Aborigines

The Yes and No Cases for Constitutional Change

In his first statement on assuming office, our new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed his government to implementing in full the Uluru Statement from the Heart that proposes changing the Australian Constitution to give specific recognition to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is a view that Quadrant has opposed for more than twenty years. We believe that rather than unifying Australia’s population, such a measure would deeply divide us. It would be a disaster for both black and white Australians. Moreover, we believe that the full agenda behind the proposal has never been put to the Australian people. Its revival, and Albanese’s pledge to put it to a referendum in his current term of office, means it has become once more a critical political issue that deserves an immediate but thorough response. The article that follows is Part One of a multi-part response that will be published weekly for the next two months on Quadrant Online.

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IN THEIR book, Everything You Need to Know About the Referen­dum to Recognise Indigenous Australians (UNSW Press, 2015) Megan Davis and George Williams provide a concise version of the Yes and No cases for constitutional amend­ment. While their Yes case is a pithy summary of the arguments they make throughout their book, and an accu­rate account of the main points of their case, the No case they publish is a forlorn creature, which they have written to give the impression that dissenters have only feeble arguments on their side. When they put the No case, they were clearly running dead.

Davis and Williams could have easily found an oppo­nent of constitutional recognition to write the No case for their book. There is no shortage of authors. In 2014, Gary Johns put together a team of twelve writers for his own dissenting anthology, Rec­ognise What? Some of the con­tributors to Johns’s book are, like Davis, academics of Abo­riginal descent, who probably would have been glad to help. Unfortunately, Davis and Williams chose not to undertake a fair debate of this kind.

So, to even up the debate, I present here the Yes case of Davis and Williams in its strongest form. I reproduce, verbatim and in full, the text of their own book’s Yes case. But instead of their lame duck No case, I follow each of their arguments with responses of my own showing why their case is devoid of credibility and why Australians should not support this proposal.

1/ Yes: The Constitution was drafted to exclude Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from the political set­tlement that brought about the Australian nation. We need to fix that historic exclusion.

No: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were not excluded from the political settlement that produced the Con­stitution. Like all other colonial Australians, Aboriginal people had the right to vote to appoint the delegates to the Constitutional Con­ventions in the 1890s and to vote to approve the even­tual Constitution when in 1899 it was put to the people for final consent. There was no “historic exclusion” of indigenous people.

At Federation, our Constitu­tion made Australia widely recognised as the most democratic country in the world. In the Aus­tralian colo­nies before 1901 and in the nation and states after Federa­tion, the great majority of Abo­rigines had the same political rights as other Australi­ans, including the right to vote, which the Consti­tution guar­anteed them in Section 41. The then sparsely popu­lated states of Queensland and West­ern Australia, where there were property qualifications for vot­ing, were the only excep­tions. Aboriginal people were active partici­pants in colonial elections throughout the 1890s in New South Wales, Victoria, South Aus­tralia and Tasmania, and in the same states after Fed­eration in 1901. Claims that the Constitution denied Aborigines the right to vote, and there­fore denied them citizen­ship and excluded them from the nation, are myths based on political fabrications and bad legal schol­arship.

2/ Yes: It is important that the Constitution, the founding docu­ment of the nation, recognises Australia’s full history; not just the period from British settlement.

No: The Constitution was never intended to be a history of the Australian people. It does not mention the history of any partic­ular ethnic group, and there is no good reason to make an exception for Aborigines now. It is a legal com­pact between the people of the six former colonies to form a nation, and its princi­pal function is to distribute various powers between the Com­monwealth and the states. It is a practical charter of government, not a syn­opsis of Australian history. Moreover, the Yes case here confuses the history of the continent, which has been occupied by Aboriginal people for 50,000 years, with the history of the nation, which was formally created in 1901 and whose origins date back only to 1788.

While Aboriginal people had full citi­zenship in 1901, none of their ancient laws were adopted into the Constitu­tion, not for racist reasons but because they were not applicable to the needs of a modern industrial soci­ety. The his­tory of Aboriginal people on this continent before 1788 is an enthralling topic, but it is not the history of the Australian nation.

3/ Yes: We need to remove discrimination from our Con­stitution. It should prevent, rather than permit, racial dis­crimination so that all Australians are treated equally.

No: Left-wing academics and Aboriginal activists have been trying for decades to transfer decision-making about Aboriginal affairs from parliaments to the High Court, where they get a more generous hearing. Their claims that the Constitution dis­criminates against Aborigines are part of this ploy, and are based on false claims about a decision the court has never made. One of the Constitution’s two sections they want to repeal was reworded in 1967 after the referendum that year gave the Com­monwealth the right to legislate for Aboriginal people, a right previously confined to the states. More than 90 per cent of the Australian elec­torate then voted in favour of the clause, a result widely celebrated at the time by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike. However, today’s activists and academics smear it as racist in order to further their own undemocratic agenda.

