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Noel Pearson: Voice backers need to double their efforts or see ‘Yes’ case fail

Article from The New Daily, 23 July 2023

Prominent Indigenous elder Noel Pearson has issued a call to arms for supporters of the Voice, saying more work needs to be done, with the referendum’s success in doubt.

Support for constitutionally enshrining an Indigenous advisory body has been tracking downwards, with the latest polls recording growing support for rejecting the initiative.

Mr Pearson said the ‘yes’ campaign had its work cut out but “the inertia is ‘no’, the momentum is ‘yes’,”.

“The ‘yes’ campaign has got to get out, it’s not going to fall into our laps,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

“We need to be at the railway stations, we need to be at the town halls, we need to be meeting people in the malls and we need to be appealing to the better angels of the Australian nature.”

He also warned about a protracted campaign.

“Whenever we have a election campaign for six weeks, we think that is long,” he said.

“I don’t want to burden the public discourse for three or four months on this.”

Mr Pearson says a ‘no’ vote would be devastating for reconciliation and leave Australia “in the darkness”.

‘Default setting of ‘no”

“Every time we’ve come to this issue, we’ve been on the default setting of ‘no’,” he said.

“Look at all the outcomes from having that ‘no’ setting, 30 per cent of people in prison comprised by 3 per cent of the population being Indigenous.

“Juvenile justice, 40 per cent of our kids comprise children in detention.”

The ‘no’ campaign is arguing that a constitutionally enshrined Voice would segregate Australia down the lines of race and lead to High Court challenges.

The clause pertaining to the body making representations to government has also stirred controversy, with conservatives warning it would enable the body to lobby for, among other things, changing Australia Day.

But Mr Pearson says the Voice will only make representations on issues that affect Indigenous people with talk about nuclear submarines and parking tickets “lurid misrepresentations”.

“On matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, that’s what it says,” he said.

“I can’t see how the nuclear submarine is a matter relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Who’s going to listen to them if they say we need dot paintings on the side of the new nuclear submarine.”

He added that politicians are lobbied by all sides of politics and various interest groups on a constant basis.

“Making representations is what anybody does in a democracy,” he said.

-with AAP