Anthony Albanese has taken fire from anti-Voice opponents who are calling for his resignation and for him to take “personal responsibility” for tonight’s vote result.
In a fiery interview aired in Perth, Senator Michaelia Cash lashed out at the Prime Minister and demanded he apologise to the public.
“Shame on the Prime Minister,” Senator Cash told Sky News.
“Mr. Albanese decided to pursue politics over good policy, and tomorrow he needs to explain to the Australian people why he chose to go down this path. It has been a very traumatic last 12 months for the majority of Australian people.”
Senator Cash said the Coalition’s focus in the wake of the referendum would be “accountability” and she called for a funding probe into Indigenous organisations.
“We need to do what we all want to do, and that is achieve the best possible outcome for our most disadvantaged Australians. That starts with an audit of the $30 billion a year that we fund out of Canberra,” she said.
“Tomorrow our focus needs to be on uniting the country and moving forward together.”
Earlier, Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff James Ashby made a shocking call for the prime minister to resign.
He said No voters were afraid of being branded as racist and said many people he spoke to in rural areas were “frustrated” with Mr Albanese’s Yes campaign.
“I think there’s two things that people of this country want to hear from the Prime Minister tonight. One is an apology for what he’s put this country through, and the second will be his resignation as prime minister,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s a long future for Anthony Albanese following this referendum.”
The Prime Minister used an appearance at a polling booth in Balmain to claim the No campaign had no “legitimate critique” of the Referendum.
“There has been a lot of nonsense said over recent months during this campaign,” he said.
“The fact that the No campaign wants to talk about everything but what is on the ballot paper says that there is no legitimate critique of what people are actually voting for.”
HOPE FOR YES
Independent MP Kate Chaney said she was optimistic that a Yes result would defy the polls.
Speaking from her electorate in Western Australia, the federal MP he said voting no means there would be “no changes” to outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
“There is definitely a sense of positivity here and people want to see change,” Ms Chaney said.
“We haven’t been good at Indigenous policy and if you’re not good at doing something, you get advice on how to get better,” Ms Chaney said.
“That’s what the Voice is.”
‘SICK, TIRED’: BOB’S BIZARRE TIRADE
Bob Katter gave his take on the Voice from a big book of notes.
In a “lengthy” ramble, the federal MP said the advisory body advocated for the likes of former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and BHP boss Mike Henry, not the public.
“Australia’s sick and tired and angry at being used by white fellas to express their self-righteousness,” Mr Katter said.
“Well, it's not righteousness. It’s self righteousness.”
“Emphasis on white.”
ALBO CLAPPED AT POLLING BOOTH
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was met with applause as he arrived at Balmain Public School alongside his partner Jodie Haydon earlier in the day.
This came as more than 7000 booths opened across multiple states at 8am on Saturday and will remain available for Australians to cast their vote right until 6pm.
The prime minister appeared emotional as he addressed reporters, volunteers and voters at the polling booth to mark the historic day and make a final plea for Australians to vote Yes in the referendum.
“This is not a radical proposition,” he said.
“This is a hand outstretched in friendship from the First Australians to every Australian, just asking for it to be grasped in that spirit of reconciliation and friendship.”
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the mood at voting booths has been “very good” so far and applauded the public for coming together in the wake of a devastating global conflict.
“I think there are lots of really enthusiastic supporters of the Yes vote, and lots of people who are continuing to ask questions,” Ms O’Neil told Sky News earlier.
“The pervasive thing I feel coming from the booths is this pride in Australians that we can come together and resolve our differences at the ballot box, and as we’ve seen over the last week, that’s not the case everywhere in the world,
“It’s a great unification for the country that we can resolve our differences peacefully and we should be celebrating that.”
THORPE’S FIERY STATEMENT
Independent Senator Lydia Thorpe lashed a fiery statement after casting her vote for the Voice referendum in Melbourne
The progressive No campaigner declared “racism was a cancer”.
She says the only suitable outcome from this referendum is a no vote and said she'd like to see Australia move towards treaty rather than an Voice enshrined in our Constitution.
“Racism is a cancer. Racism is a illness, it makes people sick. So this referendum has shown where the cancer is in this country, and where we need to heal this country where we need to put out efforts as a nation to stamp out this ugly thing called racism,” she said.
WONG: UNITY IS GOOD FOR US
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said it’s difficult to win a referendum when views are split but pressed that unity was “good for all of us.”
