As the 14th of October inches closer and closer, the mood of the referendum debate in parliament has become increasingly gloomy. It has, on occasion, exhibited toxic properties.
On Thursday morning, Members of Parliament met on the side of Lake Burley Griffin to celebrate the arrival of AFL veteran Michael Long. The mood for referendum was one of camaraderie and excitement. Long was on the last stretch of his trip from Melbourne to support the voice to parliament. He was walking in favor of the voice.
The appearance of the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, when he got out of his automobile to greet him suggested that he was filled with emotion. The two men embraced one another. A few minutes earlier, Nova Peris, a former Olympian who is now a Labor senator, informed the audience that was streaming down the lawn that indigenous people were “counted” in the vote that took place in 1967. The assignment for the month of October 2023 was to “see” the first child to be born in the continent.
A couple of Liberal MPs wanted to be seen backing the yes argument. Julian Leeser, who departed the frontbench after the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, decided to say no to the voice referendum, and Bridget Archer, who does what she believes is right despite the fact that it is an isolating habit in professional politics, were two of these MPs.
Menzies walk is a two-kilometer-long section of pathway that is located on the northern side of the lake. This is where the meeting point for the walk with Long was located. Leeser and Archer have chosen not to take a partisan stance, and they have properly identified the voice as the cause of liberalism. In an adjournment speech given the night before in parliament, Leeser stated the same thing and invited Australians to choose empathy on October 14 referendum- “to lift up their eyes, and despite their own challenges, to see the gap that does not close.”
After he had arrived at the lakeside, the prime minister sent out his own personal invitation. A member of Albanese’s staff alerted him to the presence of the two Liberals after he had first failed to notice them.
He motioned for them to come up to the front so that they could have a stroll with him and Long. They complied, and once more, for a few seconds, the prime minister allowed his feelings to get the better of him. Albanese appeared to be living in a time that the former Labor prime minister had once hoped was feasible; that moment was one in which a Labor prime minister could steer a country in a progressive direction without fracturing it.
As the party strolled along, they chatted among themselves. A gentle tide of human optimism, with Long, Peris, and Djawa, a Yolgnu leader from Arnhem Land, flanked by Labor and Liberals, Greens and teals, joggers and cyclists. The trail was made clear by the pioneers. The commuter traffic was held up by the police. As the march was crossing the Kings Avenue bridge on its route to the parliamentary triangle, a dual cab utility vehicle sped by at breakneck speed. The driver yelled “vote no” out of his car window as he drove by. The walkers did not break their rhythm at any point.
As soon as Albanese arrived back at parliament, he made his way across the building to his courtyard with Long and Linda Burney, the minister for Indigenous Australians.
Even if Dutton wanted to be Dutton, Albanese had believed that with strong support from business, trade unions, churches, sporting codes, and enough parliamentarians of goodwill, they would be able to get the voice over the line.
Because the prime minister is an eternal optimist, you can be sure that he won’t give up hope until the very end. He said to the reporters who were assembled in the courtyard that if “fear stops us from ever stepping out, we’ll never get anywhere – we will stay in the same place”
Long expressed to the reporters that he, too, had a positive outlook. During the lengthy journey from Melbourne, there had been a positive response from folks I met along the way. He claimed that if the people of Australia acknowledged the voice, it would grant the unseen people of the continent control over their own destinies.
But a steady stream of unfavorable poll results cast a shadow on the optimism of the moment. One month before the day of the vote, the “no” movement for referendum is now in the lead in every state.
The results of polls are not always accurate. However, the tendency and the negative feedback regarding surround sound were sufficient indicators. Long used a direct approach to discussing the zeitgeist.
The two men were seen holding hands several times over the course of the press conference. Long addressed Albanese with the phrase “We implore you now to have heart.” “We are confident that you will continue to travel along with us on this path.”
That act of patience, of perseverance, and of comity – the anticipatory comfort from an Indigenous man of Long’s high status in the society to a campaigning prime minister, who knows there is no guarantee of success – seemed to resound in Albanese’s chilly stone courtyard, almost as if it were an act of grace. Long was a member of the Kuku Yalanji people, which is a subgroup of the broader Kulin nation.