Leading Yes advocate Noel Pearson has decried Peter Dutton’s idea of a second referendum as an “absolute mirage”, and says that a No vote would be his “worst nightmare”.
Although every poll has support for the Yes vote drastically falling, Mr Pearson said he remains optimistic that Australians will vote for change on October 14.
In a powerful interview on Sunday, the Cape York leader said he refuses to believe Australians are “capable” of voting No, because he says doing so would show such a level of “unrequited love” that was unconscionable at this point in the country’s history.
“ It’s always been very hard for us, but we have won gains over these years,” he told ABC News on Sunday.
“We are always the underdog. We are three per cent of the population. We are the most powerless people in the country, with the weakest political constituency in the country, but through persuasion and through argument and constant campaigning we’ve managed to make gains … I still believe we can achieve victory.”
On the idea put forward by the Opposition leader to hold a second referendum purely based on recognition should this referendum fail and he be appointed Prime Minister, Mr Pearson said the proposal was “ridiculous in their own terms” and was nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Mr Pearson said the last time symbolic recognition was put to the vote in the 1999, it failed “worse than the republic” question, and would not succeed if asked again.
“It’s just an absolute mirage. The thing that it does, it pushes this debate for another five years. We’re already 15 years into it. John Howard promised this thing … on the election eve 2007,” Mr Pearson said.
“And we’re now 15 years later. Peter Dutton wants to kick this can and get the debate and division and argument going for another five years. Wait until he becomes Prime Minister he says. Then they will have another go.”
He said Mr Dutton had “eviscerated” his credibility by proposing the second referendum, only for it to be shut down by his Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price just days later.
“The Leader of the Opposition saying let’s have a second referendum. And then, his own … spokeswoman kills it on Thursday night. Not only that, his coalition partner (the Nationals) is absolutely not going to entertain another referendum,” Mr Pearson said.
“The fact is we will never get a referendum for constitutional recognition out of these people. They are here for constant debate, constant argument, conflict and debate. They want this issue to never end. They love conflict and disputation.
“The ‘Yes’ campaign are saying – we do this on October 14th. We settle one of the biggest issues the country still has outstanding, it’s outstanding, as John Howard called it in 2007, unfinished business.”
Asked what a “No” vote would say about the country, Mr Pearson said he would make that judgement after the referendum.
“I believe we still have the capacity to do the right thing,” he said.
“I just don’t believe when the hand of friendship and reconciliation is extended from Indigenous people that … their love will be unrequited. I can’t believe that.
“I cannot believe we still are an Australia where that hand would just be slapped aside … I just don’t believe Australians are capable of that.”
Originally published as Noel Pearson says Dutton’s second referendum a ‘mirage’