The Voice

When Good Sense Goes Walkabout

Chris Kenny is becoming a study in cognitive dissonance. In a recent article (paywalled) he tells us:

Sending reparations to China, roping smallish businesses into industry-wide industrial action, offering permanent residency and family reunion rights to 30,000 people who arrived here illegally by boat, and even lowering the voting age to 16 – these are not policies that Anthony Albanese promised. Yet they are either being implemented or considered as part of the new Labor, Greens and teal dynamic in Canberra.

These will change the country for the worse. They map out a road to economic ruin, sovereign enfeeblement, and democratic dystopia. They also present a clear opportunity for the right-of-­centre parties.

So far so good.  And:

Yet instead of calling this out, many so-called moderate Liberals are intent on matching Labor’s climate gestures, and mimicking the gender, sexuality and transgender identity ploys. It is instructive that when Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen went to the COP27 in Egypt and signed up Australia to an uncosted, unclear and unreasonable “damage and loss” or reparations idea, there had been a senior Liberal in town, the equally evangelical NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean.

Again, spot on. However, he then tells us:

The trouble is that many Coalition conservatives are wasting their energy and political capital generating a fear campaign about the Indigenous voice – something that can do no real harm to the nation but could provide considerable benefits. When they should be tackling the green left and their own woke wing on other issues, the conservatives are distracted by the voice.

But how do we know it can do no harm?                                                          

The reason the voice can do no significant harm is because if it is dominated by radicals, straying beyond its remit, it will be ignored by parliament and the public. Public and political accountability will force it to be realistic or irrelevant; remembering it can always be reshaped by parliament.

My question to Chris, posed in the comment thread to his article, was – how is that logic working out in relation to all the other unrealistic initiatives you’ve already castigated in your article (climate gestures, gender sexuality and transgender ploys, loss and damage funds and so on)? Why should any radical or unrealistic proposal emanating from the Voice be any different?  Especially if the Voice is embedded in the Constitution?

On Monday night’s Kenny Report, Chris called out the stupidity and over-reach of the Queensland Land Court in recommending against the Galilee Basin coal project of Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal.  As reported on the Renew Economy website:

It was also the first time the court took on-Country evidence from First Nations people in accordance with their traditional protocols. Kingham and legal counsel travelled to Gimuy (around Cairns) and Traditional Owners showed how climate change has directly harmed their Country.

As Youth Verdict co-director and First Nations lead Murrawah Johnson put it:

“We are taking this case against Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal mine because climate change threatens all of our futures. For First Nations peoples, climate change is taking away our connection to Country and robbing us of our cultures which are grounded in our relationship to our homelands.

Climate change will prevent us from educating our young people in their responsibilities to protect Country and deny them their birth rights to their cultures, law, lands and waters.”

This decision reflects the court’s deep engagement with First Nations’ arguments, in considering the impacts of climate change on First Nations people.

So here is a perfect example of the establishment, at the behest of an Aboriginal body, ‘straying beyond its remit’ to inflict considerable economic damage on the nation.  

Here’s another one.  The Santos Barossa Project — which will extract gas from under the Timor Sea 300 kilometres north of Darwin — is one of the largest Australian oil and gas investments in nearly a decade.  From the ABC website:

In September, the project was ruled invalid after a judge found the offshore gas regulator had failed to assess whether the company had consulted with all “relevant parties”, which he said should have included the Munupi clan of the Tiwi Islands.

The concern of the plaintiffs is that the project may have an adverse effect on turtles.  According to The Guardian:

Traditional owners say they have not given their free, prior and informed consent for the pipeline, which would be laid through Tiwi sea country and into Darwin, Larrakia country.

Tiwi Islanders say the project will damage their sea country and threaten marine life, particularly turtles, which play a central role in Tiwi culture.

And it may well do so, but presumably the best advice on this issue would come from marine scientists, not fisherfolk living almost 300 kilometres from the gas field. The decision is now under review by the Federal Court.

My point is that, even absent the Voice, Aboriginal voices are making themselves very much heard already through the legal system.  Do we really believe the Voice will accept, with good grace, rejection of any of its pet projects, even though they may be judged ‘unrealistic or radical’?  Will they ignore the potential of activist courts to give them what they want, especially if their case is bolstered by a constitutionally embedded third chamber of Parliament and the provisions of the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People?  I think not.

