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Fewer than half of Australians back Indigenous panel, poll shows


SYDNEY (Reuters) – Fewer than half of Australians back the inclusion of an Indigenous advisory panel in the constitution, in a plan set to face a referendum this year, a newspaper poll showed on Tuesday, down from 53% in May.

The poll comes ahead of a crucial senate vote on changing the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and include a committee in parliament to advise the government on matters affecting Indigenous people.

Published by the Sydney Morning Herald, the poll showed that 49% of respondents supported the change, down from 53% in May, while 51% said they were opposed to it.

A majority of voters in the three states of northeastern Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia are now voting against the change, it found.

“We always knew that this campaign was going to be very difficult,” the Yes campaign’s Dean Parkin told Sky News after the result.

“Referendums aren’t easy to win so we knew that the numbers were going to tighten over time.”

The government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been backing the referendum, on which it has staked significant political capital, while top sporting codes and several major companies have also supported the campaign.

Indigenous Australians, who form 3.2% of a population of 26 million, fare poorly on yardsticks such as health, education and imprisonment rates. They do not figure in the constitution and were not officially counted in the population until the 1960s.

A newspoll survey published last week also found that fewer than half of all Australians supported the referendum.

But another poll published on Tuesday showed support holding steady for the Indigenous “Voice to Parliament”, as the panel is called.

The Guardian Essential poll of 1,123 voters found 60% of respondents backed the panel, up one point from the previous survey, with 40% opposed.

The referendum legislation cleared its first parliamentary hurdle last month. It will go through the currrent senate session before the government sets a date for the vote.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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