Aborigines

The Voice: Hiding its Content from Referendum Voters

On July 7, in an interview with Paige Taylor and Ellie Dudley of The Australian, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, disclosed that the Albanese government’s plans for a referendum on an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament do not include giving the voters a model of how the proposal should work in practice. Burney said she feared that “a complicated referendum question will doom decades of work towards constitutional recognition”. So the government does not want to settle on the details of the proposed Voice’s structure before the referendum is held.

The reason behind this is not because the details have not been thought through. Since the proposal was launched by Julia Gillard in 2011, most of the identities of the Aboriginal political class, especially Noel Pearson, Marcia Langton, Megan Davis and Tom Calma, have participated in an incessant parade of ten lengthy and expensive inquiries that produced seven long and detailed reports.

They have already answered the questions that most voters should know before they go to the polls on this issue, such as: What would the Voice actually do? Who should be on it? How would they get there, by election or appointment? Would it be an advisory body or would it have executive or legislative powers? Former Liberal government minister and Spectator Australia columnist Neil Brown fired off a letter to the editor the day after Burney’s interview raising points that all concerned voters would want to know. “Surely,” Brown said, “we are entitled to know the answers to these questions before we vote. It would be so easy to have an explanatory memorandum setting out the main features of the Voice and sent to all electors.”

Both Marcia Langton and Megan Davis made public statements of their own, saying all the important details were now settled and should be put to the vote. Both want Burney to go to a referendum as soon as possible. However, Burney’s predecessor as Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, also preferred a minimalist approach. He told Paige and Dudley that a plainly-worded question was the key: “It might be a set of words as simple as ‘the Commonwealth shall establish and maintain an Indigenous national body’”.

So, what is the difference on this issue between the two central politicians, both of Aboriginal ancestry, and the activists, bureaucrats and academics who advise and lobby them? It is not difficult to see that the politicians want to hide the content of the Voice because they doubt the referendum will succeed if the public knows too much about what lies behind it. On the other hand, the activists have been so immersed in this issue, for more than a decade now, they find it hard to imagine any opponents besides the bad and the mad could disagree with them. In short, the activists know what they want, but the politicians don’t want the voters, who have minds of their own, to know what is really at stake.

One thing the politicians really fear is the suggestion by Neil Brown to send out to voters an explanatory pamphlet setting out the main points of the Voice. This would give away the real objectives of the activists which is not, as they claim, to contribute to reconciliation or to “make the country whole”. In fact, an honest pamphlet of this kind with appropriate quotations from the Uluru Statemen would be a gift to those campaigners urging a No vote. It would allow the latter to make some obvious points about why the proposal of the Voice would be bad for all Australians and a disaster for Aboriginal people themselves.

So let me list here some of the main points such a pamphlet should have if it were to adopt the case made by today’s Aboriginal political class, using their own verbatim terminology and arguments. At the same time, I will try to fill out a plausible No case in response to each of their points.

 

Treaties “to achieve self-determination, autonomy and self-government”

In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart defined the Voice as a proposal to change the Australian Constitution to give individual Aboriginal communities complete autonomy to advise the Australian government and parliament what they want. The government would not be compelled to accept these recommendations — the Parliament would retain its existing executive and legislative status — but the Referendum Council’s response to the Uluru Statement asserted there were some non-negotiable conditions if the Parliament was to properly respect the wishes of this new Constitutional authority. The Council said:

Any Voice to Parliament should be designed so that it could support and promote a treaty-making process. Any body must have authority from, be representative of, and have legitimacy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. It must represent communities in remote, rural and urban areas, and not be comprised of handpicked leaders. The body must be structured in a way that respects culture. Any body must also be supported by a sufficient and guaranteed budget, with access to its own independent secretariat, experts and lawyers. It was also suggested that the body could represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples internationally. A number of Dialogues said the body’s representation could be drawn from an Assembly of First Nations, which could be established through a series of treaties among nations.