Does Chris Kenny not understand that the Voice is just the beginning?  If not, he must be the only one who doesn’t. All its indigenous proponents insist it is just the first step towards ‘truth telling’ and ‘treaty’.  As far as I am aware Kenny has expressed no opinion on either of these two vaguely defined and potentially destructive memes.

On Monday, the Nationals announced they would oppose the Voice.  Chris Kenny interviewed National’s leader David Littleproud in the immediate aftermath of this announcement.  Littleproud attempted, rather ineptly in my view, to defend the decision but to be fair to him, Kenny was unusually aggressive.  Littleproud’s main argument was that the Voice would not deliver outcomes to those Aborigines most in need.  And he’s right about that.  He made the point that the best advice government could get would be from the grassroots.  And he’s right about that too. 

But Kenny’s insistence that the Voice – a national body comprising some 24 members drawn from 35 regional councils – is the best source of grassroots advice is just laughable. 

Kenny is a stalwart of conservative thought and commentary, so I wonder if he ever entertains any niggling doubt – given that, on this issue, he is alone among the conservative commentariat – that he might be wrong on the Voice.

Peter O’Brien’s latest book, Villian or Victim? A defence of Sir John Kerr and the Reserve Powers, can be ordered here

23 thoughts on “When Good Sense Goes Walkabout

  • Paul W says:

    Did I read this correctly? Aboriginal clans can stop developments hundreds of kilometres out to sea because a single animal species might, just might, suffer some generalised harm?
    “All relevant parties” means all the designated prophets, priests, seers, and oracles. If a single one disagrees then it must work its way up to the Royal Chambers where the King’s wife – the High Court – gets the final say. Oh, and his other wife, the Minister for Nothing.
    We live in an age of neo-superstition where the correct words and procedures must be followed, otherwise everything will be ‘damaged’.

    • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

      That a group of people who wouldn’t have the faintest idea about something way beyond their ken have the power of veto is the same as many other things as in Raine Island way offshore on the GBR where a suitably sombre aboriginal chap bemoans the fact about sea level change affecting turtle nesting when no sane aboriginal would leave the shore in a bark canoe to brave the reefs, cross currents, and goodness knows what else to go to an island they didn’t know existed, had no fresh water to speak of, when there was an abundance of tucker to be had along the coast without getting their feet wet. Our constitution is colour blind for we are covered by it no matter our colour or creed so in effect why do we want apartheid this voice will lead to if the referendum result is the “yes” vote. Aboriginality is a cornucopia of goodies for those who state that they are aboriginal and were I a genuine aboriginal, and I may have some aboriginal blood in me as many of us who grew up in Cape York Peninsular might have for it was a very lonely place way back and hormones are colour blind anyway, but who cares for we are Australians and it is our country. Were I a “real” aboriginal I would be leaving no stone unturned in a quest to have some kind of test for aboriginality to weed out the false ones so that I might grab a larger share of that cornucopia of goodies. The last para of Dr Daintree’s article on this site yesterday was a ripper for it said it all.

    • ianl says:

      >”Did I read this correctly?” [Paul W above]

      Yes …

  • lbloveday says:

    My question to Chris, posed in the comment thread to his article, was –
    how is that logic working out in relation to all the other unrealistic initiatives you’ve already castigated in your article (climate gestures, gender sexuality and transgender ploys, loss and damage funds and so on)? Why should any radical or unrealistic proposal emanating from the Voice be any different? Especially if the Voice is embedded in the Constitution?
    Ok, you did not put it in quotation marks, but why change it markedly from your actual question posed which was:
    How’s that worked in relation to renewable energy, killing off coal and gas, cancelling much needed dams, loss and damage fund, border control, transgender issues etc, Chris?

  • john.singer says:

    When it comes to the assessment of effect whether beneficial or destructive on an environment or habitat, you do not leave that assessment to someone who has no experience of the field or the technology. Even a Judge cannot (should not) make that assessment without seeking evidence from experts. For an example a cable or pipe laid on the sea floor may or may not effect turtles but you must seek expert advice from engineers, marine scientists before you have enough information fo an assessment.

