It’s OK to vote Yes: Meet the Liberals campaigning for the Voice

Kate Carnell wants Liberals, Liberal voters and Liberal-curious people to know one thing: it’s OK to vote Yes.

The former Liberal ACT chief minister and Small Business Ombudsman is the head of the Liberals For Yes campaign, which launches today with its own merchandise and website.

Alarmed by the race-based rhetoric used by some No campaigners, and with a strong belief in the positive value of the Voice, Liberals For Yes will target “soft No” voters who incline towards conservative or Liberal values but could be persuaded to support the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Liberals for Yes members Ross Macdonald, Nicole Lawder, Tom Adam, Elizabeth Lee, Gary Humphries, Kate Carnell and Mark Parton.

Alex Ellinghausen

“We are aiming our campaign at, not just at Liberal party members, but people who traditionally vote Liberal,” Carnell said.

“We want to empower them. Just because federally the party is taking a different tack, doesn’t mean you can’t vote Yes.”

Carnell is joined in the campaign by a roll-call of about 20 current and former Liberal parliamentarians, including former Liberal premier of NSW Mike Baird, Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff, federal backbenchers Julian Leeser and Bridget Archer, ACT Liberal Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee, former senator Gary Humphries and NSW Member for Manly James Griffin.

Two senior Liberal hard-heads – John Howard’s former chief of staff Tony Nutt, and the Liberal party’s pollster Mark Textor – already sit on the board of the Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, the fundraising body for the larger Yes23 campaign.

Their advocacy for the Voice to parliament stands in direct contrast to the views of federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton, who has said the Voice will “re-racialise” Australia, and “take our country backwards not forwards”, language which many pro-Yes Liberals have found alarming.

He has announced the federal Liberal Party will actively campaign for the “No” case, which dismayed many moderates and led to the decision by former Indigenous Affairs spokesman Julian Leeser to quit the front bench.

Leeser said he welcomes the establishment of the Liberals For Yes campaign.

“I want to see as many Liberals as possible campaigning for the Yes vote.”

Carnell said the federal parliamentary party had “taken a different view to state colleagues and others”.

“I believe there are many, many Libs out there who want to vote yes, and our job is to dispel some of the myths and arm them with information.”

Baird said the Liberals For Yes pitch was a practical one.

“As a former senior lawmaker, on reflection, I think any additional consultation or input into legislation for our First Nations people would be incredibly helpful”.

“As I look back, yes, I consulted, yes, I had advice, but I don’t think I had anything like what was required to have more of an impact.”

Liberal MP for Manly James Griffin said he had experience being advised by the NSW Heritage Council when he served as Heritage Minister.

“No one ever complained to me about this unelected body providing advice to the minister.”

“In fact, their expertise was seen as useful. It enhanced policy.”

Griffin supports the Voice for reasons of patriotism and equality.

“If you are a patriot and concerned about our country and wanting it to be the best it can be, then moving forward is something you should support.”

Carnell has worked as a lobbyist as CEO of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council and as a director of Beyond Blue.

“[Lobbyists] talk to executive government all the time about policies we want … we advocate for things we care about to executive government.”

She said the Voice to parliament is giving that same right to Indigenous people.

“It’s not a huge change, but it’s something that needs to happen, and it’s not scary.”

Baird said he hoped to see constructive debate.

“A real debate and people are open to other people having different opinions and undertaking their own research.”

“We have to respect all opinions in it.”

Canberra entrepreneur, martial arts teacher and local Liberal party member Tom Adam will volunteer for the Liberals For Yes campaign.

“This will give people a voice they don’t have to fight for. It gives representation,” he says.

“If we find out where the gaps of knowledge and information are, and point people in the right direction, I think the arguments against it can be resolved.”

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