In other words, the eventual goal of the Voice would be to make treaties between the Commonwealth and what it calls the First Nations. Its proponents don’t just want to keep their adopted title as “nations”, they want to become real nations. The Council’s report notes that the demand for treaties was a priority of the indigenous conventions leading up to the Uluru Statement of May 2017:

The pursuit of treaty and treaties was strongly supported across the Dialogues. Treaty was seen as a pathway to recognition of sovereignty and for achieving future meaningful reform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Treaty would be the vehicle to achieve self-determination, autonomy and self-government.

So, the actual objective of the Voice is that each individual clan or language group should be recognised as a First Nation and for the Commonwealth to make a treaty with each one, as if it were a separate state. As I record in The Break-up of Australia (Quadrant Books, 2016), Aboriginal activists now want statehood, self-government and an independent legal system for each self-identifying Aboriginal clan that gains native title. And they want the Australian taxpayer to fund it all.

This is obviously a program for a radical revision of the Australian federation — all of it in the interests of Aboriginal people, but with no thought about how it could possibly be in the interests of the rest of us.

Let me remind readers of the version of Australian history they will all be required to accept. The Uluru Statement — or at least its original long version, not the one-page abbreviated and sanitised version published on that website today — made a series of assertions advocating the following:

We have coexisted as First Nations on this land for at least 60,000 years. Our sovereignty pre-existed the Australian state and has survived it. We have never, ever ceded our sovereignty. The unfinished business of Australia’s nationhood includes recognising the ancient jurisdictions of First Nations law. The Law was violated by the coming of the British to Australia. This truth needs to be told.

Australia was not a settlement and it was not a discovery. It was an invasion. Invasion was met with resistance. This is the time of the Frontier Wars, when massacres, disease and poison decimated First Nations, even as they fought a guerrilla war of resistance. Everywhere across Australia, great warriors like Pemulwuy and Jandamarra led resistance against the British. First Nations refused to acquiesce to dispossession and fought for their sovereign rights and their land.

Now it is not hard to show that this declaration is a caricature of Australian history. It falsely portrays people of Aboriginal and British descent as long-standing enemies, and it misrepresents British, Australian and international law, as the following points demonstrate.

“Aboriginal people are the First Nations”

The term “First Nations” derives from twentieth-century American politics and has been transported to Australia, where it does not fit. Aboriginal clans, hordes and tribes, which in most cases were no more than extended families, never attained any status resembling nationhood either before 1788 or any time after. There were no First Nations on this land for 60,000 years, as the Uluru Statement asserts. This was confirmed in 1836 in the seminal judgment of William Burton of the New South Wales Supreme Court and has been repeated several times since by Australian judges, including the High Court’s Harry Gibbs, who said in 1979:

it is not possible to say … that the aboriginal people of Australia are organised as a “distinct political society separated from others”, or that they have been uniformly treated as a state … They have no legislative, executive or judicial organs by which sovereignty might be exercised. If such organs existed, they would have no powers, except such as the law of the Commonwealth, or of a State or Territory, might confer upon them. The contention that there is in Australia an aboriginal nation exercising sovereignty, even of a limited kind, is quite impossible in law to maintain.

 

“We have never, ever ceded our sovereignty

Before the colonisation of Australia, Aboriginal people never had any sovereignty to surrender. “Sovereignty” is a term from international law, or what was called in the eighteenth century “the law of nations”. The two leading European authorities on international law at that time, Christian Wolff and Emmerich de Vattel, both argued that for a society to be a genuine nation it must have civil sovereignty over a territory and its people and, as a corollary, only nations could have genuine sovereignty.

Justice Burton’s 1836 judgment found the Aborigines did not have anything that amounted to what the British and other nations could regard as statehood or nationhood. He said they

had not attained at the first settlement to such a position in point of numbers and civilisation, and to such a form of government and laws, as to be entitled to be recognised as so many sovereign states governed by laws of their own.