    In my studies I read the works of the leading American Valuer (Appraiser) L E Elwood. He wrote these sage words as a foreword to his text book:
    “I believe experience can teach lessons which may lead to
    sound judgment. I believe sound judgment is vital in selecting
    the critical factors for appraisal. But, I also believe the bright
    17 year old high school student in elementary astronomy can
    do a better job estimating the distance to the moon than the old
    man of the mountains who has looked at the moon for 80 years.
    So, I find it difficult to accept the notion that dependable valua-
    tion of real estate is nothing more than experience and iudgment.
    I would not give a red cent for an appraisal by the “expert”
    who beats his breast and shouts; “I don’t have to give reasons.
    I’ve had 40 years experience in this business. And, this property
    is worth so much because I say so.

    After all, value is expressed as a number. And, no man lives
    who, through experience, has all numbers so filed in the convolu-
    tions of his brain that he can be relied upon to choose the right
    one without explicable analysis and calculation.”

    The Aboriginal people have many great attributes but none of them qualify as an expert on sea-bed pipelines and the Judge in this case appears to have given undue weight to the opinions of distant Island people.

    If you make the mistake that advocates of the “Voice” make in seeing the Aboriginal people as homogenous with common beliefs then why are they proposing massive solar and wind farms on land that they hold so sacred that climbing a rock or a hill damages their balance with the land. If an intact vista is sacred why do you propose to desecrate it with windmills.

    If elders agree to that use in return for rental or royalties then how firmly held are those beliefs?

    If ever there was a need for free and deep debate it is now.

  • Tony Tea says:

    Six months ago I wrote that the bogus bona fides of an advisory group on climate change was “A practice run for the interference which will be caused by The Voice” and I have no doubt that said voice will be a massive choke-hold on the prosperity of the country, or as my dad used to say “a dag on the arse of progress.”

  • DougD says:

    Kenny says: “The reason the voice can do no significant harm is because if it is dominated by radicals, straying beyond its remit, it will be ignored by parliament and the public. Public and political accountability will force it to be realistic or irrelevant; remembering it can always be reshaped by parliament.” That might be correct if the referendum questions propose that all matters relating to the Voice will be non-justiciable. But Albanese hasn’t done that and shows no interest in constitutionally entrenching the non-justiciability of Voice questions . If Kenny thinks that parliament can tell the High Court how it must interpret any provision in the Constitution, Voice included, he needs to take some competent advice on basic constitutional law.

    • Peter OBrien says:

      Janet Albrechtsen has a good article in today’s Australian regarding the question of justiciability. It seems to me that any law passed by Parliament is justiciable. Activists may claim that a law did not take sufficient account of the advice from the Voice and challenge it on that basis.

      • john.singer says:

        We just saw Pearson’s reaction when someone disagreed with him and he is not as hot-headed as most of the activists. Then there are people who just don’t want any workable solutions so agreement between the Voice and the Parliament is most unlikely.

  • Adelagado says:

    “Littleproud’s main argument was that the Voice would not deliver outcomes to those Aborigines most in need.”
    Thats a piss weak reason to object to the Voice and it probably won no-one over to Littleproud’s side. The Voice is racist, it will be captured by white-hating radicals, and it will be a de facto third chamber of parliament with veto powers over legislation. Thats why it should be opposed!

  • Daffy says:

    I wonder if the Cairns Aborigines were asked to explain the details of the harms alleged to be in prospect as a result of climate ‘change’? But I guess not. It sounds like all hand-waving and pretense, as usual.

  • RobyH says:

    The Coalition of the Peaks (Aboriginal Representative Bodies) came together to work with the government on the Closing the Gap report. The Voice already exists. It signed agreement on the report with Linda Burney. Nothing has to be in the Constitution to engage people and change lives.

    Littleproud and Kenny should focus on the Voice that has been created by the Peaks and it is already in action. Not wasting millions on a referendum and a 3rd chamber. Section 51 (xxvii) was changed in 1967 Referendum. Often referred to as the race power. . it provides the government with the power to create race based laws – for example the Voice – no need to add more to the Constitution.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Thanks Peter for an informative piece.
    It seems obvious to me that the aborigines, having been made such a fuss of for years by our governments, not at the request of the vast majority of the population at large, but on their own mistaken initiative….or ideology and a very tiny left wing inspired activist cells including some part aborigines , but mainly white academics of one pursuasion or another, are now just having a go at us all….and getting away with it.
    Undersea pipelines disturbing their ‘sea country’, and their turtles, and their culture it’s just a joke, Alice in Wonderland stuff. It’s not real and it certainly isn’t truthful and they should be called out at every opportunity over the whole ridiculous business, and the ones who should be doing it are the political opposition, and they’re failing badly. The voice would just become another weapon to attack us, all and always, until the whole thing is repealed at some future date and thrown into the dustbin.
    The aborigines should not be seen as ‘aborigines’ per se at all except in a purely historical way, just Australian natives like the rest of us, and the whole thing is just nonsensical theatre in my eyes, nothing is true about it all it’s just theatre….and false.
    I hope the voice vote never gets to an actual vote and goes down if it does, but our opposition have got to start attacking it in plain language not wishy washy appeasement stuff.

