The Voice

If We Are to Have a Voice, Make It a Democratic One

The Voice is on and the fix is in.

Australia will have a referendum on inserting an indigenous Voice into their Constitution, but it will be far from a fair vote. The government has announced legislation to quash the customary “yes” and “no” arguments for referendums and substitute in their place “an education campaign to assist electors understand the purpose and process of the referendum and mitigate misinformation”.

In other words: the Commonwealth itself will argue in favour of the Indigenous Voice. As will every major institution in Australian society, Quadrant excepted.

The referendum question itself has been drafted, but it has not yet been legislated. The draft question is: “Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?” This question is deeply flawed.

The referendum question is missing one key word: democratic.

The Indigenous Voice referendum is highly contentious, and rightly so. But even those conservatives and constitutionalists who reject the very idea of the Voice should support the proper wording of the Voice question. The proper question to put to the Australian electorate is: “Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes a democratic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”

The fundamental problem with the Voice may be that it creates two classes of citizen, but if that’s what Australians want (and the referendum will test this) then that’s what Australians will get.

But a more important practical problem with the Voice referendum question is that the voice it envisages will not be democratically-constituted. And when it really comes down to it, does any Australian, indigenous or otherwise, want to hear an anti-democratic Indigenous Voice?

If there is to be an Indigenous Voice, let it be a democratic one. Let indigenous Australians vote in free and fair, open and transparent elections to select those who would speak on their behalf. Any other form of Indigenous Voice would be little better than a brown-faced Aboriginal Protection Board.

There would be difficulties in constituting an elected Voice, but not insurmountable ones. Norway has a democratically-constituted indigenous voice, the Sami Parliament. The United States has 574 democratically-constituted indigenous voices, the officially recognised Native American tribes, each of which maintains a membership roll and holds regulated elections.

Closer to home, New South Wales has a prototype of democratically-constituted indigenous voices in its 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils. Eligibility issues arise, but they are manageable. After all, eligibility issues arise with regard to the national electoral roll, too.

One suspects—it might not be stretching intuition too far to say that one knows—that the most vociferous opponents of an elected Indigenous Voice would be the unelected indigenous intelligentsia who currently purport to speak for indigenous Australians. Like intellectuals everywhere, they gain authority from claiming to speak for “their” people.

But people do not belong to those who would speak for them. Indigenous Australians have as much a right to choose their representatives as everyone else. In what real democracy are government-nominated thought leaders empowered to speak as the voices of the people? And don’t indigenous Australians deserve real democracy? Or are they not yet “ready” for it?

Those who oppose an Indigenous Voice of any kind should oppose it. No one would argue otherwise. But even those who oppose an Indigenous Voice to Parliament should work to ensure that if one is created, it will be democratic.

Those who favour an Indigenous Voice to Parliament bear an even greater responsibility to ensure that the voice they legislate is a voice indigenous Australians can live with. If Australians move ahead with an appointed Indigenous Voice, they will in effect be imposing other people’s voices on Australia’s indigenous citizens.

Australians near-universally lament the historical infantilisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Many non-indigenous Australians nobly aspire to more fully respect the dignity of their indigenous neighbors by enshrining an Indigenous Voice in the Australian Constitution. If their motives are sincere, they can hardly accept a less democratic voice for indigenous Australians then they would demand for themselves.

Salvatore Babones is The Philistine.

25 thoughts on “If We Are to Have a Voice, Make It a Democratic One

  • Katzenjammer says:

    If the Voice is voted in, can we all have a vote for who we are willing to listen to, whose Voice we think is legitimate and representative.

  • RobyH says:

    The Coalition. Of the Peaks is the Voice. It is the summation of 80 indigenous groups/councils/organisations across the nation. Working together for 5 years. The Peaks signed the closing the Gap with Burney … it is grass roots/at the coal face.

    The referendum and first voice of our parliament will cost $500 million. Whether an elected or unelected Voice – when one already exists is another national indigenous disgrace. Will the Peaks just be put in the bin? Politicians should be “screaming” about this. The Peaks is self determination in action.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    As I understand it, one of the reasons that appointment rather than election is being considered (at least in part) is because of a fear that not enough ‘Indigenous’ will bother to vote.

