The first shots to oppose Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Voice to Parliament have been fired in the Hunter.
Residents are scheduled to head to the polls on 14 October.
There, they’ll be asked to decide on whether to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Already, the upcoming referendum seems to be dividing the nation.
And, it appears this region isn’t any different following the formation of a new group.
Newcastle and Hunter for NO will advocate for a negative vote after officially appointing Blake Keating as its campaign manager for the federal electorates of Paterson, Hunter, Newcastle and Shortland.
A member of the NSW Liberal Party’s State Executive, he recently completed three terms as the president of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation.
“Australia’s Constitution is our most important legal document,” Mr Keating said.
“We have not changed it since 1977.
“So, this is a leap into the unknown.
“The Voice has not been road-tested.
“There is no comparable constitutional body like this anywhere in the world.
“Enshrining a Voice in the Constitution means it is open to legal challenge and interpretation by the High Court.
“Legal experts don’t agree and can’t know for sure how the High Court will interpret such a constitutional change.”
Mr Keating added all fair-minded Australians wanted to help Indigenous Australians in disadvantaged communities.
“However, this Voice is not the answer,” he said.
“We can already see it’s divisive.
“It creates different classes of citizenship through an unknown body that has the full force of the Constitution behind it.
“Don’t forget, many Indigenous Australians do not support it either.
“Unlike the ‘Yes’ camp, we don’t have the big end of town supporting our campaign.
“This will be done from the grassroots and we’ll be relying on the many Australians who have doubts.
“I believe countless of people in the region are undecided, with their own concerns.
“But, I’m confident that our campaign will achieve a lot of community support.
“And, once all the votes are counted, the Hunter will post a strong and convincing ‘no’ in the referendum.”
Mr Keating has garnered the support of councillors at City of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie City and Cessnock City, too.
“I’ve worked closely with Blake, including recently as my campaign manager for the Wallsend state seat,” Cr Callum Pull said.
“Newcastle and Hunter for NO is lucky to have such an experienced and energetic local ready to fight for all of us out there who are concerned about this proposal.
“For me, personally, I’m disappointed the government has not revealed the key details of how the Voice will work before the vote.
“We don’t know how it will help disadvantaged communities and close the gap.
“And, we don’t know how many members this Voice would have.
“We don’t know if they would be elected or chosen… or how this would occur.
“Plus, we don’t know how it would make representations or be held accountable.
“There are so many unknown factors.”
Cessnock’s Cr Paul Dunn also backed Newcastle and Hunter for NO.
“We believe the proposed Voice to Parliament adds more bureaucracy to an already complex system,” he said.
“Rather than offering practical solutions to the issues faced by Indigenous Australians, it creates further red tape.
“We need evidence-based, frontline solutions to address the Closing the Gap targets effectively.
“When we look closely at the proposed Voice to Parliament, we see significant risks to the principles of equality and unity that our nation holds dear.
“Our communities deserve a fair and honest discussion about this important issue.
“The Newcastle and Hunter for NO campaign aims to do just that.”
Councillor Jason Pauling, from Lake Macquarie City Council, emphasised the importance of unity among all Australians.
“Our commitment is to the union of all Australians,” he said.
“We strongly believe this referendum will divide us along racial lines, which goes against the very core of the values of our nation.
“By forming Newcastle and Hunter for NO, we are sending a strong message that we stand together, advocating for a unified Australia where all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of their background.
“This campaign is about preserving the principles that have shaped our nation for generations.
“You can’t unite a country by dividing it into different groups.”
Members of the public who want to get involved in the Newcastle and Hunter for NO campaign are encouraged to visit www.NewcastleHunterNo.org and https://www.facebook.com/NewcastleHunterforNO/
- Several local councils, including City of Newcastle, and companies have announced their support for the YES crusade.
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