Senator Wong said she voted Yes because “nothing to fear and so much to gain.”
“This is all about bringing the country together,” she said.
“I’ve had the benefit of travelling to lots of parts of Australia and talking with so many Australians from so many parts of the country, different walks of life - young, old, different faiths, were united in a desire for reconciliation and to move forward.”
FOOTY BIG SHOTS WANT YES
Football great Craig Foster has kicked in his support for a Yes vote alongside the rest of Australia’s Socceroos team.
In a social media post, the former midfielder announced he was “proudly and very hopefully voting Yes this morning.”
“Fingers crossed for Aussies to take an important step forward in First Nations rights, recognition and improved life outcomes,” Mr Foster wrote on X, also known as Twitter.
“Whatever happens today, the journey does not end, but simply continues in a different form.”
— Professional Footballers Australia (@thepfa) October 14, 2023
WHERE IS THE NO CAMPAIGN?
A lack of visible No campaigners and booth volunteers has raised some questions given that a No vote holds the majority in most national polls.
Former Victorian Labor strategist Kosmos Samaras said the absence of noticeable No volunteers on referendum day was “stark”.
“This was not a thing back in 1999,” the strategist wrote on X.
“Presence at a polling places matters more than a general election. Yes volunteers will be converting undecided voters all day on places where No have arrogantly abandoned.”
TREASURER SLAMS DUTTON’S NEGATIVITY
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said his focus on the Voice has not come at the expense of addressing cost-of-living, while swiping at Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s “negativity” towards the referendum.
Casting his vote on Saturday morning, the federal treasurer said he accepted there were different views about the way his government went about campaigning.
“Our overwhelming priority is to take some of the sting out of these cost of living pressures that people are confronting without making the inflation challenge in our economy worse, it hasn't been an either or,” Mr Chalmers said.
“We’ve maintained a primary focus on the bread and butter issues that people are facing right around the country and the Voice hasn’t come at the expense of that focus.”
He said no matter what the end result is tonight, the one thing “made clear” will be the different between Prime Minister Anthony Albanese his opponent Peter Dutton.
“We've got a Prime Minister who looks forward to the future with positivity and optimism and tries to bring people together.We've got an opposition leader who’s always trying to divide people with his nasty and negative politics. He has absolutely nothing positive to say about the future of this country,” he said.
“So no matter what the result tonight, I think the contrast between the two leaders in particular will be really clear.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said she had “butterflies” when she voted on Saturday morning, as she made a final urge to one in five Aussies who are still undecided to vote Yes.
“Today is a truly historic day in this country,” Ms Burney said.
“There are one in five voters that are still to make up my own mind, and they will vote today, and I want those people to vote yes.”
“Yes, for a positive future. For this country. Yes, for a unified country, going forward. And most importantly, yes to better outcomes for First Nations people.”
Ms Burney said it was “truly important” as a nation to go forward and create a “better country” by recognising 65,000 years of history in the Constitution.
WARNING OVER ‘NUTTY’ CONSPIRACY
Australia’s Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers has urged Voice campaigners to stop harassing voters outside voting booths while flagging “nutty” conspiracy theories.
Mr Rogers said for the most part voting has been “very orderly” but conceded there had been some bad behavior.
“We’ve had some disappointing activities, particularly outside the polling places and some of our voters have been hassled by some of the campaigners,” Mr Rogers said.
There has been “a whole range” of “nutty” and “bizarre” conspiracies theories circulating online, the election boss said.
NO REGRETS: LIBERAL YES SUPPORTER
Liberal MP Julian Leeser has stood firm on his decision to quit the frontbench to support the Voice, despite polls indicating the vote is headed for failure.
Mr Leeser, who previously held the Indigenous Australians portfolio, resigned from the Liberal frontbench in April after Peter Dutton announced the Liberals would not support a constitutionally enshrined Voice.
“I take the stand that I've taken because I wanted to be here on this day,” the MP said on Saturday.
“Because one of the great things about this referendum is that I believe it’ll help us close the gap.”
VOTERS PICK UP DEMOCRACY SAUSAGES
Voters have picked up their first democracy sausages for the day, with polls opening across the country for the landmark Voice referendum.
Images from across the country show voters eagerly picking up a snag after casting their vote as early as 8.30am.
However, half the country had already voted by Saturday, with the Australian Electoral Commission providing its final update on the number of people who voted ahead of polling day.
