‘No’ camp accused of taking Aussies ‘for mugs’

Prime Minister Govt House
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defied a last-minute bid from Peter Dutton to cancel or amend the Voice to Parliament referendum. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The No campaign has been accused of spreading lies and running a fear campaign to convince Australians to knock back the upcoming Voice referendum.

An online training session was leaked to the Nine Newspapers, detailing the No activist group Advance’s strategy to make people suspicious of the Voice to Parliament.

According to the tape, volunteers are told to not identify themselves as No campaigners while conducting phone calls, and raise false reports of compensation being paid to Indigenous Australians should a Yes vote get up.

The Uluru Dialogue spokesman Roy Ah-See said the tactics insulted voters’ intelligence.

“The Australian people are being taken for mugs by the No campaign in a tactic that is distinctly un-Australian,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Peter Dutton, Leader of the Opposition
Peter Dutton has been urged to condemn misinformation tactics allegedly being used by No campaigners ahead of the Voice referendum. Picture: NCA/NewsWire Emma Brasier

“The No campaign has no interest in running a fair and open conversation, just like they have no interest in improving the lives of First Nations peoples and all Australians.”

A Fair Australia spokesman pointed the finger at Voice supporters and claimed they were not being “honest” about the referendum.

“There are countless examples of Voice architects, activists and campaigners arguing that the Voice is the tool to demand taxpayer-funded compensation, pay reparations for historical wrongs, to force Australians to ‘pay the rent’ and abolish Australia Day,” they said in a statement.

Anthony Albanese called out the “cynicism” of the No campaign while addressing the Labor caucus on Tuesday morning.

“This is about a request from Indigenous Australians to make decisions with them, not to them. We need to keep talking to as many people as possible in the coming weeks,” the Prime Minister told his colleagues, according to a Labor spokesman.

Down the hall, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton told colleagues that Mr Albanese’s next move, should the referendum be defeated, would be a “test of character”.

Prime Minister Govt House
Anthony Albanese has remained firm on his Voice timeline as the writs were issued and postal votes open. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“Whatever the outcome of the referendum on October 14 our nation will be bruised,” he said, according to a Coalition spokeswoman.

“(Mr Albanese has) also made it clear that if the referendum is voted down, that he won’t take the issue back up again. Now, either you're consistent with your views or you are not. It’s a test of character”

The spokeswoman said one MP raised a “genuine sadness” about the referendum’s prospects and said October 15 should not be seen as a celebration.

On Monday, the final bureaucratic hurdle before Australians head to the polls on October 14 was crossed after Mr Albanese headed to Government House to have the writs signed by Governor-General David Hurley.

Just hours before the writs, Mr Albanese rebuffed accusations from Mr Dutton that he had “completely mishandled” the Voice proposal.

During question time, Mr Dutton asked Mr Albanese to “withdraw his Voice referendum, so we can avoid an outcome which sets back reconciliation and divides the nation”.

Prime Minister Govt House
Mr Albanese says all Australians will have their say. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

With support for the Voice plummeting in all opinion polls, Mr Dutton told Mr Albanese “it is clear the referendum will not be the moment of unity the 1967 referendum delivered”.

But Mr Albanese vowed to stick to the timetable to send Australians to the polls on October 14.

His message came just hours before the writs were signed by the Governor-General and the 6pm opening of postal vote applications.

Mr Albanese replied: “It is unfortunate the leader of the opposition has chosen politics over substance.

“The referendum will take place on that date, and Australians will get to determine their view on that date,” Mr Albanese said.

“The leader of the opposition of course has since committed, if he’s ever elected prime minister, to have another referendum if this referendum is defeated. So he wants this debate to just go on and on.”

Australians have until Monday, September 18 at 8pm to enrol to vote in the referendum.

Postal vote applications are open until Wednesday, October 11.

Remote voter services will begin on Monday, September 25.

Early voting will begin in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia on Monday, October 2, with other state and territories to follow suit on Tuesday, October 3.