4/ Yes: Recognition in the Constitution would protect against the future loss of Australia’s unique indigenous cultures, which are a vital part of our national identity. Recognition will help improve Indigenous health and well being.

No: Constitutional change can do little to preserve cul­tures. To survive, cultures need to be lived by real peo­ple, not written in a document few will ever read. In any case, the tradi­tional high culture of Aboriginal society died out in the southern half of Australia before the end of the nineteenth cen­tury, and had been abandoned by Aboriginal people in central and northern Aus­tralia by the end of the Second World War. The dances, ceremonies and garments we see today are all recent inventions, with no genuine connection to the traditional high culture.

There is no credible empirical evidence that mention­ing Aborigi­nes in the Constitu­tion would improve their health. The claim is spec­ula­tion by a lobby group of psy­chiatrists, who claim it would improve Abo­riginal self-esteem. The gesture would be largely irrelevant to the 80 per cent of Aboriginal people who are now well inte­grated into mainstream Australia, mostly in the suburbs of the major cities and larger regional centres. And it would go com­pletely unnoticed in the emergency departments of hospitals in central and northern Australia where, because of the failed policy of isolating indigenous people in remote communities, Abo­riginal women and child victims of Aboriginal violence and sexual abuse are grossly over-represented.

5/ Yes: A successful referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution would be an uplifting achievement that unites Australians.

No: It would divide Australians, not unite us. The inten­tion of Aboriginal activists for the past forty years has been to gain sovereignty and self-determination under their own laws and governments. They regard constitutional change not as the fulfilment of their demands but simply one more step in the “unfinished business” of segregating themselves from the Australian nation, which they regard as a vehicle of colonial oppression. After they establish their Aboriginal Voice, their next objective has been openly discussed in their own literature, but rarely reported in the mainstream media. It is to create independent black states linked only to Australia by treaties. They will be funded by rents, taxes and reparations on Australian governments and, in particular, on our mining, agricultural, pastoral and timber industries.

Eligibility for mem­ber­ship of each of these independent states would be restricted to people of Abo­riginal descent — in other words, these states would be based on race. This would inevita­bly gener­ate widespread resentment among non-Aborigi­nal Aus­tralians, who would have to pay for it all. A consti­tu­tional amend­ment to give Aboriginal people priv­ileges una­vaila­ble to other Aus­tralians would not make our nation com­plete. It would divide it permanently.

This is an updated version of the Preface to Keith Windschuttle’s book The Break-up of Australia: The Real Agenda Behind Aboriginal Recognition, Quadrant Books, 2016

55 comments
  • gardner.peter.d

    In respect of item one it is worth noting that property ownership was still a qualification to vote in the UK. To vote, one also had to be resident in one place for at least 12 mths. These requirements, among others, remained in place until 1918. So Australia in 1901 was indeed more democratic than the UK.

  • vagan

    Not to mention the fact that Indigenous women in South Australia got the vote a generation before any woman in the UK.

  • Michael

    The arguments for ‘the Voice’ on the grounds of consultation with Aboriginal Australians on issues that affect them, or overcoming disadvantage, are irrelevant to the question of Constitutional enshrinement. Because the Parliament already has the power to create any advisory mechanism, any program, and the necessary institutional arrangements, that go to those issues.

    The whole point of the Statement from the Heart, and it’s obvious when you read it, the whole point of the Constitutional recognition of ‘the Voice’, is to enshrine in the Constitution a special status for a group of Australians based on their ancestry. No, no, no. A million times, no!

  • ianl

    “The Voice” within the Constitution will simply allow an activist High Court to legalise perpetual reparations.

    Agree with Michael above – the Parliament already has the power to create any number of advisory bodies. If the reparation concept flowing from a Constitutional Voice is not accurate, then the existing parliamentary powers are sufficient for any number of loud Voices to be created.

  • Clive Bond

    Aboriginal women got the vote in the Constitution in 1901, 20 years before women in the UK or USA. Aborigines got the same rights and responsibilities in the Constitution as ordinary Australians. They are very good at taking up their rights but a bit slack at times with their responsibilities.