It is worth noting here that, although Justice Burton’s views would be dismissed by today’s activists as an expression of white privilege, or some similar racist insult, he was an evangelical Christian who took seriously the status of Aboriginal people as subjects of the British Crown. His personal letters reveal he was long concerned about relations between Aborigines and white settlers on the colonial frontier. He pushed for the NSW authorities to investigate publicised claims of ill treatment and violence to Aboriginal people, especially alleged massacres. A number of these turned out to be groundless exaggerations but one of the worst of them was true. In 1838 eleven convict and ex-convict stockmen were accused of the Myall Creek Massacre of 28 Aboriginal people near Moree in 1838. The stockmen were initially tried for the murder of one of the Aborigines but were acquitted by a jury. However, Burton moved for a second trial to be held on broader grounds. Under his jurisdiction the second jury found that seven of the eleven stockmen were guilty as charged. Burton sentenced all seven to death and they were hanged soon after.

 

“Sovereignty is a spiritual notion” derived from land ownership

The short version of the Uluru Statement still emphasizes this claim, but tries to cover up its implications by redefining the concept of sovereignty and tying its meaning to the one fact that is in the Aborigines favour, that they were the first to own the land on the Australian continent. The claim says in full:

Sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom … This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

There are three things wrong with this statement. First, sovereignty has never been a spiritual notion. It is not a sacred tradition but a recent invention. It is a European term, unknown to Aboriginal culture before 1788, and not adopted by any of the 200 or so different languages that the hunter-gatherers used in the nineteenth century. It was adopted from European political and legal theory in the twentieth century by university-educated, urban Aboriginal activists.

Second, sovereignty is not just about ownership of the land, as the Uluru statement says. Aboriginal activists and their academic supporters have argued that, because the High Court’s Mabo judgment recognised Aboriginal clans had their own laws that made them owners of their land, they therefore also had sovereignty over those territories. However, this wrongly assumes that small tracts of land ownership entail sovereignty. No Australian who owns a farm in the country or a quarter acre block in the suburbs thereby becomes the “sovereign” of that piece of territory. Aboriginal people are legally no more privileged. In modern nations, sovereignty belongs only to national governments, not because they are landowners but because they have the necessary political authority and power.

Third, sovereignty is an absolute notion, it cannot “co-exist” between or among sovereign powers. One of them must prevail. There can only be one national government. If there are more than one, then there must be more than one nation on that territory. Neither of these would have genuine sovereignty until a civil war or other contest for sole political power resolved who actually ruled the realm. You can call shared power, where it exists, some kind of political arrangement, but it could not be sovereignty.

 

“Australia was invaded, not settled, and the British colonisation was illegal

These claims are partly a matter of international law but also an issue within Australian frontier history. In eighteenth-century international law a “settled colony” was one which, at the time of its occupation by a European power, was either uninhabited or else inhabited by people whose political system and laws did not amount to those of a nation-state. In a colony of the latter kind, the laws that applied were not those of the local inhabitants but those of the new power. In early colonial New South Wales, the absence of any political structure among the Aborigines that the English explorers or members of the First Fleet could recognise as a nation or state meant they annexed it as a colony of settlement. This meant English law came into force, the British Crown became the sovereign of all the land it claimed and, in legal theory, the indigenous people automatically became subjects of the Crown, living under the protection of its laws. The legal judgment that eventually confirmed the settled colony principle was given in 1889 in Cooper v Stuart by the Privy Council in England. Yet the Referendum Council report wants us to go back and rewrite Australian legal history in order to accommodate today’s left-wing political demands.

For the first 150 years of their practice in Australia, historians and anthropologists agreed with the legal fraternity on the question of invasion or settlement. There was no warfare waged by Aborigines against the British arrivals and no sustained resistance to the British presence. The most common violence in any of the new colonial settlements was simple retribution, or “payback” by Aborigines against individual settlers or convicts who had stolen or destroyed their canoes or weapons, or abused their women. On some occasions, Aborigines used violence, or more commonly threats of violence, to purloin game taken from the bush by settlers and convicts or fish they took from the rivers and estuaries.

