Anthony Albanese has called on the Labor Party to campaign “like never before”, telling them winning the Voice referendum will depend on grassroots activism.
On the last day of the party’s national conference, the Prime Minister told delegates and members that constitutional recognition was not a journey that began with Labor, but was a journey the party “had been given the great privilege of joining”.
With Australians preparing to head to the polls in the next few months to vote in the first referendum since 1999, Mr Albanese and Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney called on the party to help make history.
Almost every poll has support for the Voice slipping, suggesting the “Yes” campaign championed by Labor is facing an uphill battle to get over the double majority hurdle – but that is not deterring Mr Albanese.
“All of you here in this room and across the great breadth of our movement have put your hand up and shown your willingness to get involved, to walk the talk, to make a difference,” Mr Albanese said.
“I want you to get out there and campaign like you have never campaigned before.”
He said just as the idea of a Voice had come from the grassroots, “it will be decided at the grassroots by the people of Australia”.
“And in this, all of us have a part to play. Winning this referendum will depend on the conversations you have, the calls you make, the doors you knock on, the people you reach,” Mr Albanese said.
“Delegates, there is no more powerful force for change than our great Labor movement at its best. And there is no cause more deserving of our support.”
An emotional Ms Burney said the Voice was a key part of Labor’s policy platform of “bringing people together”, and it must be a united effort.
“It is our collective unfinished business… When we have power over our destiny, our children will flourish,” she said.
“They will walk in two worlds, and their culture will be a gift to their children.
“Don’t forget, to borrow a phrase from a former Labor prime minister (Gough Whitlam): it’s time.”
Mr Albanese also used his speech to pay tribute to Liberal Party members who’d broken rank to support the Voice, applauding their “courage”.
“People from across the political spectrum have shown the character to respond to the invitation,” Mr Albanese said.
The rally cry comes on the same day right-wing convention CPAC hears from high profile No campaigners, including former prime minister Tony Abbott who says voting down the Voice is the country’s “most important challenge”.
Mr Albanese is expected to announce a date for the referendum within the next month, with Australians expected to head to the polls between October and December.