  • Davidovich

    Windschuttle’s arguments are well-based and will be vital if this latest attempt by Labor and the other activists are to be prevented from irreversibly damaging Australia. The, apparently innocuous to some, inclusion of previous aboriginal habitation in the preamble has been adopted by several States in their Constitutions but has only served to precipitate further demands for land-handbacks and treaties. This magazine some years ago warned of the dangers of such an addition to the Federal Constitution and those warnings and their arguments are still very apt.

  • whitelaughter

    Indeed, and good points in the comments.

    But a simple thought experiment – if Germany amended their constitution to grant ‘a voice’ to the indigenous Aryan people, would the trendy set approve? No, not even they are that evil. Not quite. But they’ll copy that degree of evil here.

  • Andrew Campbell

    Goodonya Keith and Quadrant. Activist courts and lawyers love playing games with constitutions. So the U.S. Supreme Court found the ‘right’ to easy abortion in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1868) – and now may find that that ‘right’ isn’t in the Fourteenth Amendment after all. Who knows what an activist High Court may find in any change to the Australian Constitution in 150 years? The old dictum, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’ applies to constitutions.

  • cbattle1

    Good point, whitelaughter! That really puts the focus on “racism”!

  • Farnswort

    I would urge everyone to get a copy of Mr Windschuttle’s important book “The Break-up of Australia”.

  • Michael Waugh

    Chris Kenny in the Weekend Oz supported “The Voice”. It was not entirely clear, but I gleaned he meant some addition to the “race power”, s51(xxvi), which was amended in the 1967 referendum to grant the Fed govt power to make special laws for the benefit of indigenous Australians. If the Fed Govt was given the power to create a body representing indigenous Australians and that body had a “voice” over legislation which invoked the “race power”, and that was recognised in the constitution in that “race power” provision, that would have many benefits, don’t you think ?

  • tom

    The ‘No’ case at point 5 is all that needs to be said. The idea that one group of citizens should have more rights on the basis of their ethnicity is a terrible and racist idea. It is reminiscent of the ideology of blood and soil which we should have no difficulty rejecting unanimously.

    The last time I checked our Australian society was based on the rule of law, with all citizens being equal under the law. This is of fundamental importance in a free society. The people advocating this change know not what they do.

  • tommbell

    Simply because the right to vote has been raised, see the attached link for a pretty balanced view .

    https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/right-vote

  • talldad

    Tom, the people advocating the change know precisely what they are trying to achieve. However, they know not the consequences of what they seek.

  • Michael Waugh

    Thanks for that link Tommbell. It makes clear that the constitution provided the right to vote to those allowed to vote under state laws and some states did not extend the franchise to the indigenous population. The Fed Govt extended the franchise to all indigenous people in 1962 (and the last state to do so, Queensland, did so in 1963). The Australian people amended the constitution in 1967 to give the Fed Govt power to make special laws in favour of indigenous people. The special position of indigenous people and the fact that they labour under disadvantage has been part and parcel of our history since Europeans settled in the continent. This is not a new thing. A “voice” attached to the “race power” seems a simple and fair addition, does it not ? It recognises the reality of our history since 1788. It completes the 1967 referendum by providing that the “race”, the subject of special laws enacted under the Commonwealth “race” power, have a special “voice” in respect of such special laws.

  • restt

    The change in the Constitution allowed the Commonwealth to legislate for Aboriginals. The Racial Discrimination. act allows for special measures legislation to assist disadvantaged races. It would be better that the discussion turn to the many pieces of racist legislation that provides enormous benefits to all Aboriginals – not just those in need. And that legislation leaves out other races that are in need. TSI people are Melansian and receive all benefits – education, health, legal services etc. Melanisan Australian without descent to the TSI and Polynesian Australians do not receive any benefit despite the majority starting from a much worse social-economic position. The argument should swing to remove RACE and only consider need.

  • joemiller252

    Can a Voice to Parliament really prepare the way for “Black States”, as Keith Windschuttle argues under Item 5? It’s one thing to suspect an ulterior motive, it’s another to point out how “Black States” could be formed without further change(s) to the Constitution, change that would surely be resisted by most people in most states.

  • Brian Boru

    Thank you Keith. I was educated to hate racism in all its forms.

  • Katzenjammer

    That was too easy – five premises with no foundation. Look forward to the rest of this series as arguments to use on forums when the time comes for the referendum.

  • lestkelly

    Aboriginal activists may engage many plausible cliches and platitudes but they strenuously reject the word “integration” for very good reason – because they strive for sovereign Aboriginal states financed by the rest of Australia.