But Australian history never resembled the real warfare waged by other indigenous groups in the Pacific region, especially that of the Maoris in New Zealand. In the Maori Wars of the early 1860s, about 4000 Maori warriors battled 1800 British imperial troops and local volunteers. In one confrontation at Paterangi in January 1864, some 3000 Maori warriors from twenty tribes met in battle an imperial army of more than 2000 men supported by artillery and cavalry.

Nothing on this scale ever happened in Australia. Governor Arthur Phillip of New South Wales wrote to Lord Sydney in London in 1790 that new settlers to the west of Parramatta “will have nothing to apprehend from the natives, who avoid those parts we most frequent, and always retire at the sight of two or three people who are armed”. In 1828, Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur of Van Diemen’s Land told Sir George Murray of the Colonial Office there was no “systematic warfare exhibited by any of them as need excite the least apprehension in the Government, for the blacks, however large their number, have never yet ventured to attack a party consisting of even three armed men.”

Although Australian academic history has been dominated by supporters of the resistance and guerilla warfare theses since the 1970s, the more convincing accounts of the early settlement of Sydney by Keith Vincent Smith, of Melbourne by Beverley Nance, and of Perth by Bob Reece, reveal the most common response by Aboriginal people to the British colonists was that of “coming in” or “accommodation”. Reece writes of the 1830s in Western Australia:

Far from retreating from white settlement, Aborigines were attracted to it, although their movements were still very much conditioned by [tribal] territorial boundaries and punishment for “trespassing”. Those groups closest to the main centre of settlement adjusted their traditional pattern of seasonal movement in response to the relatively easy availability of European food … Although the Aborigines knew they were being dispossessed, there does not seem to have been any continued resistance to this process. The Aborigines were ready to make pragmatic arrangements with the whites to compensate for the loss of their land and the livelihood which it represented, and this readiness was acknowledged by the white authorities. Aboriginal “attacks” on livestock and “thefts” of flour and other property on the edge of the settlement seem to have been a response to the whites’ refusal to share their resources rather than any “guerilla” effort to drive the whites away.

The historical grievance expressed by the Uluru Statement of the Heart could never contribute to reconciliation or a more unified nation. It is a bid for power which, even if it wins Constitutional approval, is bound to dishearten its advocates in the long run. The little, autonomous ‘nations’ they want to establish are a political fantasy, as the failed history of the vast majority of secessionist movements in the modern era have proven time and again. They will have virtually no impact on the lives of the 80 per cent of people who identify as indigenous and who live in the suburbs of the capital cities and regional centres with much the same standard of living as their white neighbours. The remaining 20 per cent of Aborigines who inhabit the living hell of the remote communities are the only ones whose lives can possibly be affected. Yet the track record of the forty-year experiment of self-determination and self-government in the Homelands movement in remote Australia since the 1970s has already proved, and keeps on proving, that the longer it exists the worse things become.

The Voice will simply be another expensive broken promise that will make national identities of a handful of activists who will rise to power briefly within its ranks but who end up like their disappointing predecessors in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. The only difference will be that, if they get the Constitutional recognition they demand, no government of the day will be able to do what the Howard government, with Labor Party support, did to ATSIC in 2005 and shut down their office. Instead, if the Yes vote wins, the Voice will be there forever, an expensive, permanent embarrassment for the nation and a permanent contagion on the Aboriginal body politic.

Keith Windschuttle is the editor of Quadrant and author of The Break-up of Australia, which can be ordered here

30 comments
  • Tony Tea

    Clearly they’re trying to smuggle through the Yes campaign because they know No campaigns generally get up, especially if the mooted changes are even slightly controversial.

  • Michael

    The Uluru Statement from the Heart is fundamentally a claim to a special status for Australians of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestry.

    To, “I am, you are, we are Australian,” the Statement from the Heart wants to add, “but some are more Australian than others.”

    There is no way I will support enshrining in the Constitution of Australia special privileges for a group of Australians defined by ancestry. No way. No!

    It is wrong on fundamental principles and it is a political delusion to think it could be successful at a referendum.

