Bennelong Papers

A Decidedly One-Sided ‘Reconciliation’

Recently the Indigenous Voice Advisory Group released its Interim Report. Following on from this, The Australian published a flurry of stories – at least five in the past couple of weeks — all promoting the idea.   Tellingly, online comments in response to these stories have been voluminous and almost uniformly – at least 99 per cent, I would say – scathing against it.

Given that on any other subject – be it global warming, renewable energy, Donald Trump, trans-gender issues, China, etc etc – the increasingly left-leaning Australian normally garners a healthy mix of conservative and progressive viewpoints, this is astonishing and raises some doubt over the claim by professors Marcia Langton and Tom Calma that

Momentum for an Indigenous voice continues to build. The calls grow for establishment of a mechanism that ensures Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a stronger way to have a direct say on matters to improve our lives.

The recent Australian Reconciliation Barometer found that 86 per cent of the general community believe it is important to establish a representative Indigenous body, and 95 per cent believe it is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say in matters that affect us.

Momentum “continues to build”?  It enjoys 86 per cent support?  Really?  There would seem to be a serious disconnect between my anecdotal observation of attitudes of Australian readers vs the general community.   How could that be?  Well, regarding the 86 per cent of alleged Voice supporters, the 2020 Reconciliation Barometer Report tells us that:

Since the first Barometer in 2008, the general community sample of Australian residents has been recruited from a professional market and social research panel. Participants received a small incentive for their participation. The sample of 1988 completed the survey between 1-15 July 2020, and is associated with a margin of error of +/-2.2% at the 95% confidence interval.

I’m guessing that very few readers of The Australian were among those 1988 respondents.  But the fact that it’s a ‘professional’ panel – ie., people who augment their incomes by sharing their opinions – might suggest a crew that would list heavily to port, regardless of how many diversity boxes (gender, age etc) its members ticks.  The Left have methodically infiltrated all our major institutions.  Why not “professional survey panels” as well?

The Barometer also reports that 81 per cent of the general public believe the Voice should be enshrined in the Constitution.  That absolutely flies in the face of my observations.  However, here again we see games being played.  The question was framed thus:

To protect an Indigenous Body within the Constitution, so it can’t be removed by any government

That’s pretty much a ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ question.  I wonder what the response would have been had they made the unspoken rider explicit i.e. ‘regardless of how disastrous it might turn out to be’.

But back to the matter at hand.  The proposed Voice will comprise a national body interacting with a plethora of independent local and regional bodies, some of which already exist.  In summary:

Role:  The National Voice will have a right and responsibility on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to advise Parliament and the Government with regard to any matters of national significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Core Function and scope:  National Voice to Commonwealth Parliament and Government on matters of critical importance to the social, spiritual and economic wellbeing, or which has a significant or particular impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians of national significance. A National Voice would have a proactive, unencumbered scope to advise on priorities and issues as determined by the National Voice.

Parliament and the Australian Government obliged to consult the National Voice on a narrow range of proposed laws which are exclusive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and would be expected to consult on a broader component. Parliament and the Australian Government to engage as early as possible in development of policy and laws. The obligation would be non-justiciable, nor affect the validity of any laws.

I have commenced wading through the Interim Report and hard going it is. Whether I eventually make it through to the end is moot but one comment early in the Report struck me.  The Executive Summary tells us that:

The consultation and engagement process will outline the proposed benefits for amplifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and how the Indigenous Voice works towards reconciliation. 

Ah, yes, ‘reconciliation’. This is a beautifully nebulous term that, for me, always brings Paul Simon’s words to mind – ‘the nearer your destination the more you’re slip sliding away’.  We are never told what this ‘reconciliation’ is. How will we know when we get there?

Reconciliation is a term that can have two meanings.  Firstly, two formerly adversarial parties can become reconciled, ie, make peace.  It’s generally a two-way street, otherwise it’s not really reconciliation, is it?  But this version of reconciliation is not quite apposite here since the vast majority of white Australians do not feel they are in an adversarial relationship with Aboriginal Australians in the first place.  It’s just that Aboriginal Australians keep shoe-horning them into that position.  Which means that we can only know ‘we’re there’ when, a bit like Dad announcing from behind the wheel, that yes, we’ve finally arrived.  The other form of reconciliation is where some person or group comes to terms with a hitherto unacceptable status quo.  That is the kind of reconciliation that, I suspect, most white Australians would like to see.  They will go to great lengths to alleviate the disadvantage that many Aboriginal communities suffer, but considerably less to mollify the overweening sense of grievance professed by the Aboriginal intelligentsia.

One of the recent articles in the Australian was penned by Professor Megan Davis, who made it clear in her first sentence that reconciliation will be on her terms:

It is indeed a frenetic pace for a January that is normally dominated by Invasion/Survival day. Prior to the clock striking midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Prime Minister announced an alteration to the text of the national anthem, deleting the word “young” and recognising, by inference, the length of Aboriginal occupation on this continent. Then, not long after, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, released his long-awaited 239-page Interim Report in response to the 2018 joint select committee on constitutional recognition led by Senator Dodson and Julian Leeser. Dodson and Leeser’s own report was responding to the Referendum Council’s recommendation for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament in 2017.