Of the 17.6 million Australian on the electoral roll, 8.41 people voted early either by postal vote or in-person voting.
Overall, around 6.13 million people voted at an early voting centre, compared to the 5.6 million at the 2022 federal election.
This makes the referendum pre-poll period the largest number of votes cast at early voting centres in Australia‘s history.
“FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF”
Chris Minns cast his vote alongside Linda Burney at Carlton South Public School in the Kogarah electorate in Sydney’s south.
The NSW Premier had a sausage sandwich as he took selfies with locals and Ms Burney held up her ballot marked “Yes”.
“This vote and millions of votes like it across Australia will make a major difference to our constitutional arrangements but more importantly, a major difference to First Nations people right across this country,” Mr Minns said.
“Cast that Yes, that positive vote and you’ll feel better about yourself.”
“REFERENDUM WE DIDN’T NEED TO HAVE”
Prolific No campaigner Nyunggai Warren Mundine said The Voice is a referendum the country “didn’t need to have”.
“It’s based on a lie which is that Aboriginal people do not have a Voice and we have always had a voice and we have always sat at the table in regard to any policy or legislation that went through,” he told the Today Show from Sydney Airport.
“What we should be doing is not spending the hundreds of millions of dollars that we’re spending on this referendum, it should have been - that should have been going out into the Aboriginal communities that are struggling and the money should have been spent on education and health and all those other things that we are fighting for.”
Mr Mundine said he has no regrets about his campaigning, saying the No camp has had to “fight a huge giant” in regards to corporations and sporting codes.
He said “everyone” in the top end of town is “against” the No camp and spoke of the moment he was booed at polling booths.
“It has been a tough campaign. You know like yesterday you had probably seen the film of me when I went to vote and booed and people were going crazy at us,” Mr Mundine said.
PRICE’S PUSH FOR NO
Leading No campaigner and Nationals senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has said she “doesn’t know how The Voice is supposed to change anybody’s life” as she urges Aussies to vote no as polls open.
Speaking on Sunrise just after 8am, Ms Price said she is “quietly confident” the referendum will go in her favour but said she did not want to “take anything for granted”.
“There is still a push to make sure that Australians are voting toward the ‘No’ vote as opposed to supporting this empty voice proposal change in our Constitution,” she said.
Senator Price said there were “a lot of red flags” with the fact Prime Minister Anthony Albanese failed to “show any detail whatsoever as to how voting yes is supposed to change anybody’s life”.
She said Aussies need to understand the vote “is not the only way forward”.
“I don’t think we should be dividing ourselves along the lines of race,” Senator Price said.
“The Constitution belongs to every single Australian and we need to come together as Australians and I’m there with others to ensure that we will put hard work to bring about outcomes that this government is failing to do.”
“CHANCE TO CHANGE HISTORY”
Ms Burney made a major call on The Voice minutes before polls opened, telling ABC News 24 she was committed to working until 6pm Saturday to convince people to vote Yes.
She was advocating outside a polling booth in Brighton-Le-Sands, in Sydney’s south.
“You have a chance to change history in this country,” she told the ABC.
“You have a chance to make Australia a better nation and get better outcomes for Aboriginal people.”
RECORD NUMBER OF VOTES
A record number of Australians have already voted in the Voice referendum.
As the campaign enters its final hours, it’s estimated nearly 8 million people have put their ballots in.
The AEC has warned anyone who does not cast a vote will not only miss out on their opportunity but also risk being fined.
It’s also called on the some 2 million Australians who applied for a postal vote and have not yet returned it to do so as soon as possible.
Australians are heading to the polls to vote on whether to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body, the Voice, in the Constitution.
It is the first referendum to be held since 1999.
While the polls initially favoured the Yes campaign, polls published in the lead up to referendum date have indicated Australians are likely to vote No.
For the referendum to be successful, a majority of voters in a majority of states must vote Yes.
“We have an opportunity for Australians to do better. To do better to show respect for the First Australians, but to do something for ourselves as well,” he told reporters on the hustings in Adelaide.
But opposition leader Peter Dutton said he anticipated the vote would fail.
“The PM made a catastrophic mistake not providing the detail to Australians – he’s instinctively won their hearts because Australians do want better outcomes for Indigenous Australia, but he hasn’t won their minds,” Mr Dutton told ABC Radio.
The vote count will start as soon as polls close at 6pm on Saturday.