Why the Dutton Voice strategy won’t work

Opinion polls suggest Peter Dutton and his media accomplices – both Murdoch and the Nine Newspapers – are having some initial success in confusing The Voice issue.

It’s not surprising as the tactic has worked very well in many countries in many situations for a long time as the blog recently described.  It also suits the media which mainline on a daily fix of controversy and what ifs.

But in the long haul will it continue to work when it comes to The Voice vote later this year?

While the media is hooked on its obsession with who said what; what new detailed question has been raised; what some individual said; and, what the Prime Minister didn’t say there is at the same time a huge groundswell of support for the Voice campaign from individuals, companies, organisations and professional service firms.

The Voice campaign is gearing up for a ground campaign which will be much, much larger than that mounted by the Teals who will – of course – be replicating their own campaigns in campaigns for the Voice.

The Greens may have a minority of doubters but if they opt to oppose the Voice they can wave goodbye to much of their progressive credibility so in the end they probably won’t take the risk and will join the push. Of course, while rationality suggests they won’t oppose the Voice, we shouldn’t forget that with the Greens the perfect will always be the enemy of the good.

At the other end of the ideological spectrum there is absolutely no doubt. For instance, the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) which represents thousands of directors of public and private companies, statutory authorities and not for profits is strongly behind The Voice campaign.

It has already published one Reconciliation Action Plan and a second is being prepared. It states: “Our national systems of governance are deficient in recognition and respect for First Nations peoples, and the quality and outcomes of decisions that impact their lives, families and communities.”

Next month it is providing members and non-members with access to a virtual event saying: “A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament will provide an enduring mechanism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to guide and inform laws and policies relevant to them. AICD’s support for the Uluru Statement reflects the principles of good governance that the AICD preaches and promotes.

“Respectful and truthful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders is an expectation of effective Australian governance practice, and relevant to all Australian boards.”

The online event will feature AICD Chair, John Aitkin, Michael Ullmer, Lendlease Chair and From the Heart Director Dean Parkin.

As early as 2019 14 leading organisations united for National Reconciliation Week to support the Uluru Statement, the First Nations Voice in the Constitution, the Makarrata Commission on agreement-making and truth-telling between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments.

In a response to the Statement they said: “Thank you for the invitation to walk with you in a movement for all Australian people for a better future. We recognise the Uluru Statement from the Heart as an historic mandate to create a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood….In a spirit of reconciliation we look forward to working with you and supporting you, as a matter of national priority, to develop and enact specific proposals in relation to Voice, Treaty and Truth.” Note the order in that by the way.

As for the signatories they are: BHP, Curtin University, Herbert Smith Freehills, IAG, KPMG, Australian Rugby League Commission, PwC, Qantas, Richmond Football Club, Rio Tinto, Swinburne University of Technology and Woodside. BHP also kicked in $1 million for the campaign.

The From the Heart campaign lists the BHP Foundation, Myer Foundation, Mirvac, ANZ, Minter Ellison, King and Wood Mallesons and others as supporters.

It is also currently running a campaign to recruit people to talk to family, friends and neighbours about voting Yes; deliver flyers in their area; put up Yes signs on their property; help out at information stalls; make calls to voters; doorknock voters; work on local polling places on referendum day; help train and brief other volunteers: be a social media ambassador; and, provide testimonials for social media and ads.

This is exactly what worked for the Teals and was critical to Dan Andrews very first election win.

From the Heart itself has a pretty high-powered board including the MUA’s charismatic Thomas Mayor who has taken the Statement to almost every community in Australia; Danny Gilbert of Gilbert+Tobin; and very significantly Mark Textor.

Textor’s company describes him (albeit with a tad of hyperbole) as “an internationally celebrated campaign pollster and communications strategist. He has held the unique position of being the pollster and electoral strategist behind the election victories for eight Commonwealth Prime Ministers over scores of elections. He has been described by Britain’s Channel 4 “as one of the most influential political strategists and pollsters to walk the planet” and in the Australian media as “a genius at transforming raw research into compelling communication.”

He even helped get Boris Johnson elected although probably nobody could have kept him in power.

But perhaps the most significant thing about Textor is that he would, under normal circumstancesm be at a Peter Dutton’s side. This time he is with The Heart and the Voice. That’s bad news for Dutton and good news for the Yes campaign.