Australia to vote on constitutional recognition for Aborigines

The Herald reports:

It’s more important to get constitutional recognition for Aborigines right than to rush it through, Australia’s Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday.

Abbott has nominated May 27, 2017, as his preferred date for the long-awaited referendum – the 50th anniversary of the celebrated 1967 referendum on indigenous rights.

However, he warned that if the referendum to recognise indigenous people in the constitution failed it could set back the cause of reconciliation by decades.

“We’ve got to get it right,” he said yesterday.

“It’s more important to get it right than to rush it.”

The Minister says no one wanted the first Australians to finally feel like first-class citizens more than he does – but he said it was better to take it slowly and ensure it succeeded.

“We shouldn’t be unambitious and we shouldn’t be over-ambitious. That’s the balance we have to get right here.”

Constitutional change must satisfy a majority of people in a majority of states.

If Abbott succeeds, he will be doing so against history. Only eight out of 44 referenda have passed in Australian history, and the last one to pass was in 1977. Eight since then have all failed. Seven failed to get a majority and one got an overall majority but not a majority in a majority of states.

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