Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has warned of the “catastrophic outcomes” of a No vote in the fast-approaching Voice to Parliament referendum.
A sense of urgency is emerging in the Yes campaign as supporters of the Voice attempt to turn the tide against a slumping base, with Mr Albanese and other campaign leaders vowing to spend the next two weeks before October 14 trying to convince as many Australians as possible.
It comes as billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer pledges $2m to the No campaign – the bulk of which is set to be used for a last-minute advertising blitz in South Australia and Tasmania, both considered must-win seats for both sides of the debate.
In some of his strongest language yet, Mr Albanese said while the fear campaigns being propped up by multimillion donations could be powerful, “you never change for the better through fear”.
“You change it through hope,” he told ABC Radio.
“That’s what this referendum is about.”
He said a No outcome could lead to “quite catastrophic” outcomes for Indigenous communities, and used the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.
“We know that when you consult Indigenous people, you get better outcomes,” he said.
He said a lack of Indigenous advice had led to adverse outcomes, with those communities being hit hardest by the pandemic.
“What happened when people went to Indigenous communities, spoke them and gave them some empowerment over the way the vaccines were rolled out and the health outcomes … that’s when it turned around,” Mr Albanese said.
He said the campaign would spend the last few weeks making it clear to Australians, especially those undecided and soft no’s, that a Voice was about recognition and listening.
Given a referendum needs a majority of votes and a majority of states to be successful, both sides of the campaign are trying to court South Australia and Tasmania.
Western Australia and Queensland are largely considered lost to the Yes camp, while Victoria and NSW are more likely to support the change.
But the Yes campaign have not given up on any jurisdiction, with Treasurer Jim Chalmers teaming up with Cape York leader Noel Pearson in Brisbane on Friday morning to speak to young voters.
“We’ve got a little over two weeks now to really sprint to the finish, to find every Australian who has not yet made up their mind and to encourage them to see this for what it is and not for what it isn’t,” Dr Chalmers said.
“This is about better listening and better outcomes and providing a constitutional basis for that by recognising our first people.
“And the No campaign will spray around all kinds of misinformation, all kinds of scare campaigns, all kinds of fear mongering, because they know that if Australians understand what this is about better listing and better outcomes, then that is a very compelling proposition.
“We’ve got a little over two weeks to put in all of the work to encourage our fellow Australians to rise to this occasion, and to make the most of this moment.
“Who knows, if we miss this opportunity, who knows when it will come around again … I’m confident that Australians will see this opportunity for what it is an opportunity to listen better and get better outcomes for the first of us in a way that could lift all of us up.”
Total advertising spend for the Voice is set to near $30m by October 14, with both the No camp and Yes23 focusing on the final weeks of the campaign.
Mr Palmer, who spent $117m for his political party United Australia Party in the 2022 election to win just one seat, told The Australian he would also involve his company Mineralogy.
He told the newspaper he had not consulted with Indigenous leaders, and that his campaign was not associated with the official No campaign.
“We’re spending the money to put our point of view forward. We’re targeting Tasmania and South Australia. We’ll be advertising in all the states but will be focusing on them,” Mr Palmer said.
It’s cheaper to spend advertising in Tassie and South Australia.
“I think the No case will win. My prediction is 30 per cent Yes when we get to the polling date.
“If you look at it in the proper context, the most important thing in Australia is not Yes or No at the moment, it’s the cost-of-living and how the average Australian is going to make his way.”
Remote voting began across the country this week, with pre-polling starting on Monday and Tuesday.