What killed ‘Yes’: The only piece about the Voice referendum you’ll ever need to read (includes Lando Calrissian and Macarena references)

Vote woes: Saturation coverage of the Voice has fatigued many Australians.

What killed ‘Yes’: The only piece about the Voice referendum disaster you’ll ever need to read (includes Macarena reference)

Unless a sizeable miracle occurs pretty quickly, the “Yes” vote in the Voice referendum is about to go up in smoke.

In a nutshell, the proposal seeks to “enshrine” into the Australian Constitution an independent advisory body to help inform policies about indigenous people.

The upshot is that indigenous people will have their two cents about decisions made about them, though any advice proffered can be challenged or dismissed.

Now, at the beginning of the year the “Yes” vote had huge support. That has now shrivelled to the point where the “No” vote is almost – though not quite – a foregone conclusion.

We’ve all seen that graph with the polling results. You know, the one showing a big X, with the descending line showing the plummeting support for “Yes”, the ascending one the rocketing support for “No”. (see fig. 1)

Fig 1: This definitive, meticulously researched graph shows how “Yes” support slid while “No” support charged across the year.

So, what accounts for why such a reasonable and modest proposition has lost so much backing?

Australians from every corner of the land are bracing themselves for the cascade of post-vote commentary and analysis, about what went wrong, whose fault it was and where Australia heads to now.

Well, never mind all that. Here’s the skinny on what killed the “Yes” vote. It’s all you’ll need to know in one concise, compact, rigourously balanced piece. You’re welcome.

The Cost of Living: Easily the biggest reason people turned off the “Yes” case. There’s the mortgage to pay, kids to feed, jobs to hold on to, marriages to keep together. That’s enough stress to be getting on with, thank you. Like Lando Calrission said in The Empire Strikes Back: “I’m sorry I couldn’t do better, but I’ve got my own problems.”

Indigenous Opposition: Pub test question: if the Voice is supposed to be so good for indigenous people, why are so many indigenous folk against it? Along with high-profile “No” peeps such as Warren Mundine, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Lidia Thorpe and Michael Mansell there’s all that grass-roots opposition.

Albo’s Bath Toy: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wants everyone voting “Yes”. Such a bold move from a politician who is so on the nose. What better way to register a protest vote?

Moral Superiority: Tainting the “Yes” campaign was the overriding theme that voting “Yes” meant you were a good person, voting “No” a clear sign there’s something wrong with you. Good tactic.

Emotional Blackmail: If “No” wins, what will the rest of the world think of us? What will it say about our nation? Our culture? Our values? How will we be able to look ourselves in the mirror without being overwhelmed with shame? And whose fault will it be? Why, your fault, you degenerate heathen. Proof that the least effective way to persuade anyone is to bully them. Or try to.

Lack of Detail; Vote “Yes” first; we’ll figure out how the Voice works later. Brave tactic. No Sale.

Bad Optics: Those daring to support “No” have been hit with all manner of nasty epithets, with Ray Martin’s “dinosaurs and dickheads” insult attracting instant infamy. Even Warren Mundine was verballed as he went to vote. Hamish McDonald haranguing “No” supporter Kamahl on The Project didn’t help, especially when it turned out his “fact check” wasn’t fact checked. Oh, dear.

As for the viral Spitting Academic Incident…


Social Media Fumble: While “No” had it in the bag by engaging people from the get-go, “Yes” didn’t get its act together until the final stretch. Way too late. Example:

“Just Google It” Comedy Clip: This late-in-the-day sketch drew millions of views with its suggestion that a few seconds of research would quell all questions and confusion about the Voice. As if people hadn’t already browsed the heck out of the topic – people who had the time for a research project, that is. Why not just call “No” voters dumb dumbs and be done with it?

Celebrity Endorsements: American elections have long proved that an endorsement from a celebrity has about as much value as an endorsement from a cartoon character. When will we learn?

John Farnham and That Song: Easily the most transparently desperate move of the “Yes” campaign. Politically polarizing the 1986 classic You’re the Voice by making it the “Yes” anthem was an insult to fans who saw the once-cherished song turn into a jingle. People hate the song now. What was Farnsey thinking?

Inner City Hipsters: “Yes” communicated loud and clear and strong to the soy latte set, not so much to indigenous folk in remote Australia. Some people hadn’t heard of it. Talk about neglecting your base.

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Event: The impression created by “Yes” was that this is a now-or-never deal. So, a more elegantly phrased and intelligently presented “Yes” case can never resurface into the public discourse? Never ever? For all eternity? That noise you’re hearing is the sound of your internal BS meter exploding.

Media-Induced Issue Fatigue: There’s only so much coverage one issue can get before ordinary people just start switching off and stopped caring. The “whatever” vibe kicked in months ago.

Snowflake Syndrome: The idea that a “No” victory would put “Yes” people into a despondent frame of mind raises an issue far more important than the Voice, namely: You’re a grown up. Learn to lose.

Treaty Talk: Voice first? Or Treaty first? Aren’t some states already doing Treaty? So, is a Voice needed if you can nut out Treaty? What is Treaty anyway? Does anyone have time for another homework assignment?

Let’s be honest. When most people hear “Treaty”, they don’t think about politics, they think about the Yothu Yindi song. It starts looping in their head until they can’t concentrate on anything else. By the time they get rid of it it’s time to order dinner.

The same with Makarrata. No doubt it’s a frightfully important topic, only it sounds too much like Macarena, each mention igniting another earworm and possibly some dancing.

Put simply, the Voice is a good idea at the wrong time. People have too many other things on their plate. If “Yes” goes down, as all signs say it shall, the best move would be to forge on with hope and optimism for a better future, preferably to the moves of Macarena.

As for the scale of the miracle required to turn the vibe around and see “Yes” triumph? Having all the major indigenous “No” campaigners being exposed on live stream as lizard aliens might do the trick. Anything short of that might not be enough.

Voting in the Voice referendum is compulsory. For those who didn’t do it early – about six million have, apparently – the advice is to get it done as quickly as possible, then hoe into a democracy sausage. You’ve earned it.