Legislative Council: Wednesday, October 18, 2023


Federal Voice to Parliament Referendum

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:46): I rise to give my take on the Voice. Saturday was a really hard day. The Greens share the disappointment of those who wanted to see us, as the minister earlier today said, realise the hopes and aspirations of First Nations people. I note that in South Australia eight state electorates voted for a Federal Voice. Those electorates were Adelaide with 57.5 per cent; Badcoe with 53.2 per cent; Bragg with 52.3 per cent; Dunstan with 55.3 per cent; Heysen with 52.5 per cent; Unley with 58 per cent; Waite with 60.4 per cent; and West Torrens with 51.5 per cent. Eight state seats did vote for a Federal Voice.

I worked on the Republican referendum in 1999 and I remember the trauma of losing a referendum. While I was what would have been called a direct electionist republican, I understood that, while the republicans were divided against each other, it was a step forward. It was not to be. I take hope, however, in George Megalogenis's article 'Demographics and the Voice'. I refer some members of this chamber to that article, but I hope the Liberals do not read it.

The Hon. R.A. Simms: No chance of that.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The reality is, as George Megalogenis pointed out well before the vote, the thesis was that Dutton loses either way whether or not the yes or the no vote got up last Saturday. Quite honestly, because of the 1999 referendum results, we then saw lifetime Liberal voters who wanted to be rid of the monarchy—known as doctor's wives in political terminology—eventually turn away from the Liberal Party. They stayed loyal for a while. They stayed loyal under Howard; they were relaxed and comfortable. They stayed loyal even under Tony Abbott, not quite as relaxed and comfortable.

But when Morrison picked fights with tertiary educated voters and played culture wars on issues like climate change and the treatment of women, not only did he lose those doctors' wives, many of whom now are doctors themselves, he lost the election. I think in those eight seats in South Australia that voted yes in the federal referendum last week we see the pathway to government lost for the Liberal Party on the third Saturday in March 2026.

I note that George Megalogenis points to the heat map that the 1999 referendum provided. I think we have a new heat map now in South Australia for the pathway for the Liberal Party to lose the election if they continue their culture wars, if they insist on a race to the bottom, on auditioning for Senator Alex Antic, rather than staying true to Liberal values and being a true alternative government for this state.

The salutary lesson of the Liberals losing to the teals in Melbourne, Goldstein, Higgins, Kooyong, Menzies, Deakin, Aston, the horseshoe of affluence has now been lost to the Liberals. In Sydney, Labor has captured Bennelong. The teals snapped up North Sydney and Wentworth, and the Liberal Party now has no seats with a view of the harbour from the north for the first time in their history.

It may well happen here in South Australia. Particularly those seats of Waite, Unley, Heysen, Dunstan and Bragg will play a strong role in that on the third Saturday in March 2026. So I do not lose hope, because I have been traumatised by the loss of a referendum before, but that last one gave us a heat map to turning politics on its head, and I think that this particular vote last Saturday is a salutary lesson for the Liberals that I do not think they will pay attention to.