end, but a stepping stone towards a more unified future. Even in the face of adversity, Price stands strong, ready to work together to solve problems and create a better future for all Australians, a future where political disagreements don’t result in vandalised homes and shattered peace.
By Monday Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Jacinta Nampijinpa Price was back in the saddle again. She says she will be pursuing an inquiry into where Indigenous funding is being spent. “This government cannot ignore the calls now,” Ms Price told Sky News host Peta Credlin. “When Australia voted No over the weekend they actually also voted for these calls, for inquiries into where the money is being spent. “It’s not just governments that have been responsible for the failures in terms of closing the gaps but for those who have been funded to create outcomes to improve the lives of our most marginalised, they are also responsible. “There are many organisations that come out as strong Yes supporters because they want an entity in the Constitution that they can rely upon to do their bidding."
Roll of honour: Public supporters of the Yes vote for the Voice:
Activist Noel Pearson
Activist Professor Megan Davis
Activist Tonya Hosch
Actress Cate Blanchett
Actress Magda Szubanski
AFL player Lance Franklin
Athlete Pat Farmer
Aunty Pat Anderson
Australian Football League
Channel #9 Brooke Boney
Commentator Joe Hildebrand
Commentator Ray Martin
Commentator Stan Grant
Corporate Rio Tinto
Emeritus Professor Denise Ferris, ANU “Spitting professor”
Entertainer “Rove” McManus
Entertainer Celeste Barber
Environment Minister, Tanya Pilbersek
Federal Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett
Foreign Minister Penny Wong
Labor Minister Dr Andrew Charlton
Labor Senator Pat Dodson
Liberal Minister Julian Leeser didn't agree with the proposal but campaigned for Yes23
Liberal Minister Matt Kean
Liberal Senator Andre Bragg
Mike Baird, Chairman, Cricket Australia
Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neil
Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney
Minister for National Disability Insurance, Bill Shorten
Model Jesinta Franklin
MUA, National Indigenous Officer, Thomas Mayo
Musician Bernard Fanning
Musician John Farnham
Musician Midnight Oil Peter Garrett Musician Missy Higgins
Musician Paul Kelly
National Rugby League
Ngunnawal elder Aunty Violet Sheridan
NSW Premier Chris Minns
Olympian Cathy Freeman
Olympian Nova Peris
Panther’s skipper Nathan Cleary
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Professor Marcia Langton
Professor Maree Meredith
Reality television star Abbie Chatfield
Socceroos – Craig Foster, Jackson Irvin, Andrew Redmayne, Mat Ryan
South Australia Premier Peter Malinauskas
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore
Treasurer Jim Chalmers
TV presenter Julia Zemiro
X platform (Twitter) Simon Cotter, Stuart Khan, Melanie Tait
Yes23 Campaign Director Dean Parkin
Yes23 Jade Ritchie
The national broadcasters, ABC and SBS, deserve special mention. The Yes23 message was given full editorial support throughout the campaign. However, when Sky News host Paul Murray talked about the bias, he said "One of the many reasons why some people may have been shocked by the result of the referendum is because in much of the ABC's reporting, they never talked about the polls."
At the QANTAS annual general meeting in Melbourne in November 2023, it was announced that Qantas management, led by Mr Joyce, had made a recommendation to support the campaign. This was endorsed by the board. “The contribution we made was in kind and equal to about $370,000."
Mr Joyce unveiled three planes with the Yes23 campaign logo at Sydney Airport in August alongside Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
and acknowldegement to Australia Taxpayers Alliance for publically posting their thanks to Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine for putting an end to the Voice of division;
Clive Palmer spent $2 million on television advertising for the 'No' vote.
Sky News, 2023. 'Prime Minister you botched it': Barnaby Joyce on 'hubristic' Voice referendum. Sky News. 19th October 2023.