Australians have rejected an Indigenous Voice to Parliament advisory body with the majority of voters saying No to the proposed constitutional change.
Although the official outcome has yet to be declared by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), a nationwide “No” vote suggests that achieving the necessary double majority for the referendum’s success appears increasingly unlikely from an electoral perspective.
As it stands, there is no path to victory for the referendum with NSW, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania all set to deliver a No vote. The ACT has voted Yes – however, it does not count towards the state element of the double majority.
Victoria was closer but also failed to secure the Yes vote, meaning The Voice will be rejected by voters in every Australian state.
An emotional Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he accepts responsibility for the outcome.
“When we reflect on everything happening in the world today, we can all give thanks that here in Australia we make the big decisions peacefully and as equals, with one vote, one value,” he told a press conference on Saturday night.
“I never imagined or indeed said that it would be easy.
“Very few things in public life worth doing are. Nor could I guarantee the referendum would succeed. History told us that only eight out of 44 had done so. What I could promise was that we would go all in, that we would try, and we have.
“Our government will continue to listen to people and to communities. Our government will continue to seek better outcomes for Indigenous Australians and their children and generations to come. This is not only in the interests of Indigenous Australians. It is in the of all Australians to build a better future for our nation.”
The proposed Voice to Parliament would have functioned as an advisory body devoid of veto authority but would have been constitutionally entrenched, rendering it immune to dissolution by any future government without the necessity of another referendum.
Indigenous Yes campaigners have called for a week of silence to grieve the defeat in a statement that said “now is the time for silence, to mourn and deeply consider the consequence of this outcome.”
The proposal was Australia’s 45th referendum, of which only eight have passed.