Three leading advocates for constitutional change in Australia have conceded defeat in a referendum that would have created an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that, based on early vote counting, the states of New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia have rejected the amendment that would have created an indigenous committee to advise Parliament and the government on issues that affect Australia’s most disadvantaged ethnic minority.
The Voice needed majorities in each of at least four of the six states as well as a national majority for the referendum to pass.
Opinion polls in recent months have indicated a strong majority of Australians opposing the proposal. Earlier in the year, a majority supported the Voice before the “no” campaign gathered intensity.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who visited every Australian state and mainland territory in the past week, has hit back at critics who said his proposal had created division in the Australian community.
“The no campaign has spoken about division while stoking it,” said Albanese, saying the real division is the difference in living standards between indigenous people and the wider community.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton described the Voice as “another layer of democracy” that would not provide practical outcomes.
The proposal for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament has bitterly divided Australia’s indigenous minority, as well as the wider community.
Accounting for only 3.8% of the population, indigenous Australians die on average eight years younger than the wider population, have a suicide rate twice that of the national average and suffer from diseases in the remote Outback that have been eradicated from other wealthy countries.
Almost 18 million people were enrolled to vote in the referendum, Australia’s first since 1999. Around six million cast ballots in early voting over the last three weeks.
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