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Voice: No campaign above 50pc in Newspoll for first time


Sunrise host Natalie Barr has grilled Opposition leader Peter Dutton over his promise to hold a second referendum if the Voice fails.

It comes as support for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament has dipped again, while the number of those intending to vote No has risen to an outright majority for the first time in a new poll.

Monday’s Newspoll published in The Australian shows support for the Voice has fallen three points to 38 per cent, while the No vote has risen five points to 53 per cent.

Only 9 per cent remain undecided, down from 11 per cent in the six weeks since the last Newspoll on July 15.

The latest survey of 1200 voters was taken between Monday and Friday last week.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced October 14 as the referendum date at large event in Adelaide on Wednesday, kicking off a six-week campaign.

The fall in support for the Voice was largely consistent across demographics but was most notable among men with a 12 point decline to 33 per cent, while 59 per cent now intend to vote No.

A majority of all age groups except for those aged 18 to 34 now intend to vote No, but even among younger voters there was a four-point decline in support to 55 per cent, according to The Australian.

Monday’s Newspoll also showed the Coalition ahead of Labor on primary votes for the first time since last year’s election, while Mr Albanese’s personal approval has fallen into negative territory for the first time as PM.

The latest polling is consistent with other surveys which have shown steadily declining support for the Voice over the past 12 months.

On Sunday, the Yes campaign unveiled its star recruit in John Farnham, launching a new advertising campaign featuring the music legend’s ‘80s hit ‘You’re the Voice’ as the official soundtrack for the referendum.

“This song changed my life,” Farnham said in a statement. “I can only hope that it now might help, in some small way, to change the lives of our First Nations people for the better.”

The two-minute ad, which rolled out on Sunday across TV, social media and other digital platforms, shows an Aussie family watching key milestones in the country’s history.

As Farnham’s hit plays in the background, iconic Aussie events flash on screen, such as Cathy Freeman’s win at the 2000 Olympics, former Prime Minister John Howard’s gun reform in 1996, and Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations in 2008.

It marks the first time Farnham has ever permitted the use of his classic hit, which has been hailed the unofficial Aussie anthem.

Over the years, the singer has been protective of his song since its release in 1986.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was not a fan of the ad.

“In a sense, it’s the appropriate theme song for the Yes campaign,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

“Because remember that the key line in the lyrics there is, you know, ‘You’re the Voice, try to understand it. I honestly don’t think most Australians understand it. And they want to be informed.”

Meanwhile, Mr Dutton said on Sunday that he was committed to holding a second referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution if the Voice vote fails.

Speaking to Seven’s Sunrise on Monday morning, the Opposition leader was grilled by host Natalie Barr on “why you would spend another $450 million or so on another referendum for something First Nations people aren’t actually asking for”.

“I think it’s the right and the respectful thing to do to simply acknowledge our history and I think is the right thing to do for Indigenous Australians,” he said.

“I think it’s the wrong thing for our country to enshrine a Voice in the constitution and we should be very clear about that. I believe an overwhelming number of Australians support recognition but don’t support the Voice.”

Mr Dutton called on the PM to change the question.

“We don’t need a second referendum if the Prime Minister listens to the Australian public and changes the question and just has a simple recognition question put to the Australian people on October 14,” he said.

Barr asked how recognition would improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, citing high poverty and incarceration rates and other “awful statistics”.

“It is most acute in regional and remote areas but if you go to some Indigenous communities such as East Arnhem land, they have a functioning society … like you would see in any other regional town,” Mr Dutton said.

“You go to Alice Springs and kids are living in squalor, attendance rates in school and through the floor. It’s about leadership in local communities and when you speak to the women and elders in a place like Alice Springs, they are not interested in a voice because they see it as another layer of bureaucracy out of Canberra. They want, for example, accommodation boarding houses at the school so kids can be fed and housed and live safely.”

Barr hit back, “I know what you mean, but we have spent billions and billions over many years and those ideas have come up before. You’re not the first and they’re not the first, so to change something, don’t we have to really draw a line in the sand and do what most Indigenous people are calling for?”

Mr Dutton said that there was “good intention” in parliament and in the community to help, but “the trouble is there is billions of dollars tipped in the top of the funnel and the ticket is clipped all the way down until it’s a trickle to get to people in Alice Springs, which is why you see people living in squalor”.

“The question is whether the Voice changes any of that,” he said. “I don’t believe it does.”

On October 14, Australians will be asked to vote yes or no on a single question, “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

Some legal experts last month criticised the wording of the question as potentially “misleading” as it conflates recognition with the establishment of a new advisory body to parliament.

“We went to the last election and the number of elections before that, with that as our policy and that will be our policy going into the next election,” Mr Dutton said on Sunday.

“I think it’s right and respectful to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution and I will work with the Labor Party to find a common ground.”

Speaking at a rally in Melbourne on Sunday, Voice architect and constitutional lawyer Professor Megan Davis said there was “zero” evidence to suggest that a statement of recognition would lead to impactful changes.

“There’s no use in going to a referendum if it’s not going to change the daily lives of First Nations peoples,” she said.

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— with Christine Estera

Peter Dutton

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.