Abbott speaks in Raymond Terrace while Albanese pleads for common sense

Former prime minister Tony Abbott attended a No campaign event in Raymond Terrace.

“THIS voice is wrong in principle; it would be bad in practice.”

Twelve words to summarise the message from former prime minister Tony Abbott to No vote supporters at a rally at the Raymond Terrace Bowling Club last Thursday.

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Around 140 people attended the No campaign event, with many donning Fair Australia-produced t-shirts to reaffirm their commitment to the anti-Voice cause.

Mr Abbott, following brief introductions from Scott Morrison’s former communications director Julian Leembruggen and Newcastle and Hunter for No campaign manager Blake Keating, took to the stage to discuss the perceived risks of the Albanese Government’s Voice to Parliament proposal.

Before his speech could even begin, Mr Abbott was met with a question from the crowd – one quickly followed by rapturous audience applause.

“Hey Tony, what about a Welcome to Country, mate?”

Abbott, with a wry smile, said he wished to “acknowledge everyone who has made this great town and wonderful Hunter district the fabulous place that it is”.

Reminding the crowd that the gathering was non-political party specific, Mr Abbott opened by quoting late Labor party icon and former prime minister Bob Hawke at Australia’s bicentenary in 1988.

“Bob Hawke, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the settlement, he said, and I quote: ‘This is a country with no hierarchy of descent. This is a country with no privilege of origin’.

“Frankly, that always has been the great thing about Australia,” said Mr Abbott.

“If you are here, and you are having a go, you are a first class Australian – it doesn’t matter if you were a first Australian, a first fleeter, or the first off the plane a couple of years ago.”

Mr Abbott, cheered and clapped throughout by the engaged audience, spoke of the importance of Saturday’s referendum result.

“It is much more important than just an election because you can change a bad government, you can change a bad law, but if you make a big mistake with your constitution you are stuck with it forever.”

The former PM then condemned Yes campaigners for painting opponents to the Voice as bigots in the referendum lead up.

“One of the reasons I think this has become so ugly, is because all too often, the Yes camp has basically accused everyone who doesn’t agree of being disrespectful towards Aboriginal people at best, and closet racists at worst.

“We are not.

“We are people who are concerned for our country.

“We want the best for every Australian, including Indigenous people, and that means we go forward together as one equal group.

“Not divided, in terms of the influence we can have over government, depending on whether our ancestors have been here tens of thousands of years or whether our ancestors were only here subsequent to 1788.”

The Voice, which Mr Abbott said “entrenches race or ancestry in our constitution”, will also, according to the former Warringah MP, make the process of government “even more gummed up” and “reinforce the separatism that is at the heart of Aboriginal disadvantage”.

Mr Abbott also laughed off the idea that Indigenous Australians do not have a voice in politics.

“This idea that Aboriginal people have no voice is just wrong.

“It is a country where indigenous people have a very loud voice indeed.

“This idea that Aboriginal people haven’t been listened to, haven’t been consulted, frankly, it is a fairy tale and we can’t let it stand.”

With the days now quickly ticking down to October 14, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been busy on media platforms across the country addressing misinformation about the Voice and its potential powers.

On the question of excessive costs at a time where responsible government spending is required, Mr Albanese said on B105 Brisbane that the Voice to Parliament, if approved, would actually save the Government money.

“What will happen is that instead of people in Canberra, bureaucrats with the best of intentions, making decisions on behalf of Indigenous Australians, without listening to them, what you’ll get if we listen to people, is more efficiency.

“You’ll get the dollars going to where they should go, you’ll get the spending made much more efficiently.

“There’s been a lot of money, billions of dollars have been spent on Indigenous affairs and yet we’re only meeting, or on target to meet, four out of the nineteen targets.”

Mr Albanese also reiterated a Voice to Parliament would not “interfere with the normal functioning of our great democracy” and stressed the simplicity of the question being asked to Australians on October 14.

“The Parliament will still be elected by the Australian people, it doesn’t impact that.

“It doesn’t impact government either, that’s why I say it’s a non-binding advisory committee.

“And the words that are there are really clear as well.

“The great beauty of this proposal is that the third part, so the question, is in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia.

“So, very clear, tick.

“There shall be a body called the Voice, as point one.

“Point two is, the Voice may make representations on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Then the third bit is an important bit as well, which says that the Parliament shall make laws about the functions, procedures, composition of the Voice.

“So, it will be up to the Parliament on an ongoing basis to make laws about how the Voice functions.

“And that’s important, so it won’t overturn any of those processes.”

Simply put, Mr Albanese said Australia needed “to do better” on closing the gap for Indigenous Australians.

“We have an eight-year life expectancy gap.

“There are gaps in health and education and housing.

“We need to do better.

“And if we listen to people, we will do better.

“This is about helping a group of Australians, three percent of Australians, it won’t have a direct impact at all on non-Indigenous Australians directly, but it will help them.”

Mr Abbott’s visit to Raymond Terrace came at a time of increasing tension at local pre-polling booths.

A Port Stephens for Yes spokesperson told NOTA that pre-poll volunteers have experienced an “unprecedented level of abuse”.

“Many of our local Yes volunteers have been involved with various campaigns, across the political spectrum and have never experienced anything like this,” she said.

“Verbal abuse, physical intimidation, lies and misinformation – it is horrendous.

“The hateful and racist language that is roared in our direction is not fit for print.

“We remain hopeful and motivated leading into this weekend’s referendum.

“There are many members of our community, who support both yes and no that are respectful and kind – it doesn’t take much.”

Ella Oldham, a sixteen-year-old Medowie local who has volunteered for the Yes campaign in the referendum lead up, said maintaining “respectful dialogue” was vital.

“Volunteering for a campaign during the Yes referendum presents various challenges.

“These challenges may include addressing diverse opinions and perspectives, ensuring clear communication with the public.

“It is crucial to navigate through these challenges by promoting respectful dialogue, and providing accurate information to the community.”

More than 4700 Australians voted in Raymond Terrace from Tuesday to Friday last week.


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