Australia PM rallies support for Indigenous referendum as early voting starts

FILE PHOTO-Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during the bilateral meeting with Indonesia's President Joko Widodo on the sidelines of the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, 07 September 2023. BAGUS INDAHONO/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Monday he would focus on having one-on-one conversations with Australians to rally support for the Indigenous referendum, as early voting began in some parts of the country.

In a landmark referendum, Australians will decide on Oct. 14 whether to approve altering the constitution to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body called the "Voice to Parliament" that can give advice on matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The proposal, backed by Albanese's Labor government, has been struggling to get majority support with recent opinion polls showing voters will reject it. Some voters who had switched their stance said the Voice was creating distraction from their top two issues - the cost of living and the cost of housing.

In a bid to mobilise support, Albanese said if Australians are focused on what the question is from the referendum amid the distractions, they will vote yes, and there is nothing to fear from this campaign.

"I sincerely think the key to the next fortnight is those one-on-one conversations with people to accept this request of the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," he said in Melbourne where early voting began on Monday.

Early voting on the referendum in New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory will begin on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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