  • emote

    test

  • Keith Windschuttle

    Joemiller252 rightly asks: Can a Voice to Parliament really prepare the way for “Black States”, as Keith Windschuttle argues under Item 5?
    Well, the Referendum Council appointed jointly by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten recommended how that could happen. Its report of June 2017 which advocated the Voice also called for legislation that “should include the function of monitoring the use of the heads of power in section 51 (xxvi) and section 122”. Section 51 (xxvi) gives the Commonwealth the power to make laws for any race of people. Section 122 allows the Commonwealth to make laws for any territory surrendered by any state or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth and allows the representation of that territory in either House of the Parliament. In short, if constitutional change along the lines recommended by the Referendum Council had been successful, it looked forward to the government acquiring new Aboriginal states or territories and accepting them into the Commonwealth.
    This is obviously a program for a radical revision of the Australian federation—all of it in the interests of Aboriginal people. But although the Referendum Council’s fourteen members included a former Chief Justice of the High Court, Murray Gleeson, it gave no thought to how it could possibly be in the legal or political interests of the rest of us.

  • rosross

    The concept of special mention, extra voice etc., seems to ignore the reality that it would institute a Laddered tribal effect in Australia which would destroy our democracy.

    Such longevity laddering would rank Australians depending on how far back they could trace, or believed they could trace, some of their ancestry. The foundation of this approach is that longevity counts and those with the longest connection have the greater rights and superiority of citizenship.

    You first have to find, which group of the 350 plus here in 1788 had been here longer, i.e. were the FIRST.
    Then we have to find the Second, Third, Fourth etc., arrivals and have a ladder of seniority for all of those groups, descending down to Australians without Aboriginal ancestry ranking how long some ancestry has been here, down to the most inferior, those who became citizens recently. That is not democratic of course but one presumes those who want to believe in First Nations do not care about democracy.

    We then need to have a ladder for each Aboriginal tribal group, identifying who had the most ancestry, i.e. 100% and you are top of the ladder, less than 1% you are at the bottom, with everyone else in between.
    We have to do that for every group, First, Second and onwards, before we then establish a ladder for the lowest rung and most inferior Australians, those with no Aboriginal ancestry and the truly inferior, those who took up recent citizenship. We may need a category for those who might have Aboriginal ancestry but have no proof of it; the limbo-land of worth if you like.

    The ladder effect.

    Which group of Aboriginal peoples out of 350 plus here in 1788 were descended from the first Homo Sapiens to arrive in Australia? That is the first thing we must establish if we are going to get this right.

    Which then came second, third, fourth, fifth etc?

    Those from the tribe descended from the first would have to be ranked in percentage of that Aboriginal ancestry, from 100% (not sure any exist anymore but we could try) down to less than 1%. There would be a question as to whether very mixed Aboriginal ancestry from groups which arrived later, cancelled out the ancestral street-cred for the group deemed to be FIRST. But probably not because that FIRST group is the ‘gold’ for Australian citizenship and the smallest amount of it would surely cancel out any other impurities.

    Then Ladders for all of the other 350 groups, again depending on percentage of ancestry just so we can be sure that people are properly credited for the superiority they have inherited. We would probably need to stick with 350 different groups here in 1788 or it all becomes unworkable. Apologies to the clans/tribes/groups which fell into the ‘plus’ of the 350 plus groups here in 1788.

    Ladder 351 (or 550 once we establish just how many Aboriginal groups were here in 1788) would be for Australians without Aboriginal ancestry, according to how long some of their ancestry could be traced back. Since this is the majority of the 26 million Australians the numbers would require that the Ladders are set up to be manageable. In other words it would not be possible to have one Ladder to properly attribute value as citizens for 25.5 million Australians.

    The ladder would need to take into account percentages of such tracked ancestry, i.e. someone with 3% ancestry tracking back 230 years would be superior to someone with 2% of such ancestry but inferior to anyone who has more than 3% of such ancestry.

    Ladder 352 would be for the same group but for those tracking ancestry back 100-150 years.

    Ladder 353 would be for those tracking Australian citizenship back in living memory, for at least 50 years. With those who became citizens most recently at the bottom of the ladder, i.e. the most inferior citizens of Australia.

    That should do it! A nation divided, tribalism restored, racism entrenched and Australia destroyed.

  • rosross

    @ keith windschuttle,

    In regard to the use of the term ‘race’:

    should include the function of monitoring the use of the heads of power in section 51 (xxvi) and section 122”. Section 51 (xxvi) gives the Commonwealth the power to make laws for any race of people.

    Since Aboriginal peoples were not a race in 1788, divided into hundreds of different groups, descended from different and earlier waves of migration and without a common language and often no common language source, now through intermarriage disseminated into thousands of variations on those themes, how can the Commonwealth make laws for something which does not exist?

