Daniel Wild Discussing New Research On South Australians’ Views On The Canberra Voice To Parliament

Written by:
25 July 2023
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On July 25, IPA Deputy Executive Director Daniel Wild discussed IPA polling on South Australians’ views on the Canberra Voice to Parliament, on FiveAA Mornings with Matthew Pantellis.

Below is a transcript of the interview.


Matthew Pantelis:

The Institute of Public Affairs has released a polling conducted here in SA on the Voice and the referendum coming up towards the end of the year. I see there are calls for it to be delayed till December, to try and get support behind the Yes vote, because all the polls seem to indicate increasingly, News Poll certainly, and this poll, 600 odd South Australians surveyed by the Institute of Public Affairs, that here in SA at least, the No vote will win resoundingly, at least at this stage. From the IPA, Daniel Wild is on the line. Daniel, good morning. Thank you for your time.

Daniel Wild:

Good morning. Nice to be with you.

Matthew Pantelis:

What did you find?

Daniel Wild:

Well, Matthew, what we found was that 42% of South Australians have indicated that they’ll be voting no at the upcoming referendum on the Voice. Just 39% have said that they’ll support the yes case. And about 20% have said that they still are yet to make up their minds. What’s really interesting about our polling is that we asked South Australians what they thought would make the biggest difference to the day-to-day lives of Indigenous South Australians in remote parts of the state, and just 9% said that they believe that the Canberra-based Voice to Parliament would deliver those outcomes. By far, the most popular choices were local job opportunities, prohibitions on alcohol consumption, and income management, such as cashless debit cards. So the key point is that what South Australians are saying is that they believe practical on-the-ground policy approaches are more likely to deliver better outcomes than a Canberra-based Voice to Parliament.

Matthew Pantelis:

How did you find the people in the poll? It’s 600 people. It’s a fair few, but is it big enough to be representative?

Daniel Wild:

Yeah, it is big enough to be representative. It’s a higher sample than a lot of those that you see, for example, in News Poll and others. So it is a statistically significant poll. It’s a combination of online and phone survey, which is fairly standard in the industry. What was also, I think, quite interesting and what we wanted to make sure that we did was to have a representative sample of Indigenous South Australians who comprised roughly 5.5% of the total population of the state. And Indigenous South Australians were even less likely to say that they thought the Canberra-based Voice to Parliament would deliver practical outcomes. In fact, not one single Indigenous South Australian that we surveyed indicated their preference for a Canberra-based Voice to Parliament. Instead, they were much more likely to say that a cashless debit card approach was the number one thing that they thought would improve conditions in their communities.

Matthew Pantelis:

Mm, that’s interesting. Did you compare? Did you ask people to compare their views on the SA Voice through Parliament, as opposed to the Federal Voice to be put in the Constitution?

Daniel Wild:

Well, we did go part of that way. And you’ve touched on something important, which is the unique feature of South Australia is you’ve got the state-based Voice to Parliament that was legislated earlier this year. Elections were due to take place in September. They’ve been kicked into next year now to avoid conflict with the federal referendum. Look, the key difference between the two is that the Federal Voice to Parliament would be permanently bricked into our nation’s Constitution. In South Australia, it is not in the Constitution, it’s just an act of parliament, which means that parliament can change it, it can remove it if it’s not working. So it doesn’t carry the same legal risks.

The constitutional change for the Federal Voice to Parliament is very risky because it carries those legal risks. We’ve had former High Court Justice Ian Callinan, for example, say that it could lead to over a decade of litigation as a result of it being bricked into our Constitution at a federal level. And what we find is that when South Australians are told that the Federal Voice would be in the Constitution, unlike the State Voice, then support quickly falls by another 4-5% for the Federal Voice, indicating that there’s some concerns there.