    • rosross says:

      What Aborigines? There are no real Aborigines and have not been for centuries. There are Australians with Aboriginal ancestry but that does not make them Aborigines. None of them live tribal stone-age lives and have not done for centuries. All live, because we pay for it, with the modern conveniences of the Australian nation even if they trash them>

      The vast majority of this group are mostly Anglo-European in ancestry, are fully assimilated into the modern world and have been for generations and live lives no different to anyone else.

      Those struggling do so because they are the least assimilated into the modern world and remain locked in backward tribal systems. But even they are not Aborigines but Australians with Aboriginal ancestry on welfare.

  • Adelagado says:

    Greg Sheridan had a fantastic quote in his article at The Centre for Independent Studies…

    “Further, it gives life to the pernicious idea that universal suffrage, the rule of law and representative, democratic institutions are somehow inherently deficient when dealing with… one minority,”

    That really nails it as far as I’m concerned. Our civilisational system has lifted more people and races out of poverty than any other. Complaints by aboriginals that it doesn’t work for them, says more about aboriginals than the system.

  • rosross says:

    How can giving an extra vote, which is what this Voice would be, to a miniscule number of Australians because they have some Aboriginal ancestry, in most cases truly minimal, ever be of benefit to the nation and to other Australians?

    Such a voice destroys our democracy and make a mockery of our constitution. Such a vote divides Australians into First (superior) for those with some Aboriginal ancestry and Second (inferior) to those without such ancestry.

    It is a racist disgrace.

  • vdsrm says:

    As I type this, the full bench of the Federal Court has just confirmed it’s original decision to halt the Santos oil and gas exploration in Northern Australia. So whilst Australia is awaiting the construction and implementation of huge amounts of wind and solar infrastructure, this hugely beneficial project has been stopped For Turtles, spiritual beliefs and perceived procedural errors in consultation. So first, why are the spiritual beliefs of Aborigines embraced yet the spiritual beliefs of Christians disavowed and often vilified by media and others? Why is the importance of the Rainbow Serpent deemed significant as opposed to the belief in the Holy Trinity or other greater entities? Could you imagine that the Federal Court of Australia would legitimise the beliefs of Christians by citing the Holy Trinity or Bible in one of their major decisions on issues such as Euthanasia or Abortion?

    So back to The Voice and Kenny’s arguments. Why would any sane individual believe for a moment that if a Government did disregard a recommendation from the Voice, that there would not be howls of racism, paternalism, colonialist imperialism and other equally stupid statements designed to embarrass and intimidate a reversal of such a decision. Just listening to Pearson’s unhinged diatribe about Ms aJacinta Price and David Littleproud tells me that if government was to ignore a specific Voice recommendation, then the entire regiment of the well educated and established Aboriginal representatives would be marched out onto the media battlefield to accuse the Government of all sorts of horrible misdeeds

    Just this week, the Albanese Government funded the Environmental Defenders office for some insane level of public money and one would be forgiven in thinking that they will also fund similar bodies in the future to represent the interests of Aborigines. Think about the image on the ABC 7.30 show of the host attacking a Government Minister, for example, for ignoring the recommendations of The Voice. Why set up this organisation just to ignore it. The Pressure would finally mean that almost all but the most stupid of Voice recommendations would end up being accepted by Parliament. Just so they did not have to endure the optics of having to justify logic, common sense and financial prudence.