    • Salvatore Babones says:

      Sure, but if that’s so, then it’s a “fear” that should be exposed, not allowed to be swept under the carpet.

      • RobyH says:

        This is a very important point. There are 25,000 members of the NSW Aboriginal land councils which provide community benefits to ATSI peoples. There are 280,000 Aboriginals in NSW. 91% are NOT members although free benefits on offer and are NOT part of the chance to be Voice of the Aboriginal people in NSW

        • rosross says:

          And how many of the 25,000 are 100% Aboriginal in ancestry or even 50%? My bet would be none. They are all more Anglo-European than Aboriginal and have been for generations.

    • rosross says:

      The vast majority of Australians who register Aboriginal ancestry, no doubt for extra benefits, are doing fine, as well as or better than the average Australian. They need no more voice.

    • Max Rawnsley says:

      Agree and also with Babones comment following.

      We know the unstated purpose of the Voice is to enshrine an industry subject to government change risk etc and the wish to garner yet another faithful constituency for socialist Labor vis taxpayers. It has nothing to do with the abject misery and embedded violence in isolated indigenous communities.

  • NarelleG says:

    Thank you Salvatore – simply explained.
    Sharing far and wide!

  • john.singer says:

    The only Voices to Parliament or Government should be those available to all citizens namely through the Minister or through the Local Member.
    The Federal Government funds, State or Territorial Governments provide the services usually in association with Local Government or a specific organisation. Most of these already exist, but likely need trimming rather than duplicating.
    There is no purpose for any change EXCEPT that the Aboriginal people have Land and no means of developing it, and that requires a rethink of Community Title and mechanisms for funding its development. Those changes can be made under the powers of Sec 51(xxvi) of the Constitution and not by Referendum.
    The proposed voice can do nothing about the violence and the criminality between the customary laws and practices and the rule of law by which all Australian citizens are compelled to abide or suffer punishment. To exempt or change the law to accomodate any Race or Ethnic Group would open th door to other groups and it would not take an adventurous Court to so rule,

  • Daffy says:

    The deepest flaw in this push by Canberra is the loose wording. It is an insult to our representative system. It provides a blank cheque to the government to bake into the Constitution its own political predilections, if not ideology.
    I sort of half agree with the concept, but note the comments above about the breadth of voluntary ‘voices’ already existing, and the risk of uninterest on the part of the target group.
    Given that I’ve not idea what the change to the Constitution will be, I’ll vote ‘No’ on that basis alone. I’ll also lean closer to a fulsome ‘No’ the more I think about the comic opera that this whole thing represents, I’m sure.

  • STD says:

    Can someone give me an non ideological reason for this?
    I do not think the politicians can be trusted to do the right thing by the Australian people, be they indigenous or otherwise.
    In my humble retrospective view these people,the political elites have not earned the right to be entrusted on this .
    Let’s look at indigenous health- high rates of metabolic diseases, diabetes,obesity, kidney disease, alcoholism, drug abuse, not to mention high rates of domestic violence and suicide .
    This the the result of 40 years of experimentation.
    If the idiot politicians and the Aboriginal people themselves have not been able to tackle and curtail these societal afflictions since that idiot Whitlam exacerbated, subsidised and proliferated there growth,what makes any sane person with half a modicum of sense think that the entrenched sloth and avarice that are the foundation stone of the call to voice are in any fair minded sense going to improve the entrenched lot of these people.
    It is my firm belief that the political and cultural elites could not give a damn about the Aboriginal people, they consider them to be wretched fools, tools if you like in the wider power struggle that is the hallmark of political agenda.
    Welfare of any type is technically theft- so should we give exalted status to the thieves and take them at their word.
    Why on God’s good earth should any politician of any stripe be trusted- come on you Australian’s cannot be that stupid.

    • 27hugo27 says:

      Great Post, STD. Our politicians and institutions have descended into evil. There is no denying this and the “Voice” is DESIGNED to divide and scratch the permanent sore of perceived racism, empowering an already violently militant indigenous cohort. Crime will increase and many whites will find themselves in legal or financial trouble a la Taylor Walker or Alistair Clarkson. Who knows where our property rights will end up. And for what – bringing air-conditioning and hot running water to a cruel, stone age culture? Whatever happened to “To the Victor, go the spoils”?