    Australian is Australian!

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    Perhaps someone has already leaked a draft of the proposed Constitutional Amendment and its being sat on for the debate.
    There is no doubt that many of the marchers want sovereignty, with all that this implies, control over the fowl of the air. the fish in the streams, the water and the minerals beneath, as well as self government.
    Would that mean that there would be tax breaks and the members of the other sovereign, ie Australia entity would support this financially?
    Presumably the Australian Constitution could give them powers to bring this about, a sort of archipelago of vested land within the confines of the continental land mass.
    It would be good to think that there was a clear plan that would allow people to make mature decisions about this.
    All we need is mature politicians.
    Was Ken Wyatt one of those.
    I remember him as a marsupial clad man saying he wanted a fair open process.
    After the last election he disappeared without even a murmur.
    There has been no analysis as to what happened in his seat..
    Was he just part of the disaffection of the Liberals caused by their absurd spat with WA over quarantining against the Delta variant.?
    Was it part of the anti aboriginal undercurrent in WA or his desire to promote the Voice?
    I note that there is comment on the affair of Moree.
    Having spent a short time there it is clear that the local aborigines were removed off their land in the last 150 years and put in a housing settlement which is quite dysfunctional.
    Even in English common law if someone occupies land for 150 years continuously, they own it.
    The local land owning family owns most of this land.
    There has to be some resolution short of sovereignty.
    Perhaps this site could suggest it.

  • john.singer

    The recent census figures suggest that there is wholesale fraud relating to people claiming Aboriginaity. This must be properly investigated before any legislation or referendum can be contemplated by any Government.

  • lhackett01

    Thank you, Keith. Everything you say here is true. Unfortunately, the public are mostly unaware. May I suggest that you/Quadrant build a ‘war chest’ so as to be able at the appropriate time to place paid advertisements in the media. This might be one of the few ways that the public can be informed properly.

  • geoff_brown1

    ” Everywhere across Australia, great warriors like Pemulwuy and Jandamarra led resistance against the British. ”

    I’m citing Tom Ronan’s book “The Blue Of the Sky” – -his biography of his father, who managed cattle stations in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Ronan claims that, far from being a warrior patriot waging single handed warfare against the white invader, the old timers around Derby and Broome told him Jandamurra – aka “Pigeon” was a black tracker, who shot his boss over insufficient payment by the latter, for intimate services provided by Mrs Pigeon….. (Page 221 – 222.). This began a reign of murder..

  • Peter OBrien

    What really grates with me is the portrayal (by Albanese and others) of this statement as a ‘gracious invitation to walk with them on a path of reconciliation’. Why don’t they walk with us? Oops, I very nearly added ‘we are going somewhere’, but then I remembered that in many aspects of life and governance we are actually going backwards.

  • nilsm

    Thank-you. Excellent, valuable article, much appreciated.

  • nilsm

    Response to Michael – 19th July 2022 re “but some are more Australian than others.”
    Some quiet, vulnerable groups need a voice to parliament. If we have an Aboriginal voice to parliament, we also need voices to parliament for the disabled, the homeless, the elderly in care; and also for the voiceless, the meek and the disillusioned. Then we’d need a louder voters’ voice to parliament.

  • cbattle1

    Will it even be possible to say “No”? Given the great momentum of the moral crusade for the “Yes” vote, it would appear that a “No” vote is just not an option. So, only having the “Yes” option on the ballot would be the politically correct way to hold the referendum!

  • Colin Robertson

    @john.singer

    Excellent point: We have what I call an apex problem i.e. who is aboriginal? I think there’s four types:

    1. 100% (or close to) Aboriginal: Almost exclusively found is said depressing remote communities.
    2. Part Aboriginal: Discernibly aboriginal but no real links to so called ‘culture.’ Think Media types, arts and sporting identies.
    3. Exogamists: Have been actively marrying/breeding outside ‘mob’ for generations. Are not aboriginal in appearance and have no connection with aboriginal culture (outside the obligatory red nappies and a daub or two of zinc cream.)
    4. Race Shifters: Chancers and grifters like Professor Pascoe who ‘identify’ as aboriginal in order to qualify for the honors and prizes.

