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Pact reached on Australia's indigenous voice referendum

The Australian government and federal opposition have come to an agreement on the process for a referendum on the voice to parliament.

The Liberal-Nationals opposition has agreed to support the bill in the Senate with amendments, including a physical pamphlet outlining both the "yes" and "no" cases and some funding changes. 

There is also set to be official recognition of "yes" and "no" campaign organisations as well as strengthening opportunities for people to vote in remote communities. 

The mobile polling period for remote communities will be extended to 19 days and a greater number of identification methods will be accepted to enrol or update enrolment in order to increase voter turnout.

There will be an advertisement blackout for three days before the referendum, as is convention for federal and state elections.

The disclosure threshold for donations to entities will be frozen at $15,200 instead of increasing with inflation. 

Country Liberal Party senator and Nationals partyroom member Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has threatened to cross the floor if she did not agree with the bill, acknowledging she had not seen the full details of the amendments.

Senator Price met with multiple Indigenous community leaders in Canberra on Wednesday, who were also against the voice to parliament and the senator told reporters, brandishing an Australian flag, that the voices of First Nations people had been trampled on "for years and years, if not decades":

"They have very real concerns that the voice, were it to be successful, would be yet another layer of bureaucracy that would trample on their voices and only represent the elites.
"As Indigenous Australians with Indigenous heritage in this country, we don't want to be divided on the lines of race."

Labor minister tasked with the negotiations with other parties to secure the referendum, Don Farrell revealed a "no" campaign organisation had applied for tax deductible status and it would be treated in the same way as the application for the "yes" campaign organisation, which was granted:

"The decision to change our constitution is a significant national event.
"It's therefore important that the government can fund a civic and education campaign in relation to the up and coming referendum on the voice."

Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham told the Senate he didn't want taxpayer money going to massive advertising campaigns for either side, with government funds spent on enabling organisations to meet basic campaign requirements.

"Where if government funds are to be spent, they should be spent solely in relation to the conduct of the referendum, in relation to the turnout of the vote in relation to the basic facts that apply to this referendum."

Senator Birmingham it was important people had clarity about what they were voting for, with the same-sex marriage plebiscite having a straightforward question. 

"People had strong views and differences, differences of opinions, absolutely, but it was easily understood change.
"The voice, however, raises many questions. Questions of its scope, questions of its structure, questions of its construct, questions of its powers, and Australians will consider those questions during the debate."

The Greens and crossbenchers want stronger truth in advertising laws to ensure only accurate information is sent out in the pamphlets.

A second bill which sets out the wording of the constitutional change is expected to go to federal cabinet as early as Monday before being introduced to parliament late next week. 


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