    The other thing that has not been spoken about for some time is what matters will the Voice be handling? Things like Taxation apply to all citizens including Aborigines, Banking and Financial law applied to all citizens including Aborigines, employment and industrial relations law also applies to all citizens including Aborigines. So will the Voice be involved in framing or recommending exclusions or inclusions on these laws as well as those relating to Land Rights? If the Government does ignore Voice recommendations, will the Voice be taking the Government to the Federal and High Courts to put their case? If that is the situation, will Australia have any degree of legislative fluidity and certainty? Or will most pieces of important legislation be tied up with the Voice and with subsequent Federal Court actions.

    Finally, will the practical costs relating to the Voice be fully transparent. This goes down to things like travel, airfare, meal, allowances for technologies and possibly even legal fees. Will those voted onto the Voice be required to provide full details of their pecuniary interests. Are they one of the “Mobs” that have financial Royalty agreements with entities like FMC, BHP, HMG or whoever? Does their “Mob” get any financial benefit from Land Council payments or Royalty distributions. Does their Land Council have agreements with renewable infrastructure providers? If they do, can this impact their deliberations and eventual recommendations on legislation regarding mining, land rights, remote area access and fishing rights. Is Government going to make the Voice financially accountable? We all remember ASIC.

    Federal politicians must prove their right to represent us in Parliament by having singular Australian citizenship. Will members of the Voice be required to prove their Aboriginality based on anything more than the say so of a few friends down at the local Land Council office? Otherwise, we might have to endure a Voice with members such as Mr Pascoe or that woman recently defeated in the Victorian election. To be valid, all members need to be certified as having a minimum degree of Aboriginality. I think the genuine Aborigine would expect and actually demand that their representatives will be the real deal and not some carpet bagger from the elite Inner suburbs who thinks a remote camp is Royal National Park.

    All these issues aside as they are more practical than philosophical, the fact is that the proposal is a purely racist structure. Them and Us. No matter how you look at it. Like many here, I have worked alongside probably dozens of Aboriginal folks over the years, sharing work tasks, food, drinks, life stories work comradeship and more. They have paid taxes, bought homes, own functional cars and made a life for themselves in the suburbs. So why if they have full electoral access with the intellectual choice to pick either Aboriginal or non Aboriginal MPs, do they need another Voice representing their so called interests. There are probably dozens of bodies ranging from Land Councils, professional bodies, regional bodies, community groups, legal bodies, elected Parliamentarians and numerous Public Servants who all have an opportunity to represent Aboriginal people in Australia. Just like many Australians including Immigrants from the 50s 60s and 70s did not like queue jumpers in the Labor boats fiasco, most Australians will not want to see one group gain a perceived benefit above and beyond their own existence in our society. All based on race and nothing else.

    • pmprociv says:

      Most powerfully argued, vdsrm, and I fully agree. A comment above mentions 24 seats on The Voice: how could 24 (or even 100) individuals possibly represent all ATSI people, let alone the hundreds of remote communities and outstations? In my experience, every ATSI person is a unique individual, with unique needs, views and aspirations. Watching little nobodies from remote communities espousing their mundane, personal wishes (a bit like a shopping list) on ABC TV and SBS, and declaring that The Voice will finally allow them to be heard, just makes me laugh. How many of us wish someone would listen to us, fulfil our needs?
      If The Voice reps are elected, by definition they’ll be politicians. If appointed, they’ll be corrupt sycophants, apparatchiks with influential connections. Either way, they won’t be “ordinary” folk, and they still won’t agree amongst themselves. You mentioned Noel Peason’s vehement response to Jacinta Price’s reasonable comments, yet it’s people like them who’ll sit on The Voice, guaranteeing absence of consensus. I must admit to disappointment at Noel’s position, as he seemed to be so rational and consistent previously — perhaps he aspires to be the first President of Australia?
      Determining who can and can’t vote for The Voice will prove to be a huge dog’s breakfast, guaranteed to divide most communities — if Bruce Pascoe can do it, so can I! It’ll provide a field day for lawyers, and a great boost to our GDP. Regardless of what Albo promises, those 24 reps will rapidly evolve into demanding prima donnas, if not already, with an exaggerated sense of self-importance reflected by escalating and expensive material demands (no flying in cattle class, for starters — and there’ll be plenty of flying).
      Why are so many educated and intelligent people blind to these simple truths? Are they so enmeshed in ancestral guilt and wishful thinking? And if they think The Voice will be purely symbolic, a noble gesture of their goodwill and virtue, why wreck a perfectly good Constitution, at such disruptive expense, for such a pointless cause?

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