    • STD says:

      ‘Idiot’ Whitlam, should read ‘Well polished idiot’ ,my apologies to all …

  • STD says:

    Welfare is technically theft, by that I mean that the right has not been earned.

    • lbloveday says:

      At its broadest welfare can be used to refer to all of the programs and services that make up the welfare state. This can include health and education, as well as income support payments such as the Age Pension…
      I paid over $550,000 in various taxes in just one financial year, $millions during my lifetime, while receiving little specifically personal in return – for the majority of time I did not even claim Medicare, which is to me a socialist abomination that has greatly increased the cost of health care.
      I reckon I HAVE earned the right to $15k pa Age Pension.

      • Helmond says:

        You are doing pretty bloody well if you paid K550 in a single year. Got to be in the top 2 percent (at least) of income earners. I wouldn’t be bitching about the welfare state if I were you, and telling us how virtuous you are for not using Medicare.

        And what are you doing to earn this sort of income?

        And did you start out with a clean sate? No family money? No expensive private school?

        But I can tell you the value of the welfare state to persons such as yourself. It prevents you from having your throats cut or being strung on a lamp post.

        • lbloveday says:

          (1) I never mentioned Income, either gross or taxable, so what do you base “doing bloody well” and “this sort of income on”? Are you Emma Alberici?
          (2) I never mentioned Income Tax – do you not know the meaning of “various taxes” which is plain unambiguous English? Individual Income Tax is around just 40% of all tax revenue. I’ve not bothered checking the count, but the Henry Review made the point that there are at least 125 taxes in Australia.
          (3) I did not bitch about the welfare state either explicitly or implicitly – au contraire I took issue with the comment “Welfare is technically theft”
          (4) I did not claim it as a virtue to not claim Medicare, simply stated a fact. I have in a previous comment detailed how “I paid $170 cash instead of about $350 which would be the cost using Medicare”. You may think saving taxpayer money is virtuous but for me it’s just the right thing.
          (5) “Got to be in the top 2 percent (at least) of income earners”, With the ATO assessing me at ZERO taxable income in that particular year? What an ignorant claim!
          (6) “Biggles” recently said I was one of “a pathetic pack of virtue-signalling drongoes” for detailing my early life, now you rant about “family money” and “expensive private school”! And wtf does “start out with a clean sate?” mean?
          (7) I thought I would never see a more ignorant comment than Biggles in Quadrant, but this one of yours is as least as bad.

        • STD says:

          What is he doing to earn this income- WORKING.
          No family money- WELFARE.
          And as for Medicare, ,it is not healthcare, it is a means of payment.
          If lbloveday chooses not to use Medicare, this is good as he is not being a burden on the system, he contributes to fund your Medicare and pays for his own as well- now if that is not fair dinkum then what is?
          The Whitlam welfare state is a drain on all working peoples mental, physical and financial well-being. The welfare state has the capacity to cultivate a parasitic mentality in people – this is the problem with socialism it breeds a welfare mentality.
          We do not need political socialism or raw capitalism what every society needs to be, is fair and dinkum.

            • lbloveday says:

              AN excerpt from the article:
              By discouraging self-provision, by increasing health funding from the taxpayer and removing disincentives to overuse of medical services, Medicare has created a system obsessed with cost at the expense of quality, security and comfort.
              ‘It is almost inevitable that a largely government-funded system will be a government-controlled system
              How true!
              I had private insurance for years, but did not read the fine print and when I did make a claim, Medibank Private said they were not allowed by law to pay unless I claimed from Medicare first! They were not allowed to even pay for the gap, could not pay me anything unless I put in a Medicare claim, the avoidance of which was the reason I’d taken out private insurance.
              I went home, read the fine print and cancelled the insurance.

      • STD says:

        What I should have said, is that I believe that a lot of the people on entrenched welfare have probably never contributed in any meaningful way- and by doing so are actually stealing other peoples right to retire. In this day and age, most probably think it is their God given right not to have to work.
        The fair dinkum people work to survive, regardless of wealth or status
        The politicians have created a society whereby some consider it as their birthright not to work.
        We have a lot of parasites on welfare in this country ,black and white.

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