Matthew Pantelis:

Supporters say bricking it in, to use your term, I like that phrase, into the Federal Constitution is the difference, because as you say, with the state-based Act, it can be changed, it can be removed if a future government feels the need, but enshrining it in the Constitution makes that impossible. For instance, ATSIC, which I mean that’s an organization that clearly failed, but the fact is it can be canceled if it does fail. I suppose putting it in the Constitution takes that away, but supporters would argue that’s the whole point. It needs to remain in place forever.

Daniel Wild:

Yeah, but that’s the problem. I mean, everybody wants to get better outcomes for Indigenous people in South Australia and across the nation, and we want to do something that will work, but we need to have Parliament possessing the capabilities to make changes. You mentioned ATSIC. That became very corrupt and it was clear that the resources and the financial support was not getting to Indigenous people on the ground. That was abolished in the early 2000s with bipartisan support at the federal level under the Howard government. Now, if ATSIC had of been in the Constitution, we would still be stuck with it. We would not be able to get rid of it other than by way of another referendum. And that has never happened before in our nation’s 120-year history. So when something’s in the Constitution, it’s there forever. Regardless of the motivations and regardless of how hard people work to do the right thing, mistakes can always happen. So keeping it out of the Constitution is absolutely critical.

And another key point is that the Voice to Parliament at the federal level is simply going to sit on top of the existing failing bureaucratic infrastructure that we have. The Calma-Langton report, which the Prime Minister refers to as the authoritative source of details in the Voice, is very clear in saying that no existing Indigenous bodies or agencies will be removed. So the existing system is not working. That is something that we all agree on, but putting another bureaucracy based in Canberra on top of a failing system is unlikely to provide those benefits in remote parts of our state.

Matthew Pantelis:

Daniel, did your survey look at people on political lines as well? Whether Liberal voters were more likely to be opposed, or for, indeed, and Labor the same?

Daniel Wild:

Yes, we did Matthew, and it’s quite interesting. So look, broadly speaking, the results are, as you would think, about 80% of Coalition voters have said that they’ll vote no or that they don’t know, in South Australia. But what was interesting is over 40% of Labor voters also said that they were going to vote no, or that they don’t yet know how they’re going to vote. Now, that’s quite significant because, of course, the Voice is a proposal of the Federal Labor government. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has invested a significant amount of his personal authority and his imprimatur to try and get support for the Voice increasing. So I think a lot of those in the Labor camp would be concerned that support is relatively modest among Labor voters.

And that just reflects that they share many of the same concerns that, yes, we want to improve outcomes, but this is a massive proposed change to our Constitution. It could create essentially a two-tiered society, where one group of Australians essentially have a greater say over our nation’s future than another set of Australians. And again, putting that into the Constitution means that it’s there forever, that we can’t change it, and all of the risks that that entails.

Matthew Pantelis:

Do you have a feel for how the undecided vote will break? Do you think most… I mean, if it’s undecided, you would expect a lot of those to end up in the no column. Maybe not, necessarily, and who knows what campaigns will lie ahead in the next few months and what influence they might have. But would you expect most to break into the no column?

Daniel Wild:

Yeah, it’s an interesting question, Matthew. So, so far the answer to that is yes. We’ve seen, as time has gone by, people who previously were in the yes camp have gone into the undecided camp, and people who were undecided have gone into the no camp. As more details have become available to the Australian people, we’ve seen, for example, the Prime Minister saying that he supports a treaty process to come after the Voice. Well, when people see that, they start to raise questions and say, “Geez, I’m in favor of recognition, but I’m not sure about this, what the Prime Minister is saying.”

Ultimately, we know that a lot of people, I would say 15-20% are probably going to make up their mind in or around polling day. So it will make the campaign over the next few months very critical. We know Australians are concerned about cost of living, the cost of housing, rental prices, many other factors. So as Australians turn their mind to this issue, they raise questions and they become unsure. But I think a lot of people would decide closer to voting day.

Matthew Pantelis:

Interesting. Daniel, we’ll see where it all ends up. Thank you for your time.

Daniel Wild:

My pleasure. Thank you.

This transcript with Daniel Wild talking on fiveAA from 25 July 2023 has been edited for clarity.

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