Joanna Hackett , friend of Quadrant and contributor, writes to update readers who have purchased bumper stickers since the October publication of her satirical piece “Saving Australia, One Bumper Sticker at a Time”:
The emails from our supporters have made one fact very clear. Many Australians feel they have no voice, few politicians speak for them, and nobody listens to them. We are angry, fed up, and saddened at what our once-great and beloved country has become. Some who fought for this country now wonder why they bothered. I suggest that our politicians and businesspeople ignore this disgruntled group at their peril, for their pent-up rage simmers. Displaying a meaningful bumper sticker gives many the only opportunity they have of expressing their feelings.
I have received various suggestions as to how I could extend the sticker range. Some are very funny, some clever and some (both funny and clever) are unfortunately inappropriate for public display. Western Australia is the most common address of those buying stickers, and the most popular sticker is “Don’t Welcome Me to My Own Country”. The phony welcome-to-country ceremony infuriates almost all of us. Several people mentioned their determination to respond verbally—and very loudly—when subjected to these performances. Many were unaware that those conducting the ceremonies are paid substantial sums to do so. The recent budget (in which over $216 million was promised to push the Yes vote, and not a brass razoo for the No vote) caused a rush of sticker orders from angry and disbelieving Australians.
The business Brisbane Custom Signs made some excellent stickers for us initially. They then decided they had a “policy against printing anything that could be considered racism, hate speech or any other forms of discrimination”. Despite polite discussion with them, they refused to budge. We felt very discriminated agains, gave them the boo t and took our not-insignificant orders elsewhere. This new mob are efficient professionals and run a real business.
There is now a push to rein in debate for the No side on the grounds that it will result in offence or even harm to Aborigines. We heard similar nonsense during the same-sex-marriage “debate”, when we were told that negative discussion would traumatise LGBT+ people and possibly result in suicides. Recently, there has been talk of Aboriginal souls being “broken” if the Voice referendum fails, a fantasy roundly ridiculed by Senator Jacinta Price.
Our Prime Minister has said it was just “simple courtesy, it is common decency” to vote Yes. Nice people will vote Yes and they will be on the right side of history. Albo also says we are all diminished when First Nations (sic) people are denied their right to a happy and fulfilling life. So get with the program, be a good little Aussie and vote Yes for Aboriginal happiness and fulfilment. Spare me this sanctimonious poppycock!
Dr Nina Lansbury is using her position as Senior Lecturer in Planetary Health, School of Public Health, at the University of Queensland, to advise of the “significant public health benefits to the country” of a Yes vote. Vote Yes for First Nations (sic) to have good health and well-being. Vote No and you will be condemning Aborigines to racism and other prejudices, lack of respect and denial of human rights. She is saying: If you vote No, Aboriginal health is at risk; if you vote Yes, the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people will improve.
Notwithstanding the highly dubious nature of her statements, Dr Lansbury is threatening the Australian voter, just as we were threatened during the same-sex-marriage “debate”. “Vote as I say, or else …” She is even giving away T-shirts to her supporters, with detailed instructions as to where and how often they should wear them just in case they are unable to decide this on their own. The beneficiaries of her largesse are requested to wear their T-shirts at least twice a month in the lead-up to the referendum, in public places, walking the dog, when mixing in big crowds, at the supermarket, picking up the kids from school and so on. Perhaps the commonsense-o-meter within the hallowed grounds of our universities is running at an all-time low.
Personally, I find Dr Lansbury’s remarks outrageous and misleading. She is in a position of some authority. Using UQ for a partisan political campaign is surely improper, and an abuse of this authority. We might well ask, with justified trepidation, how many other educators are busily indoctrinating and bribing their students and colleagues.
If someone began producing “Vote No” T-shirts, I’m sure there would be a good market, particularly if the purchasers were free to wear them whenever and wherever they chose.
Becoming quite unexpectedly a purveyor of political bumper stickers has made me aware of a worrying result. There is a concern, held by many, that if they advertise their beliefs by displaying a sticker, their property may be targeted, their car may be keyed, or they may be in some physical danger. We all have to make our own choices about this. How big is the risk to our house, or car? How big is the risk to our country if we do nothing? You may rationalise your desire for anonymity by telling yourself that one little sticker won’t make a difference anyway. I remind readers that 1600 stickers have been distributed already. Together we can make a difference.
Australians were known for their gutsy bravery in the past. Let us not now be cowed into submission by the possibility of trouble before the referendum has even been announced. My two cars, my letterbox, my front door and the power pole in front of my home have stickers. There has been no backlash. If any readers need further encouragement to join this debate, study the nauseatingly unctuous words of our Prime Minister in his address to the 2022 Garma Festival.
We No voters are facing a well-financed, well-supported and determined army that has invested years of its time and thousands of (our) taxpayer dollars into winning this referendum. Do not treat them lightly, for they mean business. Gird your loins and prepare for battle, or at the very least buy and display a bumper sticker!
We will continue to distribute bumper stickers at cost to publicise the No side of the debate as long as there is a need. Please continue to support us.
This is a lightly edited version of Joanna’s update, which appears in full in the Jan-Feb 2023 edition of Quadrant, now on sale. Her stickers, sold at cost for $2 each, can be ordered via firstname.lastname@example.org