Well the Voice referendum has been a painful experience for a lot of us. It was essentially a divisive exercise that provided an opportunity for progressives to exaggerate perceived racism in the Australian population. It was built on an antidemocratic effort to give some Australians, based on their ancestry and history, additional benefits over and above other citizens. That the referendum failed so abysmally should give the Voice proponents cause to reflect.
As a fervent No voter, I also believe that, in order not to inflame further division, we need to temper our emotional response for this victory. We should assume that just as the majority of the No voters were not racists that many of the Yes voters had good intentions.
The outcome, however, was a wonderful affirmation of the strength of our democracy. That ordinary people from our suburbs and regions were able to prevail over a much better funded campaign headed by the prime minister and supported by indigenous activists, large corporates, sporting stars, churches and assorted celebrities, was indeed a wondrous vindication of our democracy.
Those political historians that follow and analyse these things, rightfully point out that any referendum that doesn’t have bipartisan support is likely to fail. That longstanding trend has again been reinforced.
As I write this essay, the Prime Minister has declared he will consult aboriginal leaders and take his time in determining how the government might respond. None of us would want the government to do anything different – except for one thing.
More than likely the prime minister will continue to consult the same people who led him to embark on this disastrous referendum. They are largely separatists and participants in the “aboriginal Industry” who want to preserve racial division including preserving the remote communities that practice domestic violence, child sexual abuse and a confected ideal about aboriginal culture. What’s more they seem bereft of any ideas of how to improve the lot of the indigenous disadvantaged except by spending a lot more taxpayers’ dollars. In this enterprise they are often fronted by so-called indigenous leaders who are often not democratically chosen and who demonstrably don’t represent all the distinct composite parts of the indigenous population.
The agenda of this group is not about reconciliation, it is about indigenous sovereignty, reparations for historic abuses (whether real or manufactured) and the continuation of dysfunctional indigenous lives on the spurious motive of preserving indigenous culture. In short it is not about empowering indigenous individuals but granting more power to activists.
Where the ideals of the activists and the Labor party merge is in the belief that government alone is responsible for righting indigenous wrongs. It promotes the idea of victimhood and diminishes the notion of individual agency. Inevitably the proposed solution will entail more government spending, more government bureaucracy. And that, of course, suits the Labor Party.
I won’t believe that the prime minister is fair dinkum in his stated desire to consult widely with indigenous leaders until he has consulted with the likes of Warren Mundine and Jacinta Price,
As Warren Mundine has frequently said, indigenous disadvantage won’t be allayed until all indigenous kids go to school and indigenous adults go to work. And of course Senator Price wants expenditure on efforts to improve indigenous welfare audited which poses not only a threat to the government but also to the beneficiaries of such spending in the “aboriginal industry”. As well she has called for a Royal Commission on the sexual abuse of indigenous children which the government, incongruously, is resisting.
Whilst the government prior to the referendum was all for “truth telling” it now seems that any inquiry that might show indigenous culture in a bad light is to be avoided at all costs. Apparently there are only some truths that can be told and those are the ones that aid the cause of the indigenous activists! Indigenous leaders are complaining that Peter Dutton and Senator Price are trying to politicise the welfare of indigenous children by calling for this Royal Commission. How pathetic is that? Up until the referendum they were highlighting such things as part of indigenous disadvantage and were assuring us, unconvincingly, that the Voice would resolve all such issues. But now the Voice has been defeated, speaking of such issues is now suddenly offensive and a display of political opportunism never mind that it might lead to some useful, practical outcomes.
Very obviously, the referendum serves as an important message to those wishing to pursue conservative politics. In the last decade or so conservatives ( the Liberal party in particular) have committed an inordinate amount of their resources in trying to hold or win back seats in inner city electorates that have been strongly contested by the more “woke” candidates of the Labor left, the Greens and, more recently, the Teals..
The referendum highlighted the fact that these so-called “progressive” agendas (pf which the Voice was one) are really only supported by the inner city elites.
Watering down strong conservative positions to try and attract back the allegiance of these inner city elites is a foolish strategy insofar as it is not only unlikely to attract such voters, but even more disastrously, it alienates the conservatives natural core in the suburbs and the regions.
(In a broader sense it reflects the lack of courage of the conservative parties in recent decades that have refused to fight against the “culture wars” that the left has waged resulting in the rise of identity politics and the imposition of “wokeness” on an unwilling society.)
Nationals leader, David Littleproud understood this when he committed his party to opposing the Voice quite early in the piece. I suspect that when Peter Dutton finally committed the Liberal Party to opposing the Voice, the referendum was doomed to fail. Dutton sealed the deal when his Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Julian Leeser, stood down to support the Voice and Dutton replaced him with the formidable Jacinta Price.
In Queensland, where the shine is rapidly coming off Premier Palaszczuk, LNP Opposition Leader, David Crisafulli has been steadily winning support for the conservatives. But then, inexplicably, he supported Labor in pursuing a state based Truth Telling and Treaty initiative. Now, with almost 80% of Queensland’s voters rejecting the Voice referendum, he has withdrawn his party’s support. Surely all political parties need to reassess their position after such a convincing rejection. Nevertheless many politicians are finding it hard to digest, including the Prime Minister.
My reading of the current status of the issues raised by the Voice proposal is, that again, we should not be complacent.. The proponents of the Voice are attempting to rationalise away the defeat in a number of ways.
The Prime Minister is still refusing to reject the other aspects of the Uluru Statement, viz Truth Telling and Treaty. This seems to me to be an arrogant rejection of the will of the people.
Some of the elites are arguing that the Voice was accepted in inner city electorates where the majority of voters hold university degrees. From this they deduce that the Voice proposal was rejected because it was too complex for the average voter to understand (which stands in stark contrast to the position the Prime Minister took when promoting the proposal to the electorate). This is typical of these elites who would like to have us believe that they have a monopoly on the truth and we lesser educated (and by implication dumber folk) should just be guided by them and their superior acumen.
Aboriginal activists argue that the No vote reflected innate racism in our population and therefore is not morally binding.
I have other concerns too which I can’t elaborate on in this short essay. Suffice to say I don’t believe we have done with these issues yet by a long shot.
In the meantime the Queensland government has offered its employees up to five days leave to mourn the defeat of the referendum. How pathetic we have become if we need to mourn a decision democratically arrived at. There is no likelihood they would have made the same offer to supporters of the No case if the referendum had succeeded. Next thing they will be offering such an opportunity to grieve if Labor loses the next election or Queensland is defeated in the Rugby League State of Origin series.
One of the underlying causes of indigenous dysfunction is the refusal of many to accept their civic responsibilities. In a functional democracy it is incumbent on all of us to accept a majority decision. All of us need to face reality. Such an effort to shield people from reality just feeds the debilitating rush to victimhood.
Finally, the rationale behind the Voice referendum purported to be that the voice of indigenous people was not being heard. Yet the No case was largely prosecuted by two outstanding indigenous voices, viz Warren Nyunggai Mundine and Jacinta Nampijinpa Price. They, more than anyone else, influenced the Australian population to vote No to a divisive and undemocratic modification to our constitution.
Their only reputed sin was that they decried indigenous victimhood and responded to the Voice proposal with common sense and a patriotism that the activists didn’t want to hear!
We, who cherish our country and our democracy, owe a great debt to both of them.
Ted Scott AM was awarded an Order of Australia in 2004 for his contribution to industry, and was named one of Australia's top thirty business leaders in 2001 by AFR's BOSS Magazine. He holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics and had a successful career in management in the electricity generation industry in Queensland, managing many power stations. Ted is a writer and the author of several books.
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