    Historical records show that the British identified various ‘racial’ characteristics and were confident that Aboriginal peoples represented a variety of ‘races.’

    More so because modern genetics, no doubt for politically correct reasons, but who cares, states there are no races beyond the human race with less than 1% difference between what we once called races, means there is no scientific basis for the existence of any races, let alone Aboriginal.

    And as Professor John Hawks says in Deep History Within the Human Genome, every single human alive today is descended from the same relatively small group of humans in the distant past. We are one in essence and there are and were no races beyond the Human Race.

    For the Commonwealth to make laws for ‘any race’ surely they must first prove that races exist and that something called an Aboriginal race existed in 1788 and still exists today and has the power, genetically, to remain dominant even in someone who is 99% Anglo-European in ancestry but has 1% Aboriginal ancestry from tribe a. or b.

  • rosross

    @joemiller252,

    How can we have black states when most of those who register Aboriginal ancestry are pale-skinned and more Anglo-European than anything else? And as if they would want to go and live in such places anyway.

  • PT

    Michael Waugh. Has it occurred to you that the embedding the “voice” in the Constitution is deliberately designed to make it a permanent feature? It’s not a temporary measure to overcome “disadvantage” but something that will endure long after this has been removed. And designed as such. Open your eyes.

  • Adelagado

    It will never end. Welcome to Country ceremonies, Smoking ceremonies, Acknowledging the traditional owners, Aboriginal flags everywhere, Stickers that say ‘Always was, always will be, BS aboriginal history taught in schools… It will never end!

  • restt

    The actions of everyone involved in creating a Voice is a breach of Section 9 of the Racial Discrimination Act. The RDA incorporates the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination [ICERD]

    Article 5(c) of the ICERD states “States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race ……… Political rights, in particular the rights to participate in elections—to vote and to stand for election—on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, to take part in the Government as well as in the conduct of public affairs at any level and to have equal access to public service;

    It is incredible that this is even being discussed.

  • wdr

    Excellent article- let’s hope that this dangerous proposal isn’t waived through, with the Coalition playing dead- less likely under Dutton than with his predecessor. Arguably the main objection to this proposal is that Aborigines- or those who claim to have some Aboriginal ancestry- will have two votes, whereas as a non-Aboriginal, I will have only one vote. (William D. Rubinstein)

  • john.singer

    It is significant that in the 55 years since the Referendum which allowed the Federal Parliament to make laws for ANY RACE thry have for the most part refrained from doing so. The only Racial legislation that I can find are the Native Title legislations based on the High Court’s uncontested decision in Mabo (No2) which was partly based on feelings and only partly based on law.

  • pmprociv

    Surely the term “voice” is racist, for it is stereotyping, implying that people of Aboriginal descent all think the same way, or could be represented by “one voice”. In my experience, their views and opinions seem just as varied as those of the rest of the population. And what precisely is the role of the current 10 Federal MPs who identify as indigenous? Plus others who represent electorates with indigenous voters?
    Can’t they speak for their constituents? If not, what exactly is their job? If The Voice is to advise only on matters affecting indigenous folk, does that mean many of our present laws don’t pertain to them?
    As Keith points out, the extremists for the Yes case aim ultimately to have separate nation states on the continent, “bantustans” just like in apartheid South Africa, for which it was pilloried internationally. As others have already pointed out, this will be “fighting racism with racism”.
    A perhaps even greater challenge, one that will present our legal fraternity with a bonanza, will be deciding just who gets to vote for The Voice. For starters, does Bruce Pascoe qualify? What about the army of race-shifters, who grow in numbers between censuses at a colossal rate and live mainly in our cities? Sorting them out will take years, and cost a fortune. For what?
    And, of course, the assumption underlying all this is that “The Gap”, which essentially affects mainly remote-community dwellers, is a direct result of their being overlooked and ignored, which could not be further from the truth. Setting up a parallel parliament will simply increase the numbers of privileged, entitled snouts in the trough, chiefly concerned with feathering their own nests — remember ATSIC? Do we really need more politicians, especially unaccountable ones?

