Last-minute swing as Australians cast votes in historic referendum

PM's final push

A late swing in favour of the Yes vote has brought support for an Indigenous Voice to its highest level since the start of the official campaign in September.

The final Newspoll for The Australian newspaper picked up a three-point swing toward the Yes vote over the past week to 37 per cent.

But as Australians head to the polls on Saturday for the historic referendum, the Indigenous Voice to parliament still looks set to fail, and may fall short of securing a majority in any state.

The Newspoll survey found 57 per cent of voters said they intended to vote No as of Friday – one point down on the previous poll published on Monday, the newspaper reports.

Six per cent of voters said they remained undecided.

The strongest level of support remained in Victoria which is the only state that could vote Yes.

Millions of Australians will be voting in the first referendum of their lives.

The nation has not held a referendum since 1999, so for anyone under 41 Saturday will be their first time voting on a constitutional amendment.

Australia ‘on trial’

Voters are being asked to write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to recognise the first peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice in the nation’s founding document.

With the Liberals and Nationals denying the Albanese Labor government cross-party support, and only eight of 44 past votes succeeding, history is against the ‘yes’ case.

Historian Frank Bongiorno said the Voice vote had taken on symbolic meaning, distinguishing the referendum from many of its predecessors.

“People see the country as being on trial — it’s a test of people’s generosity, of people’s willing to confront a country’s history,” he told AAP.

“Once you elevate it in that way, it comes to occupy a much more prominent place in people’s consciousness.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged Australians to “show a generosity of spirit”.

The government has provided more than $300 million to deliver the referendum, while donors have poured millions into the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said everything was now over to the Australian people.

“Thinking of others costs nothing,” he said.

“This is a time where Australians have that opportunity to show their generosity of spirit.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says it’s now up to Australians. Photo: AAP

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said a simple change to the constitution recognising Indigenous people would have received almost unanimous national support and been a “unifying moment” for the nation.

“I think most Australians, particularly when we don’t have the detail about how it would work, are going to vote ‘no’,” he said.

More than 7000 polling places will be open on Saturday from 8am to 6pm.

‘Ducking and weaving’

Yes23 campaign director Dean Parkin said the movement would not take its foot off the gas until the last vote was cast.

“We will be campaigning until the polls close on Saturday night, whilst the ‘No’ camp appears to have gone into hiding, ducking and weaving from scrutiny,” Mr Parkin said.

“A successful ‘yes’ vote is our best shot at a better future and takes our country forward, together.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton believes most Australians will vote ‘no’.

As of Friday, five million Australians had already voted out of 17.7 million enrolled electors.

Voters have been advised to reconsider their fashion choices on Saturday, as a long-standing ban on campaigning inside polling places could pose an issue for those wearing ‘yes’ or ‘no’ slogans.

The Australian Electoral Commission said if a voter wore a pin, shirt or hat into a polling place it might not be considered campaigning, but anyone seen talking about the material or gesturing towards it could be in breach of the rules.

The AEC has also warned that those who do not cast a vote will miss out on having their say and could be fined.

Anyone who has applied for postal votes has been asked to mail their responses as soon as possible.

Postal votes can be received up to 13 days after the referendum but Australians must complete these by 6pm on Saturday.

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