When searching my mind for some suitable quotes regarding the referendum result, I first came up with “The victory fell on us” from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. However, this seemed a little crudely simplistic and lacked the nuances the situation deserved. Horatio Nelson’s “First gain the victory and then make the best use of it you can” was more appropriate, for we now must work together as a nation to create the best country we can for all who call Australia home.
“Don’t gloat, dear,” my grandmother used to say. “Gloating is unladylike, unseemly and un-Christian. Just smile sweetly and move on.”
This memoir appears in the latest Quadrant.
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Now that the referendum is done and dusted, I’m having great difficulty controlling my sinful desire to gloat. Surely just a little victorious gloating wouldn’t hurt? How about a small smirk or a teensy touch of smugness? Maybe discreetly behind the closed bedroom door? Those of us who have been working for a long time to bring down Albo and his gaggle of Yes cronies deserve some leeway here. Not only have we been victorious, we have been unequivocally victorious.
My small contribution to the No vote began in October last year when Quadrant published a satirical fictional story of mine, “Saving Australia, One Bumper Sticker at a Time”. Readers wanted Josie’s non-existent stickers, fiction became fact, and my husband Lindsay and I eventually distributed 7300 stickers across Australia. I wish to thank Quadrant for publishing my articles and images of the stickers online, and all those who supported the cause by purchasing stickers. Your efforts must surely have made a difference. Feel free to gloat a little.
The road to victory was not problem-free. We received threats and lost friends. When volunteering at our local polling booth on referendum day, I learnt that not only was I a Nazi, but a “f***ing racist Nazi”. I smiled sweetly and moved on. Those of us on the right side of history must expect the occasional slings and arrows. In that long day of handing out how-to-vote cards, I never once heard any racism or malice towards Aboriginal people, only disappointment with a system that is not working and which requires a huge shake-up.
The need for proper accounting of the money going to the Aboriginal industry was often mentioned and I was told that “those rich, pale-skinned city activists need to get their fingers out of the money pot”. The referendum was considered by some to be a costly indulgence for a few people seeking fame and fortune. Adjectives used to describe the Prime Minister were varied and creative, but unfortunately cannot be included in this reputable publication.
Many excellent writers have elaborated on the reasons the referendum was not passed. Peter O’Brien quite rightly describes the “relentless ‘Aboriginification’ of community life” which has been foisted upon us for years and never fails to get up our noses. As well, I believe that many just wanted our wonderful Constitution left alone. Marcia Langton didn’t do her cause any favours by slagging off at those who disagreed with her. The PM lost most of his few fans when he said he couldn’t be bothered reading the complete Statement from the Heart, that apparently sacred feel-good text upon which the referendum was based. The squabbles and lies about how many pages made up the Statement were a real turn-off to serious voters, as were Stan Grant’s and Noel Pearson’s hissy fits. Linda Burney remains a puzzle. Perhaps she is unwell. When Alan Joyce plastered our once-loved Qantas planes with Yes advertising, he insulted more than half the population of Australia, as did many other leaders of industry and sporting bodies with their craven support.
Australians don’t welcome lectures from the rich and famous. That contrived interview with Shaq O’Neal was cringe-making, and Thomas Mayo and Lidia Thorpe were scary, albeit in different ways. Burning an Australian flag doesn’t sit well with the Australian psyche, and accusations of simmering colonial hatred, racism, prejudice, and being poorly educated, bedwetters, dinosaurs and dickheads failed to impress the electorate. Industrial-strength bias from much of the media was predictable but offensive nonetheless.
On the vote No side we had the stand-out Jacinta Price, fine speeches from Gary Johns, Warren Mundine’s heartfelt words, and One Nation’s clever cartoons (and Referendum Rum) that made us smile when gloom threatened. Some journalists and politicians came out strongly against the Voice right from the start, when it was not looking like the winning side, including our member for Bowman, Henry Pike. They were not for turning, and more power to them for that.
Quadrant’s relentless push for truth, logic and common sense inspired us all. The special August edition became a valued reference source for Australians seeking reliable information both for themselves and to share. One of the few good points to emerge from this unpleasant time is the increase in general knowledge about Aboriginal traditional culture, our history and our Constitution.
While some supporters wrote of our stickers being ripped off, I heard of only one incident where a car was damaged slightly. However, at the tag-end of the fight, my husband and I had a small run-in with the law. Three days before the vote, we decided to go into Brisbane and put up our remaining stickers. All went well for a while and we busily put them up in every bus shelter and appropriate place along the way. Then we spent a few hours in a huge shopping centre. You would have been forgiven for thinking we had a bad case of the runs, because every toilet had to be visited (and decorated artistically with our stickers). We moved boldly on to waste-paper bins and, throwing caution to the wind, balustrades and seats.
Then, oh dearie me, we met our comeuppance! As we limped along a passageway (dodgy joints and a combined 158 years of good living), we were surrounded by five uniformed policemen with all sorts of bits and bobs hanging from their belts. (Guns! Tasers! Exciting!) They were all trying not to smile.
“What larks,” I thought. After all, we were the good guys. Lurking in the background were two women whom we were told were “management”. These two were not smiling. Oh no! They looked very snarky, very angry. They had been watching us on security cameras and seeing that we were up to no good, had called in the police to sort us out. The policemen carefully stood between us and them. I wasn’t sure who was being protected from whom.
