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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The Garma Festival is being held over the next few days in Arnhem Land. There will be a great deal of talk this year about the Voice. Anthony Albanese will speak on Saturday, but he won’t announce the date for the referendum. Peter Dutton isn’t attending.

Meanwhile in parliament this week the opposition has sought to turn the discussion of the Voice to the issue of treaty, also a feature of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. But the government wants to keep the debate strictly to the Voice, dodging questions about treaty where it can.

In this podcast Thomas Mayo, a signatory of the Uluru Statement and one of the leaders of the yes campaign, and Derryn Hinch, former prominent broadcaster and a former crossbench senator, join us to argue for the yes and no sides respectively.

Mayo has been travelling extensively through central Queensland (viewed as one of the toughest states to garner a yes vote) hosting forums about the referendum.

I went from Maroochydore and Caloundra to a whole lot of towns, including Cherbourg, an Aboriginal community and Eidsvold, up to Mackay. The experience was great, really positive – full crowds at each of the forums, some great questions and signing up a whole lot more volunteers.

There were people that were fully supportive and there was also a lot of people that were unsure. So people that were leaning either yes or no, that came along to learn more. We also had some people that were set in a position of saying no, but that was a great opportunity to have the discussion. They were able to listen to our history behind this and the good sense of it and what the actual proposition is and what will be changed in the Constitution. They were able to raise their concerns and reasons and they were respectfully listened to.

But I think the result was that anybody that wasn’t already set in their ways that weren’t entrenched in a position politically, came up to me later and said, we’ve decided to vote yes now.

Mayo’s history organising union campaigns and some past provocative comments have made him a target for no campaigners. But he looks on his past as only a positive, seeing much in common with both causes:

I think there’s there’s actually a lot in common, in that you are trying to unite people. This referendum is about unity. It’s about uniting on a common cause, which is to heal from our colonial past. It’s to empower people that are suffering and to create fairness.

My union background has helped in my ability to advocate. But mostly I think what motivates me is understanding that this is the right thing to do.

In contrast, Derryn Hinch sees the referendum as dangerous, divisive and unnecessary.

Look, let me say from from the get-go, I wish they could split the referendum into two bits. If they could give genuine, fruitful recognition to Indigenous Australians and our history in the Constitution, I would vote yes for that in two seconds time, and I think most of Australians would as well.

It’s the second half of having the Voice to Parliament. That worries me because they say they need the Voice – they already have 11 members of Parliament of Indigenous extraction! And if in fact they are spending all these umpteen [billions on] Aboriginal welfare and medical and other bodies, if they are spending $30 billion, there should not be one Aboriginal kid with glaucoma or drinking dirty water in the whole country.

Hinch says that even if the Voice were to be legislated instead of enshrined in the Constitution, he would still vote against it.

I just don’t like the way they’re doing it. I know they quote the Waitangi Treaty (which they have across the ditch in New Zealand) but as I understand it, in the late 1800s [it] was designed to stop warfare and British troops would defend New Zealand and defend the Maori, if anybody came from abroad. I was in New Zealand only last year and they are changing a lot of names to Maori names. I mean I supported them changing the name of Mount Egmont in my home town to Taranaki. I supported changing Ayers Rock to Uluru and yet I don’t support people being banned from climbing Uluru.

Hinch won’t be campaigning for a “no” vote, but he is making his views “very well known”. He says he feels “uncomfortable” being on the same side as certain politicians (such as Pauline Hanson), but notes he made his decision a long time ago.

I made those decisions long before I even knew what other people would be in the no camp.

I don’t like misrepresentation by either the no people or the yes people.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Politics with Michelle Grattan: ‘yes’ campaigner Thomas Mayo and ‘no’ advocate Derryn Hinch on the Voice –