23 July 2024
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The Voice referendum will be carried

Malcolm Mackerras
26 April 2023

A further article for Switzer Daily will be submitted by me on the Voice referendum as polling day nears, but in the meantime, I make my predictions which begin with me predicting Saturday 14 October as polling day. That day chances also to be the day on which New Zealanders will vote in their next general election.

For the national vote I predict 53% YES and 47% NO. I say four states will record affirmative majorities (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania) and two states will reject the Voice – Queensland and Western Australia. Tasmania, therefore, would be the critical state allowing the proposal to pass.

One thing I can say for sure is that this will be my first YES vote at a constitutional amendment referendum. So, in this article, I shall explain why I have voted NO at all nine constitutional referendums so far in which I have participated. In all cases, I gave as much publicity as possible to my negative views. In a later article, I’ll explain why the unique virtues of the Voice proposal justifies my first ever YES vote.

I turned 21 years of age in August 1960, which meant that my first vote of any kind was at a NSW referendum in April 1961 to abolish the state’s upper house, the Legislative Council. The affirmative vote was 802,512 (42.4%) and the negative vote 1,089,193 (57.6%).

I moved from Sydney to Canberra in 1965 which meant that I lost my right to vote at federal constitutional referendums. At that time, territory electors were not entitled to vote. Therefore, I did not vote on two questions in 1967, two questions in 1973, four questions in 1974 and four questions in 1977. Of the 12 questions, four were carried and eight defeated. In my opinion the Australian people made the correct call in every case, voting for desirable reforms but rejecting cynical power-seeking proposals wanted by self-interested politicians.

The Australian people have shown great skill in taking the bait but not the hook.

In December 1984, the Hawke government placed two proposals before the people in conjunction with a general election, so-called “simultaneous elections” and “interchange of powers”. I denounced “simultaneous elections” uphill and down dale. We have simultaneous elections for our two houses under the present Constitution, so the proposal was dishonest. It should have been called “simultaneous dissolutions”. I toyed with the idea of voting YES to “interchange of powers” but decided in the end to reject it also. The whole exercise was just so cynical. The proposals went down in four states and six states, respectively.

In September 1988, the Hawke government, separately from a general election, proposed four questions “parliamentary terms”, “fair elections”, “local government” and “rights and freedoms”. I denounced the first two as dishonest and the third as ridiculous. I toyed with the idea of voting for the fourth proposal but, as in 1984, decided the whole exercise was just too cynical. All four proposals went down in all six states.

In November 1999, with John Howard as Prime Minister and separately from a general election, the Australian people voted on two questions “establishment of republic” and “preamble”. I have already explained my vote on the first question in my Switzer Daily article posted on 14 September last year so I now say no more on that. In articles in various newspapers, I also explained why I thought the preamble proposal was ridiculous. It wanted people to think of the Constitution as a history of a country when they should think of it as setting up a system of government for a country.

Both proposals went down in all six states. For the republic the affirmative vote was 5,273,024 (45.1%) and the negative vote 6,410,787 (54.9%). For the preamble, the affirmative vote was 4,591,563 (39.3%) and the NO vote 7,080,998 (60.7%). I describe those results as “going down in a screaming heap”, further examples of the common sense of the Australian people.

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