Davis, who seems to surviving rather nicely, goes on to say:

Most responses are that it is a good start and a stepping stone to a referendum. The NSW Aboriginal Land Council, the largest land council in Australia, says the Interim Report is a good start but falls short of the Uluru reforms because it is not protected from the whim of the government of the day and it does not compel our voice to be heard….

What does she mean by ‘compel our voices to be heard’?  Obviously, she intends that the Voice be enshrined in the Constitution. But if that were to come to pass, how big a step is it from ‘compel our voices to be heard’ to ‘compel our advice to be accepted’? Later there is this:

Self-determination is at the core of democratic governance. It is the will of the people speaking together that drives legitimacy and makes institutions enduring, like our Constitution. But we First Nations peoples, whose ancient polities are now recognised by inference in the National Anthem, were not at the table in the 1890s or in 1901.

Earlier in the piece she rejects symbolism:

The voice to parliament is substantive and symbolic recognition. The option that received not one iota of support across the nation was symbolic constitutional recognition, a statement of recognition or a preamble. The appetite for symbolic gestures 10 years after not closing the gap is zero.

That may be so but it has not stopped Ms Davis turning a well-intended symbolic gesture into a prop to support her claim for a special form of sovereignty for one group of Australian citizens.  How much more powerful would be that prop if it were ‘enshrined in the Constitution’? At the end of her piece Davis says:

It would be a shame for this important consultation period to be distracted by those animating a “legislate first, enshrine later” debate.

In other words, let’s not scare the horses.  Make no mistake, we are no longer talking about ‘Constitutional recognition’.  The agenda, the real definition of ‘reconciliation’, is ‘Constitutional empowerment’ and the permanent division of Australians into two camps.

I am convinced that the majority of the public will never buy ‘enshrinement’ in the Constitution, particularly when they are informed by an articulate ‘No’ case.  So where will that leave our Aboriginal activist legions?  To what lengths might they then be driven to achieve their aims? Unless nipped in the bud before expectations are ramped any higher, this can only end badly.

You can order the new edition of Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest by clicking here

15 comments
  • Stephen Due

    Personally I’m thoroughly sick of the racist agenda of Aboriginal activists. Now they want racism enshrined in the constitution and the government.
    Racism is un-Australian. Far from being promoted, the whole black agenda needs to be wound back, beginning with the Aboriginal flag, which has no national standing and ought not to be flown side by side with the Australian flag as is the current practice outside government buildings.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    Enshrining an indigenous voice in the constitution would create more than one class or citizen.
    This act should be unconstitutional.
    The sticking points are real and will not go away.
    Where the local aborigines were moved off their land less than 150 years ago, say around Moree, do they get the land back?
    Where they claim rights to the fish and fowl and minerals do they receive that as part of the deal?
    Does the Crown automatically retain mineral rights, however does the local land owner still receive the equivalence of Royalties?
    Do non indigenous receive the same benefits of royalties on their land?
    The deep rupture within many aboriginal communities remains, despite changing the anthem or such window dressing.
    There is a deep and vibrant need for the Voice from the Heart to address their own leadership crisis.
    Unless they take ownership of the existential problems in their own communities, no Federally funded syphilis doctor, social worker, Centrelink officer, police presence, court process or treasure will make them whole or give them freedom to live a safe life.
    If ‘education is the key’ then it needs to be embraced by leadership from within, not by committee.
    That applies to any community.
    The right to Australian Citizenship must not be divided in that process.

  • 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 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!

  • J Vernau

    “I am convinced that the majority of the public will never buy ‘enshrinement’ in the Constitution… “
    *

    I’m not so sure. Remember the “marriage plebiscite”? We can take it for granted that the ABC, the Nine tabloids, various public figures bandanna’d and otherwise, the major football codes, virtuous corporate boards and super funds, most state Labor parties and the Greens will all be on board, taking a metaphorical knee.

    I could see a slim majority possibly coalescing under this kind of pressure. But I still couldn’t see a referendum getting up, which would require majorities in two of Qld, WA, SA and Tasmania to join Victoria and NSW, home of the two easily influenced metropolises.

  • Peter OBrien

    J Vernau, you keep me on my toes. I guess I could have worded it differently but I did mean that a referendum wouldn’t get up.

  • DougD

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission seems to have faded from Australia’s memory. It’s never mentioned by proponents of Voice to Parliament or constitutional recognition.

    ATSIC was set up by the Hawke Government in 1990 which considered ATSIC to be an effective mechanism for indigenous self-determination because it combined representative and executive roles. ATSIC was run by Indigenous commissioners elected on the basis of race, by Indigenous people. It had a budget allocation from the Commonwealth government of $1.1 billion in 2003/4. Its senior elected officials included Geoff Clarke and “Sugar” Ray Robinson.
    ATSIC collapsed into dysfunction under the weight of corruption and nepotism allegations. Why will the current proposal produce a different result?

