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Brexit and The Voice: Two Ill-Conceived Referenda

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a grave error of judgement. If he had paid more attention to the polarisation created by Brexit, he might have done things differently.

· 12 min read
Brexit and The Voice: Two Ill-Conceived Referenda

On 14 October, Australians voted “No” in the referendum on “A Proposed Law: To alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”

I think this was the right outcome—though, sadly, the referendum itself is likely to have divided Australians. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a grave error of judgement in putting forward an undeveloped plan and thus forcing people to vote “Yes” or “No” on the basis of grand overarching themes—Indigenous rights versus universal equality under the Constitution—rather than detailed information. If he had paid more attention to the polarisation created by the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum, he might have done things differently. 

When we Brits voted on whether the UK should remain in the European Union, we had no choice but to decide on the basis of general feelings about grand themes. But the problem in that case was not a lack but a surplus of information. There is so much detail available about the functioning of the EU that no single layperson could possibly be expected to understand it all. Even the consolidated version of The Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union runs to 344 pages and I had to supplement it with more accessible overviews of the regulations regarding law, economics, travel, immigration, trade agreements, etc. I finally almost lost the will to live when I tried to grasp what Brexit would mean for fishing rights—a matter of primary concern for many of the lower-income inhabitants of Aldeburgh, an East Coast town where I spend a lot of time. In the end, as time was running out, I turned to overviews, including the Cameron government’s case for voting “Remain,” Daniel Hannan’s case for voting "Leave,” and David Torrance’s non-partisan EU Referendum 2016: A Guide For Voters. 

I voted “Remain,” believing that this would be the best way to keep the UK stable and essential items affordable, but my father, who gained his wealth by predicting the movements of financial markets, voted “Leave” because he believed it would be better for the UK economy. My mother decided that this was one of the very rare occasions on which she would be guided by him. My husband listened to and watched as many breakdowns of the pros and cons as he could around his long working hours and voted “Leave,” believing this would make the country stronger. One of my closest friends agreed with him, while two others agreed with me. 

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