Unlike the 2017 marriage plebiscite, significant Australians are stepping into and sustaining the debate.

Has Qantas lost the spirit, is the Yes team “lie telling” and is Noel Pearson acting like a tribal big man?

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These questions were asked this week of the race-based Voice proponents by former deputy prime minister John Anderson, historian Geoffrey Blainey and former prime minister Tony Abbott.

With five weeks to referendum day, there’s no room for complacency in the face of the Yes campaign’s $100 million war chest.

But this was a week where the No team continued to make ground.

In today’s Australian newspaper Anderson called out Qantas for providing up to $500,000 worth of free flights to the Yes campaign but nothing for team No.

Referring to the Qantas motto, Anderson said:

Surely the true ‘spirit of Australia’ would recognise that Australians really do value a fair and balanced debate.

As a long-serving Australian aviation minister who is still frequently asked for his views on Qantas, I am concerned to see the deep reputational damage this well-known Australian company is suffering.

For some years now Qantas has been seen as deeply enmeshed in social and political issues, which are often divisive.

I believe that there has been serious overreach and that this is a significant contributor to the current plight of the airline.

I believe that the board and the new CEO (Vanessa Hudson) should give very serious consideration to an initial down payment on repairing that reputational damage by matching its offer to the Yes camp with free flights for No supporters in the interests of a truly informed ­debate.

It will be interesting to see if Hudson responds.

Qantas got behind the Yes campaign to change the definition of marriage, painting a rainbow flag on one of its jets and intimidating staff who believed in the timeless definition of marriage.

Yesterday our greatest living historian called out Voice proponents for making stuff up about Aboriginal history by saying Aboriginals practiced democracy.

Blainey is the author of The Story of Australia’s People – the rise and fall of ancient Australia, which I have read.

It is a balanced account which chronicles the positives and negatives of pre-European culture.

With so-called “truth telling” at the heart of the Voice, Blainey said Victoria’s indigenous “truth telling” body, the Yoorrook Justice Commission, was drawing upon a “make believe” version of history.

“Traditional Aboriginal society tended to be authoritarian, and far from democratic,” Blainey said.

“Brutal warfare existed between Aboriginal peoples, but it is not even mentioned in this week’s (Yoorrook Justice Commission) edict. Victoria was not the Garden of Eden before 1788, nor after 1788.”

Blainey’s intervention is important because the so-called “truth telling” of the Voice campaign one sided and ignores the inter-tribal violence which was rampant before European settlement, seeking to lay all blame for indigenous disadvantage at the feet of today’s multi-cultural non-indigenous population.

Finally, Tony Abbott called on leading Yes campaigner Noel Pearson, who repeatedly uses abusive language to demonise those who disagree, to be more like South African leader Nelson Mandela and less like a tribal big man.

Writing in yesterday’s Australian, Abbott said:

If only the Mandela side to his character hadn’t been subsumed these past few years by that of a tribal chief waging a guerrilla campaign against an oppression that is long since past and that has been replaced by the “tyranny of low expectations” that a grievance and entitlement-obsessed voice would just reinforce.

That today’s Indigenous disadvantage is the result of intergenerational trauma arising from British colonialism is a neo-Marxist fiction, yet it permeates the full Uluru statement. Even the one-page cover version refers to the goal of a Makarrata com­mission. Far from being a peaceful coming together, makarrata is a Yolngu word for a retribution ritual, a disabling spearing in the thigh to atone for a wrong. In this sense, what the statement’s authors want is payback for the past 240 years of nation-building as if there have been no compensating benefits for the original inhabitants.

The longer the referendum campaign runs, the less coherent the Yes message is.

Unlike the 2017 marriage plebiscite, significant Australians are stepping into and sustaining the debate.

If the Voice is defeated, their intervention will have been crucial.

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The Coincidence - a novel by Gabriel Moens

Lyle Shelton is National Director of the Family First Party. He started his career as a rural journalist before being elected as a member of the Toowoomba City Council and serving the Australian Christian Lobby for 10 years, half of that decade as ACL's Managing Director. He was a Director and spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage during the 2017 postal survey campaign which resulted in the legal undefinition of marriage. He also blogs here.

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