    Fortunately, ATSIC was not enshrined in the Constitution. It was abolished by the Howard government in 2005, with ALP support.

    “Ah, yes, ‘reconciliation’. This is a beautifully nebulous term that, for me, always brings Paul Simon’s words to mind – ‘the nearer your destination the more you’re slip sliding away’. We are never told what this ‘reconciliation’ is. How will we know when we get there?”

    We won’t because we never will get there.
    As the black American economist Thomas Sowell has noted, the leaders of such political struggles have little incentive to bring about a genuine reconciliation, as their position and influence usually depend on maintaining a climate of resentment. ‘The point is “to create the appropriate climate for bitter recriminations”… [If] through miscalculation, a demand may be made that can be and is met… what is conceded must then be denounced as paltry and insultingly inadequate, however important it may have been depicted as being when it seemed unattainable’. [Preferential Policies: An International Perspective, 1990, page 174.]

  • L Louis

    We should begin at the beginning and establish whether the demand for a National Voice is the first priority of Aboriginal Australians.

  • NFriar

    @Peter OBrien – 20th January 2021

    [J Vernau, you keep me on my toes. I guess I could have worded it differently but I did mean that a referendum wouldn’t get up.]

    Peter I recall reading that Wyatt doesn’t want a referendum – this came shortly after the blm march in Melbourne during Covid.
    A clear indication that people woud vote “no”.

    I fear Wyatt will get it legislated the same as Keating did with NT – what are your thoughts?

  • Peter OBrien

    And the OZ is at it again today (https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/indigenous/indigenous-voice-needs-constitutional-shield-says-legal-experts/news-story/cb51a5bc7e287eae368a2211570f001e)
    with the same result in the comments thread.
    The general consensus seems to be ‘bring the referendum on so we can vote it out’. I can sympathize with that approach but that won’t be the end of the matter though – it will be propagandized as just another example of the toxic racism of Australians.

  • Peter OBrien

    NFriar,
    the article I linked to above is all about putting it in the Constitution. Wyatt may be opposed to a referendum but that is because he knows it won’t get up. I believe it will be legislated but the activists (and probably Wyatt as well) will see this as a first step only.

  • padraic

    I agree with you Peter. The legislated body is only the first step. They are counting on the brainwashing of the current school pupils and university students so that when our generation has passed the newer ones will pass a referendum. Today’s news in the Australian about the level of “Civics” in Australian schools and how students in Mining at universities are copping it from others, tends to support this view. The only way this will go away is for the major political parties to develop some spine and say a big NO to a separate nation implicit in the drive for a referendum and “treaty”, and rule out a referendum and a treaty and promote policies that create harmony in our nation.

  • NFriar

    @Peter O’Brien.
    [NFriar,
    the article I linked to above is all about putting it in the Constitution. Wyatt may be opposed to a referendum but that is because he knows it won’t get up. I believe it will be legislated but the activists (and probably Wyatt as well) will see this as a first step only.]

    Yes – I realised that Wyatt knew a referendum would only be a ‘NO” after the blm in Covid.
    Sadly I believe they will get their chamber and 7th state.

    Pascoe’s Dark Emu is the Trojan Horse delivering the propagandised supporters.
    20 odd yers of propaganda in schools and we have brainwashed believers that whites are to be hated.

    Apartheid here we come.
    My Council calls Australia Day – ‘National Celebration Day with special awards to indigenous because ‘of the way they were treated 200 years ago.’

    The Senior Indigenous Citizen is a blacktivist who does not want to be an Australian and follows Pascoe!

    Thank you for all that you do.
    I follow your work and publish yours and others to my page.
    https://www.facebook.com/FactsMatterSocialPolitical

  • Brian Boru

    If you want to oppose a future Apartheid style of Australia, please recite something like the following whenever you are at a public gathering. Then ask your audience to do the same to spread the message.

    “I welcome you all to (insert place name). Our land of migrants, from the very first in their canoes or who even walked here. Those who came in chains, those who fled famine, those who fled or survived genocide and war and it’s consequences. To those who came by jet plane yesterday.

    We acknowledge that in our past, as in most nations, bad things have happened. But we strive to be one people, equality of opportunity for all, no privilege by birth, truly one nation. Welcome to you all.”

  • DG

    1. People seem to have a strange view of the constitution, as though its more like a manifesto, or a song in Fidelio. Still, as 50% of the population is below average, I have to cut them some slack.
    2. Indigenous Australians have a voice: Parliament. Everyone born here gets a crack at this house of the dazed every few years.
    3. Aboriginal Australians seem completely reconciled to the Euro-Celtic refugees who founded the nation state of Australia: they happily use the cars, mobile phones, bitumen road paving, cementitious building materials, sewer piping and mobile phones that come with it. Fully reconciled! No reconciliation needed, they demonstrate it in the fashion of the pedarii.

  • rod.stuart

    Brian Boru, whoever you are, that is absolutely BRILLIANT!
    It could readily be followed by Bruce Woodley’s “I am, you are, we are Australian”, sung as a group singing exercise.

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