  • restt

    John.Singer

    There are a large range of race based laws – both Commonwelath and territory : ABSTUDY, OCHRE employment program NSW Aboriginal land Rights Act, providing billions to Aboriginals only handover of 7 National Parks under NSW Parks and wildlife act
    Stolen Generations reparations acts – money paid to aboriginal for being taken under general welfare legislation and no other race is paid. Special land grants outside native title in nearly every state

    Specialist health services. Specialist legal services.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    Before the1967 referendum, the Commonwealth presented a “Yes” case and a “No” case. I have searched for the words in the “No” case but have never found anything of significance. I have not been able to discern if the Commonwealth is legally required to give equal weight to its cases. IF it is required and if others fail to find any substantial “No” case material, does this invalidate the 1967 referendum? Geoff S

  • Michael Waugh

    PT, I agree that the “voice” once in is likely to be permanent, but we already have the “Race power” in s51(xxxvi). Since 1967 the only purpose of that power is to make special laws for Indigenous Australians. It has been used numerous times. Off the top of my head : Whitlam’s Land Rights, various heritage protection acts, and Keating’s Native Title Act. Frankly, no-one really expects Indigenous disadvantage to disappear for generations yet, do they ? Indigenous Australians seem proud of the fact that they have remained culturally the same for 60,000 years. For myself, I’m not sure that is something to be proud of. But it underlines the enormous cultural gap and the fact that special laws are likely to be required for beyond the foreseeable future. It doesn’t seem too radical in those circumstances to give this special people a say on special laws designed specifically for them.

  • john.singer

    Restt
    Most of the “Acts” you mention are State ones and others give special benefits but do not really divide.
    There are however actions that are not legislations that clearly do divide for example the renaming of Departments of Aboriginal Affairs to Departments for Indigenous Australians clearly divide the Nation by separating Aboriginal People from the other 20 Million or so Australians born in Australia. ( Western Australia woke up and reversed the naming).
    We know Australians who were born overseas are not Indigenous Australians but if those that were born here are not indigenous Australians then what are they?

  • Mali Taus

    “One voice” will result in the bitter infighting seen around the world when democracy, equality before the law and commonsense are sidelined in the interests of placating “special” groups, contrary to “Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination”. Look at any post-conflict country: all brothers in arms until the war is won and then they turn on one another with a savagery that is frightening. And to the detriment of everyone else. It creates what I call the “#MeFirst” (you second) culture: I will trample over your bleeding body to get what I want …

  • Peter Marriott

    Thanks Keith, and I look forward to the rest of the series.
    I have your book ‘The Breakup Of Australia’ and can only wish that one of these very wealthy Australians, and I mean our billionaires, could spend a fraction of their wealth, most of which has been made in our Nation Australia, in purchasing a million copies of it to keep it intact, by sending the book free of charge, to one million households addresses. I’m thinking in particular of the silly and futile waste of billions on this hydrogen nonsense by Forrest. It will achieve nothing because it’s all pie in the sky utopian ‘wishes’ and is in the category of ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ in my eyes, sort of like trying to create a perpetual motion machine that can actually drive things. It can’t be done, with the human heart being the only thing that could be viewed as coming close I think. There are some trying to white-ant the Nation into something that will breakup, and a mere 50 or 60 million dollars from him could stop this rot, as I’m sure that if the majority were to read your book they would quickly see what is at play here, and even a socialist Government would be forced to drop the whole idea of a so called ‘voice’. The aborigines ( not indigenous as all of us born here are that, regardless of race) are born with equal opportunity in front of them, just like the rest of us but it’s up to individual parental guidance as to how this is managed in life with ‘índividual’ being the operative word, definitely not ‘tribe’ or extended family group. Those that have got out of the destructive tribalism and disappeared into mainstream life have done it, why can’t the rest. The mainstream is right out there in front of their eyes, all they have to do is stand up, step outside and start getting into it. We’ve wasted billions and billions over the last 100 years trying to give them a better life and it’s all been treated with contempt, because of the destructive agitators within their own groups, sadly egged on by even more obsessed white agitators.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    In 1967 it was almost unthinkable to vote No. Overwhelmingly Yes was the feeling, giving the poor buggers a better deal etc being the emotion.

    Sadly, this sort of emotion will be drawn upon again, in a different era, with so many more assistances having been provided for aboriginal disadvantage, in order for some activists to create racial division and disharmony. A ‘voice’ in the Constitution will be permanent and subject to all sorts of abuses.

    I hope more people will consider voting No this time, refusing to institutionalise a separate citizenry. That seems to be such a backward step given advances made so far. Parliament is enough of a ‘voice’ now.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    The disadvantage seen in remote communities these days is a direct result of ‘progressive’ government policies which have removed incentives for employment and for movement to established rural towns.
    Learned helplessness and alcoholic violence from people without meaningful activity has been the result.
    No ‘voice’ is going to fix that, only policies which promote resettlement and/or employment and for children, a safe home environment and proper attendance at school.

