Home Politics Brexit and The Voice: Two Ill-Conceived Referenda

Brexit and The Voice: Two Ill-Conceived Referenda


On 14 October, Australians voted “No” in the referendum on “A Proposed Law: To alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”

I think this was the right outcome—though, sadly, the referendum itself is likely to have divided Australians. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a grave error of judgement in putting forward an undeveloped plan and thus forcing people to vote “Yes” or “No” on the basis of grand overarching themes—Indigenous rights versus universal equality under the Constitution—rather than detailed information. If he had paid more attention to the polarisation created by the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum, he might have done things differently. 

When we Brits voted on whether the UK should remain in the European Union, we had no choice but to decide on the basis of general feelings about grand themes. But the problem in that case was not a lack but a surplus of information. There is so much detail available about the functioning of the EU that no single layperson could possibly be expected to understand it all. Even the consolidated version of The Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union runs to 344 pages and I had to supplement it with more accessible overviews of the…

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