AEC staff
The AEC will be running the country's first referendum since 1999. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Voice referendum ‘trick’ question claim is complete nonsense

Kate Atkinson August 15, 2023

The referendum will have two questions - one for the voice and one for constitutional recognition of Indigenous people.


False. There will be one question.

It’s being claimed that voters will be asked two questions at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice referendum later this year. 

Viral social media posts suggest this could trick voters who might support constitutional recognition of Indigenous people but oppose the voice into backing the proposed advisory body at the ballot box.

This is false. The referendum will include one question. 

The claim was made in a Facebook post (archived here) on August 13. 

“The referendum will have two questions,” it begins.

Referendum debunk
 Several versions of the claim have appeared in recent days. 

“The one question is for the VOICE which we all that (sic) we must vote in order to protect any right and benefits that we have left. The other question, which is a ‘mouse trap’ is asking whether you want to recognise the Australian Aboriginal people ÔǪ But wait for it. The ‘mouse trap’ is that (if) the other question is carried and the VOICE question is defeated, the VOICE is carried irrespective because the other question includes the VOICE.”

Similar versions of the claim – seen here, here, here, here, here and here – suggest the government is trying to “trick” voters by including two questions. 

“1 is going to be weighted more than the other. SO – If you tick yes to the question ‘Do you recognise the indigenous people?’ This tick will override your NO vote for the other question. Tick NO to both questions. Also, do it in PEN and NOT with the pencil they will provide you with,” the posts say. 

The referendum question and proposed constitutional amendment were approved by the federal parliament in June with the passing of the Constitution Alteration Bill

The question posed to voters at the referendum will be: “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

An example of the ballot paper can be viewed here

The proposed constitutional amendment would recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia and establish a voice which may make representations to the parliament and executive government on matters relating to Indigenous people. 

It would also give parliament the power to make laws relating to the voice, including its composition, function, powers and procedures. 

House of Representatives
 The single referendum question was approved by the federal parliament in June. 

The amendment would be added to a new section at the end of the constitution if the ‘yes’ vote receives a double majority result.

A representative of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) previously told AAP FactCheck there will only be one question. 

“If the Parliament wished to propose multiple questions at a referendum, it would need to pass multiple Constitution Alteration bills. This is what occurred in 1999, with the passage of separate Establishment of Republic and Preamble bills,” the representative said. 

Voters will be asked to write “yes” or “no” on the ballot paper, rather than a tick, a cross or another symbol which could be open to interpretation

The AEC is also debunking claims relating to the referendum process via its disinformation register.

The Verdict

The claim that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice referendum will have two questions is false.

Voters will be asked one question about recognising Indigenous people as the first peoples of Australia by establishing a voice to parliament.

False ÔÇô The claim is inaccurate. 

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