    Dutton has lost a tremendous opportunity bypassing Jacinta Price for Aboriginal Affairs in his Shadow Cabinet. She knows and understands the complexity of the problems and is not in favour of ‘the Voice’.
    We are being primed in all media and commentary to simply accept this ‘voice’ as a fait accompli.

  • john.singer

    Elizabeth Beare
    By not appointing Jacinta Nampijinpa Price to cabinet Peter Dutton made a serious blunder giving the post to Julian Leeser, not because he is white, but because he supports the Voice.
    If a Conservative Opposition does not have a Shadow Minister who takes the conservative view then the Cabinet is left only hearing one side of the matter for discussion.

  • DougD

    The Voice is a disastrous idea. So many problems starting with who will have authority from all Aboriginals to speak to Parliament as the Voice. The Statement from the Heart won’t necessarily bind all Aboriginals to agree with what those claiming to speak as the Voice. Majority decision making is foreign to Aboriginal culture. Only unanimous consensus seems to be acceptable: look at what the Human Rights Commission calls “lateral violence” arising within native title claimant groups. The problems finish with when the Voice has spoken. How must Parliament respond? If Parliament’s decision does not satisfy any Aboriginal? some designated Aboriginal?, the courts will almost certainly be able to stop or delay Parliament acting. Look at the court decisions on legislation that imposes a duty on a government agency to merely consult with some body before acting. Was there any consultation? did the agency genuinely consider the body’s criticisms of the proposed action before ignoring them? should the agency be told to start again? How long could Voice-based litigation delay eg a government plan to fund construction of a dam?

  • rosross

    The major problem with a Voice for those called Aboriginal is that there is no Voice and never was and neither is there something called an Aboriginal people and never was. Neither have existed.

    In 1788 there were 350 plus different groups, some say 500, pick a figure, without a common language, often no common language source and certainly no unified voice nor any capacity to find one. That is why there was no Treaty in Australia. There would have needed to be 350 plus Treaties and that was unworkable.

    Today we have literally thousands of variations on that theme with most of those who register Aboriginal ancestry or call themselves Indigenous, more Anglo-European in ancestry than Aboriginal so not even any sort of clear voice in individuals, let alone as a unified group.

    In Aboriginal communities people cannot agree as it is, riven by familial, ‘skin’ and tribal differences so to contemplate a voice which speaks for all equally, from every remote community in every State, as well as the majority of the 700,000 who register Aboriginality, ranging from 50% down to less than 1% Aboriginal in ancestry is simply ridiculous.

    How can such a voice ever be created and what purpose can it possibly serve in modern Australia where every citizen has a voice in his or her vote? As it is, Australians with Aboriginal ancestry are already over-represented in State and Federal Parliaments, numbering around 4.2% for a population of 3% across Australia.

    To have one tiny group of Australians singled out for extra help and benefits is bad enough but to create a Third Chamber in our democracy, so they get a louder voice is not just unconstitutional and undemocratic, it is racist.

  • rosross

    @john.singer,

    While I have a lot of respect for Jacinta Price I do not believe she is ready for a cabinet position. It will do her good to be in the backblocks for at least three years. Too much too soon is never a good foundation for anyone.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I agree with you about Jacinta, Ros. I worry that she will be forced to dance to the party tune and her voice reduced to just another spruiker of the party line. That will be an enormous shame because she and Warren Mundine are the most credible voices on Aboriginal issues.

  • MichaelinBrisbane

    I thought I overheard this in a conversation the other day at the local cafe: “If those Aboriginals get their ‘Voice’ then we Muslims must be the next to demand one for ourselves — our concerns are totally overlooked in this nation which was essentially set up on Christian principles.”
    Was that Rosross hearing the same conversation on that other table in the corner?

  • Farnswort

    It looks like the Coalition’s new shadow attorney-general is in favour of the racist ‘Voice’ proposal:

    https://www.crikey.com.au/2022/06/08/albanese-welcomes-coalition-offer-on-voice/

    I was hoping that the abysmal Julian Leeser would lose his seat at the election but, unfortunately, he’s still there.

    Also consider the ridiculous argument put forward by Albanese: “This will be just like the apology to Stolen Generations – when it happens, people will wonder why it hadn’t happened earlier.”

    Got that? Don’t support entrenching a permanent racial divide in the constitution and giving certain citizens extra rights and privileges based on their ancestry? You are stuck in the past – the tide is against you!

  • Farnswort

    Albanese’s comments above are a perfect example of elite arrogance.

