The New South Wales Liberal leader, Mark Speakman, has warned Australians to get ready for the impact of a potential no vote at the voice referendum while refusing to back a separate state-based treaty process.
Speakman, a former NSW attorney general who is voting yes, expressed concern about the impact of the debate over the federal Indigenous voice to parliament, which he believed was on track to fail.
That would be a “setback for reconciliation”, the opposition leader told the Guardian on Thursday.
“But a narrow win is also a setback for reconciliation if people feel that they’ve been punted in some way. If, as is likely, the referendum fails, there’ll be many, many disappointed people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.”
Speakman said it would then be up to everyone to get “things back on track and [address] the often disastrous Indigenous outcomes” across society.
“People now should be planning for what they’re going to do the day after a no win,” he said.
“I don’t think people are focusing on that at the moment – they’re still putting their yes or no cases – but we need to be talking now about how to pull things together after the 14th of October.”
The NSW premier, Chris Minns, has warned against calling the result early despite polls suggesting the no side is ahead. Minns has argued there is still a path to victory for the yes campaign.
Minns last week urged people to take the opportunity for “movement in relation to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians at the highest level”.
Speakman came out publicly as a supporter for yes in August after having “chewed the fat”. He said he had assessed the impact it would have on decision-making processes and spoken with advocates for each side of the debate.
Despite strong personal support for the commonwealth voice, Speakman on Thursday said a state treaty was “not a priority”.
NSW Labor went to the election with a pledge to hold a year of consultation – costing $5m – to start the treaty process.
Minns last week said he was open to implementing a state voice to parliament similar to the South Australian model, or one of the other models being implemented as part of truth-telling and treaty processes under way in other Australian jurisdictions.
“I don’t want to put preconceived ideas on it,” he said.
Speakman said he respected the Minns government’s mandate to push ahead with a treaty process after winning power in March, but said his priority was “action on the ground”.
“That was something I was pretty passionate about as attorney general. I saw the over-representation of Indigenous adults in our prison system, the high rates of domestic violence. There are enormous challenges there,” he said.
“My priority is action on the ground in partnership with Aboriginal organisations.”