So we all had a friendly chat about the stickers while they checked us out on their laptop. Nothing, not even a parking fine, came up. Lindsay suggested tentatively and ever so politely that “management” might be Yes voters for them to be so incensed. After all, our stickers are easily removed and cause no damage. It was inopportune to mention that we were educating the populace and protecting the country from a racist, divisive takeover of our democratic system, so I held my tongue.
The centre is privately owned, and we were to be charged with defacing private property. We pleaded innocence, pointing out that we had not placed stickers on shopfronts or anywhere that might interfere with businesses or public safety. The policemen conveyed that to the cranky women and, after some considerable time, persuaded them that we were not as dangerous as they had reported, and hadn’t actually damaged any property, so maybe it wouldn’t be necessary to charge us if we went back and removed all the stickers. They grudgingly agreed. So we did, and all was well.
And now it’s all over, and the recriminations are rolling in like a tidal wave of sewage. Some began even before the start of counting, which indicates a weak commitment to the product. Those Yes voters are sore losers, that’s for sure, blaming everyone but themselves. Troy Bramston (in the Australian) joined the chorus of those bleating about misinformation, prattling on about naughty No voters “sowing confusion, resentment and fear”. Misinformation is the latest buzzword being used to control those who disagree with you. In the end, the Australian people saw through all the furphies thrown at them, and thank goodness for that.
The government has given an extra $10 million to assist those not coping with losing, and indigenous leaders committed to a week of mourning with flags flying at half-mast after the unbearable shock of the defeat. I guess they’re only referring to their cuckoo flags, not the Australian national flag, our real flag.
I presume also that the thousands of Aborigines who voted No won’t be joining this orgy of victimhood. Some Australians are supposedly so traumatised by rejection that they got time off work to “culturally heal”, whatever that means. They need safe places to do this of course, away from the threatening presence of gloating No voters. Maybe going fishing would help, or to the Melbourne Cup?
In Queensland, every public servant was offered five paid days off work to mourn. What a potential rort. Can you imagine anyone refusing those extra five days? Who’s going to run the state while all the public servants are off culturally-healing themselves down at the pub or the beach? Such government actions (using taxpayers’ money) only encourage a victim mentality. This great country was not built on the backs of the weak and wimpy whining brigade. My mother would say, if we children fell over, “Are there any bones sticking out? No? Then wipe that blood off the floor and get to school.” She made us resilient, for which we are forever grateful.
This country now needs some strong leaders, conviction politicians who will stand up and say No to treaties, makarratas, claims of sovereignty, land rights and reparations, and never-ending guilt-tripping. They must stop pandering to this small group of activists. Get rid of those cuckoo flags and welcome-to-country ceremonies, place-name changes and land grabs, and stop talking about non-existent First Nations. It’s time for our leaders to step up because the people have spoken. They said NO!
Many Australians are probably wondering how on earth we got caught up in such an ugly, divisive hiccup in the smooth running of our country. In attempting to shine some light on this nasty carbuncle, Josie will finish with the following.
Imagine a hundred children playing in a beautiful park, with plenty of goodies for everyone to share. And share them they did because basically, they were good kids. But then, alack and alas, three children decided they wanted some special goodies from the other ninety-seven because somebody was mean to some of their ancestors two hundred years ago. (Risible, but bear with me.) They drew up a pretty plan and made a list of their demands. Luckily for them, but not for democracy, a new Little Big Man was in charge of the park, and he grabbed onto this pretty plan without even reading it, because he thought it would make him famous.
But the other ninety-seven kids thought the plan was just silly. “You can’t have all this stuff, guys,” they said. “Why should you? Just because you want something doesn’t mean you should have it. Surely your mothers told you that.”
This made Little Big Man cranky, and the three demanding kiddies screeched and yelled rude words and stamped their little feet. “We want your lunch money for the rest of your lives, and your cubby houses and all your toys and all your sweeties.”
Little Big Man said, “Now, now, children, let’s be fair. All of you who want the pretty plan put up your hands.” Two of the three put up their hands (one had changed his mind) plus a couple of tiny-tots who’d wandered in from the kindy playground. Their little brains were not fully formed and they thought they were voting for ice-cream.
“Oh!” said Little Big Man, shrivelling up like a deflating balloon. “You must have misunderstood the situation. This is a really good plan. A kind and modest plan.” His eyes filled with tears. “Important people all over the world will think poorly of us if we don’t support this plan.”
“No they won’t,” said the children. “We are not stupid. This is a rubbish plan. We have said No to it and we don’t want to hear another word about it. So stop being such a sook, take your bat and ball and your silly plan and shove off.” And they turned their backs on the shrivelled-up Little Big Man, and started sharing their recess snacks with the three trouble-makers and the tiny-tots. Soon all was peaceful in the park once more.
Thank goodness for that,” said God to the Archangel Gabriel. “I thought for a minute we were going to have trouble with some of those Australians, but as usual they’ve sorted themselves out without any fisticuffs. Now let’s put on our thinking caps, Gabe, because we have some real work to do on the other side of my world.”
Joanna Hackett’s story “Saving Australia, One Bumper Sticker at a Time” appeared in the October 2022 issue, and her progress report “The Bumper Sticker Resistance” in the August special online edition.