  • Ceres

    Fantastic summary but we can be sure the ‘No’ arguments as presented by Keith will be hard to find and will be watered down when the ‘No’ argument has to be published by the Pollies. Can’t risk the ‘rascist’ name.
    As Tom above said, point No 5 is the crux. Let me correct the “Yes” version.
    “A successful referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution would be an …… achievement that …. divides Australians.”

  • Petronius

    It is time now for an advocacy group for the No case. Such a group needs to adopt the same tactics as the Yes case by influencing governments, business corporations, educational institutions and putting up posters in streets and shopping malls. The No case will never get off the ground with confinement to intellectual books, conservative journals and Sky news opinions. There is little time to lose.

  • Michael Waugh

    I still think a blank “No” to the “Voice” proposal at this stage is premature. I readily concede that many problems loom. However, the constitutional race power exists and has been used. Surely it was invoked by John Howard’s “Intervention” legislation, for example. If the nation purports to own a race power for special purposes, it behoves it ill to deny out of hand the right of the targetted race not to make recommendations regarding its use. A “Voice” attached to that “Race power” seems, on its face, a reasonable proposal, indeed one that accords with long standing common law principles regarding the right to be heard. How do you decide which persons are eligible to constitute the “Voice” ? Well, since we must be determining which people are to be affected by the legislation enacted under the race power, we must have the means of making that same determination for the purposes of the “Voice” to have a say in respect of the proposed law. If memory serves, the High Court in Love described a tripartite classification of “non-Alien” : self-identification, identification by a well-established group (eg native title holders), plus actual heritage. I agree with many of the fears or concerns expressed above in both the article by the very learned Mr Windschuttle and the comments, but I can’t help feeling that we should wait until we hear the detail of the proposed “Voice”.

  • Farnswort

    Petronius: “It is time now for an advocacy group for the No case.”

    Agreed, there is no time to lose.

    The ‘no’ case should stick to a simple message: ‘the Voice’ is a racist proposal that will permanently divide Australian citizens into different classes. It violates the principle of racial equality under the law.

  • restt

    The Constitutional change allowed the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginals (as well as any other race). The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 allows laws for particular races and are described as Special Measures – they must be temporary to lift up human rights and must be terminated when achieved. …the important part of any special measure being equality of opportunity …. But that has now been totally confused with an equality of outcomes.

    Special measures legislation across the country already involves extensive input and negotiation with Aboriginal people’s/groups.

  • rosross

    @MichaelinBrisbane,

    Absolutely. Death by a thousand cuts. Establish a principle for one and you establish it for all.

  • rosross

    @Petronius,

    There are such groups already in construction. They lied to get a Yes in the 67 Referendum and they will lie for this one. However, in this age there is a greater capacity to combat the lies.

  • padraic

    A very practical article with excellent comments. If the referendum process ever gets off the ground there should be full page advertisements in newspapers, plus advertising in other media containing Keith’s “against” points, and should someone take up Petronius’ suggestion of an advocacy group for the “No” case, I would be happy to donate to ensure the “No” case is heard. The group could be called “Australians against racism”, inferring those for the Constitutional enshrinement are for racism (which is true – as others have alluded in the comments). If they lost the referendum, their backup Plan B would be no doubt put into effect – that is using s.51(xxix) of the Constitution – External affairs – to adopt a UN Convention carefully crafted by “Indigenous” groups (including Aboriginal activists working in the UN) and their non-indigenous legal lackeys that would ensure the same outcome as a successful referendum – but without the messy aspect of democracy getting in the way. On another point raised in the comments, the word “race” in 1901 when the Constitution was implemented was used in a much wider way than today. Race could depend on colour – the white/yellow/black race, nationality – the German/British/Nordic race, geography – European, Asian, African – etc, etc. Presumably s.51 (xxvi) could be used in addition to s51 (xix) – Naturalization and aliens – to implement, in case of war, restrictions against the various diaspora involved who were also Australian citizens and not covered by s51 (xix). Most people I know did not want in 1967 to include Aborigines in the amended race power because it was racist but were told that if they didn’t do it the Commonwealth would not have been able to overrule racist legislation based on State Constitutions. On the other hand voters wanted Aborigines to be counted in the Federal census, and so supported the “Yes” position. It would have been better for the States to remove the sections in their Constitutions that gave them control over Aborigines, so that Aborigines could be not be covered by the Federal Constitution. The States still seem to have retained that power as evidenced by the “treaties” , “self-determination” and “sovereignty” stunts that are currently taking place in some States and that may form a template for the Commonwealth after a successful referendum. “Always was- Always will be” sounds like that the activists don’t like the rest of us and what such a slogan means in real terms is interesting to contemplate, to say the least.

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