The Turnbull government’s refusal to back a "yes" vote on a referendum package from the Uluru Statement from the Heart meeting -- a combination of constitutional recognition, treaty, and advisory assembly -- is politically predictable. Though the speed with which it was done is affronting, it’s surprising anyone is so surprised. What chance was there that a Coalition with the National Party in it would ever consent to such a thing? Some polling currently being spruiked around suggests that support for an advisory body, established in the constitution, is as high as 60%, getting to the levels of support enjoyed by a minimal "recognition" statement alone.

Maybe, maybe, but one remains sceptical that such a vote would hold, or that it could prevail, in four states. Quite aside from the possibility that some do not understand what is being proposed, there is also the damage that a long referendum campaign would do to the idea. For the Nats, and many Liberals, the notion is anathema by principle and by politics. Even if they were, by some Merkel-esque leap of history, to grasp the proposal, their backbench would not go with them, nor would their base. One Nation would reap the harvest.