    Before we even begin to talk about ‘a voice,’ the latter two groups need to be expunged.

  • pgang

    As if they care what anybody thinks. The referendum will be irrelevant either way. This is a done deal. Power has spoken.

  • rosross

    A voice for Australians with aboriginal ancestry is racist and a farce, particularly since the vast majority of those who register such ancestry are so minimally Aboriginal they are not.

    However, any third voice requires an extra vote which makes it a Third Chamber and means a pitiful minority of Australians, have more rights and more votes than the rest. Any voice betrays our constitution and our democracy and establishes that being able to trace, or claim, ancestry going back further, no matter how small, makes one a superior or First Australian.

    The ladder effect is the result.

    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 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

    @john.singer,

    We need a rule that only those who are 50%, that means with one parent proven to be 100% Aboriginal, can register as Aboriginal. That would immediately drop the 700,000 down to 7,000 or possibly 700.

  • Claude James

    And nowhere is there any description of what Voice will permit/enable to be said, when and how, that is not already being said.
    Then there’s the avoidance of the question:
    That 33 Bn dollars of “government” money, now being spent annually on Aborigines:
    Is it helping to improve Aboriginal educability and trainability?
    And is it reducing the incidence of violence and neglect of children in Aboriginal communities?
    And if not, how many more trillions need to be spent to help Aborigines deal peacefully and productively with current reality?

  • John Cook

    rosross, I agree wholeheartedly with your last comment.

  • Ian MacDougall

    The European invasion of the Australian continent was not the first. Nineteenth Century anthropologists recognised at least three distinct Aboriginal ethnicities, ‘races’, or sub-groups; call them what you will.
    The first to arrive were apparently the original Tasmanians, diminutive in stature and like pygmies elsewhere, well suited to life in rainforest environments. They apparently got isolated in Tasmania after the Bass Strait rose.
    The second group were bigger and stockier, and were called Murrayans by the anthropologists, after the region of the Murray River and southwards where their population density was highest. And the third distinct population was the Carpentarians, taller and more ‘gracile’ and suited to the tropics. The only ‘full-bloods’ left are Carpentarian.
    For these groups to remain ethnically distinct, they must have been closed-breeding populations for thousands of years.
    On this view, the country was originally 100% Tasmanians. Then in came the Murrayans, almost certainly invading from the North or Northwest, pushing the ancestors of the Tasmanians south. Then came the Carpentarians, linguistically and ethnically distinct again, pushing the Murrayans and Tasmanians southwards before them, and without any record of a treaty in any form; not even to my knowledge in rock art.
    The last in were the Europeans, and then all the other races on Earth, invading from the south, and interbreeding so extensively with all Aborigines that today we only find ‘full-bloods’ in the far north of Australia, where non-Aboriginal settlement has not penetrated..
    So who is ‘treaty’ to be agreed by and signed by? And what would be its terms? I think these questions are important before we go much further.

  • rosross

    @John Cook,

    It is unlikely although I gather a norm in other countries with this issue. There are some American Indian tribes who will accept 25% if proven. Even that would reduce the numbers significantly and wipe out most of the loudest voices. It could be a counter campaign to any Referendum.

  • Petronius

    It is said of revivalists (or their cousins the contemporary Left- activists) that they pursue their aims with fervid enthusiasm and pious sentiment over clarity and reason. A corollary of this missionary-mindedness is a sense of the corruption of the current order and a desire to see it radically reordered. If what Keith Windshuttle presages in his article came to pass our one-nationhood, citizen-solidarity and resilience of our time-tested system of government would be diminished. It would leave our polity open to more opportunistic revivalist assaults based upon confected grievances and socialist utopianism. This synoptic view needs to be part of the counter-argument to the ‘Voice’ referendum.

