Both sides pledge renewed focus after Voice defeat

No campaign wins in Voice vote

Both sides of the Voice campaign have pledged to unveil measures to close the Indigenous disadvantage gap after the failure of the weekend referendum.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his government are expected to be barraged about the failed vote – which went down in every jurisdiction but the ACT – when parliament resumes on Monday.

About 40 per cent of voters supported the Voice.

The opposition has attacked Albanese for going ahead with the referendum when polls showed it was heading for defeat.

Its leaders accused him of dividing the nation rather than solely pushing ahead with symbolic constitutional recognition, which they said they could have supported.

The government says it will continue to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and work towards implementing change that can make a difference.

Albanese said he didn’t regret bringing forward the referendum presented to him by Indigenous communities, with his supporters calling him a conviction politician.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney said while she accepted the result, the pathway to closing the gap was not lost and she would unveil further measures to address disadvantage in coming months.

Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price will also begin crafting the Coalition’s election policies to close the gap.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has committed to standing up a royal commission into child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities and an audit into spending on Indigenous programs.

But Dutton’s pledge to hold a second referendum on Indigenous recognition is in limbo with opposition frontbenchers not recommitting to the policy when asked.

Independent MP Zali Steggall – whose eastern Sydney seat of Warringah recorded a 59 per cent ‘yes’ vote – said the campaign for a Voice was sabotaged when the opposition decided to politicise it.

She accused Dutton of “political opportunism” when he started branding it as “Albanese’s Voice” rather than acknowledge it was a proposal from Indigenous communities decades in the making.

“First Nations Australians asked … to have meaningful recognition in our constitution,” she told Sky News.

“The minute that’s the position the opposition took to make it about politics rather than about a significant cultural moment is, I think, the moment it got very difficult.

“You just had to see the slogans and the messaging around it and that really polarises people and it preys on people’s fears.”

Steggall said the high ‘yes’ vote in her electorate showed what could happen when misinformation was countered and people were informed about the proposal.

But the No campaign has stood by its message, saying Australians voted against a divisive Voice that would not have led to practical outcomes. Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash said it was time to bring the nation together.

“The one thing we can all agree on is that we all want to see better outcomes for our most marginalised in society,” she said.

Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who resigned from the opposition frontbench to campaign for the Voice, said politicians needed to recommit to reconciliation with all sides agreeing “Indigenous disadvantage is the top issue”.


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