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'No' campaigners double down following referendum date announcement

Callan Morse -

No campaign supporters have reaffirmed their stance against the Voice to Parliament after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the date on which Australia will vote on the proposal.

At a Yes23 campaign event in Adelaide Mr Albanese confirmed Australians would be heading to the referendum polls on Saturday October 14.

Following the announcement, Australians for Unity campaign spokespeople, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine, spoke to reporters in Hobart.

"It is evident to me this elite proposal is about division in our country," Senator Price said.

"It is that old rule of divide and conquer that I can't stand for. I'm not going to allow a line to run through the middle of my family within our constitution.

"I don't expect that to take place within our country, to be treating Indigenous Australians differently to the rest of Australia because of our racial heritage.

"Like all other Australians, we have created equality in this country. It is wrong to suggest we have not had a Voice. Voices like mine, elected parliamentarians … We are telling this prime minister our voices are relevant."

Senator Price said the voices of those Indigenous people she and Mr Mundine represent who do not support the Voice and did not participate in the Uluru Dialogues "have spoken up".

"The prime minister is effectively ignoring us. So to suggest we have not had a voice is completely and utterly misleading."

Mr Mundine said the prime minister was to blame for the "divisive" Voice debate.

"This thing is about division and dividing this country, and the racial abuse that we've been hearing over the last few months," he said.

"It's all Albo. He's the one who's started this, he's the one who brought it out, and if he thinks that the answer to fixing everything is (a) magic wand, then he's not answering the real question, (which is) how do we help people who are having tremendous problems in Aboriginal communities out there."

The Refendum Council, which ran the 2016-17 First Nations Regional Dialogues on constitutional reform, was established in 2015 by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The Referendum Council established by Mr Turnbull held the National First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru in 2017 to ratify the decision making of the Regional Dialogues. Convention delegates drafted and endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which called for a Voice to Parliament. At the time, Bill Shorten was the federal Labor leader, and Mr Turnbull was Prime Minister.

Mr Mundine said although he and his family, "fought to be treated the same as every other Australian", he no longer considers Australia a racist country.

"I will swear on my mother's and father's grave that I will fight this (the Voice), and I'll be out there every day championing the wonderful country that we got, which is not a racist group of people," Mr Mundine said.

"We're not a racist country, which all these elite corporate people and football codes and everyone say we are."

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy also rejected what it called a 'token' Voice vote in response to the date announcement, suggesting a constitutionally enshrined advisory body would only become "another governing body to deal with the Aboriginal issue".

The daughter of one of the four original protesters, Nioka Coe, criticising the lack of consultation between the government and the country's longest-running Indigenous protest.

"Our family connections, our nations, go back over 5,000 generations in this country," Ms Coe told AAP.

"I don't think we need to be added to a constitution that oppresses our people. We've been here for 50 years, we still maintain the site, nobody's coming down here, no politician has come down here."

Ms Coe said Indigenous senator Lidia Thorpe, who is also a 'no' campaigner and Blak Sovereign Movement spokesperson, was the only politician to occasionally visit the site, which sits just over a kilometre from Parliament House in Canberra.

She called the constitutional change a "tokenistic gesture" that would allow the government to say they were doing something to help Indigenous people.

Mr Albanese said the Voice proposal had come directly from Indigenous communities.

"An invitation that comes directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves," he said.

"A proposal that thousands of Elders and leaders in communities all over our country have worked on for well over a decade. A change supported by more than 80 per cent of Indigenous Australians."

The Prime Minister said consultation would lead to real change.

"That's what they (Indigenous Australians) are asking yo u to say 'yes' to at this referendum: the same opportunity for their children to make a good life for themselves," he said.

- with AAP


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