  • Biggles

    How many Chinese are there in Australia now? I don’t know and don’t care, but they are surely a significant portion of the population. I imagine they outnumber genuine aborigines, so how about a ‘Voice’ for Chinese Australians ?

  • rosross

    @Biggles,

    And with a precedent set, why not? I think all origins should have a voice whether 100% or less than 1% to be fair. A veritable Tower of Babel for Australia.

  • john.singer

    geoff_brown1 When visiting the “Prison Tree” and Jandamarra’s hideout our most capable Aboriginal guide related a similar story.

    rosross A government planning a universal digital identity card should have no problem instituting a compulsory DNA test as a requirement for registration as Aboriginal, regardless of whatever percentage bloodline they are prepared to adopt.

  • ianl

    As previously commented:

    NO DETAILS = VOTE NO

  • Tony Tea

    I see Mavis Bramston was in The Australian today saying just get it done and sort out the details later.

  • ianl

    This technique of hiding the details, running emotional arguments without corroborating evidence, relying on the power-addicted MSM to “cancel” opposition (this reliance works due to the vanity of the meeja class) – is based on the pattern successfully established by the anthropogenic climate change warriors over 30 years ago now. This is also repeated as a modus operandi during the Covid panics.

    It may be summarised as: a) we refuse to debate in public (sub-text 1 – the general public is too stupid to understand anyway; sub-text 2 – and if we do we may lose), b) so the absence of debate proves we’ve won. The bimbo Teals use this childish line all the time.

    On a contentious referendum, one expects it to surface as a staple. perhaps the staple.

  • pmad3127

    The Voice appears to be based on many beautiful fictions that many fair minded ordinary Australians may think they need to support to give indigenous people a fair go. I hope the fictions can be exposed but also that a majority of Australians can recognise they do not need to trade away their sovereignty to respect and help ordinary indigenous people. But the current framing of the debate makes it impossible to sound remotely compassionate and speak the truth at the same time. So nice Australians go silent and do what they are told. I hope not.

  • rosross

    @john.singer,

    You cannot have a DNA test which identifies Aboriginal ancestry. The many different peoples here in 1788 were descended from different groups of migration and would not have had common DNA. There is no Aboriginal DNA. There are genetic markers which link people to certain origins but that does not mean they were Aboriginal.

    The genetic links include Polynesian, Negroid, Indian, New Guinean, Asian and so someone could register any of those genetics if they were a recent migrant to Australia.

    That is why making it 50%, which means one parent is 100% Aboriginal is the simplest and most accurate way because birth records can be verified and DNA has some accuracy in recent generations.

    Apart from which there is a touch of the eugenics ‘tarbrush’ using DNA identification.

  • a.c.ryan

    I thought that The Voice was a singing competition. My advice to youse all is leave them to it. They know what they are doing – you don’t.

  • Michael Waugh

    For the life of me I cannot imagine the majority of one State voting “Yes”, much less four. If we are not to be told how it will work, how can we in all conscience vote “Yes”? I had thought that it might be linked to the “race power” in s51(xxvi), but all the articles supporting this mystical “Voice” in the MSM refuse to explain its composition or reach. This astonishing concealment is so well explained above by you Keith, as usual. Frankly, I’m less concerned about the potential success of this proposed Constitutional amendment than I am about the teaching of Australian history. I completed my secondary schooling in 1972 and I now believe I was given insufficient instruction on Aboriginal history. My recollection is that any purported education ceased in the early years of secondary school and was to the effect that British engagement with Aborigines was largely benign. We need to do much better than that. Unfortunately, I suspect that, since then, the pendulum has swung wildly in the opposite direction and is just as false, perhaps more so. Thank you Keith for all your hard work in giving us a balanced account. More strength to your arm.

  • nilsm

    I have a feeling that some who push the Voice Referendum knowing that there is not overwhelming popular support, expecting defeat, are more interested in securing a “No” rejection to legitimise deeper division, hatred and give reason for abuse of “white racist Australians”. It’s is simple emotional blackmail: if Australia votes “No” it proves Australians are white racist swearwords.

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