The Voice

Thank You, Marcia Langton, for Your Candour

I wonder if it is dawning on Anthony Albanese that he is riding a tiger?  Last May, as he claimed victory on election night, his first promise was to implement the Uluru Statement ‘in full’.  He repeated that pledge last week at the National Press Club, where he had the nerve to describe the Uluru Statement as “a generous invitation from First Australians to join them in devising a better future for all Australians”. He is trivialising this complex proposal when he describes it as ‘only good manners’, ‘a hand outstretched in friendship’ and a ‘generous invitation on the part of our first nations people’.

Basically, the Prime Minister is treating us as a simpletons, not to mention playing with fire.  By presenting this as a moral issue – selling it as a simple proposition and just good manners — rather than what it will be if the Yes case gets up, a significant change to our Constitution and a major gain for Aborigines, he is failing in his duty to manage expectations.  He has said, for example, ‘a defeated referendum would be devastating to Indigenous communities’. To put it bluntly, Aborigines will see a defeat as the rejection of Aboriginal people and nothing more than racism. They will be angry, but not at Albanese.  If it fails – as it should and needs to – and if, as I fear, violence breaks out, Albanese will bear much of the responsibility.  If this referendum succeeds it will not bring us any closer than we already are, and if it fails Albanese has made sure it drives us further apart.  It is hard to imagine a more irresponsible way to prosecute such a major change to our Constitution.

But now, after months of pooh-poohing any suggestion that matters arising from this Voice would be justiciable, an unfortunate wrinkle has appeared.  Professor Greg Craven, a staunch supporter of the Voice and adviser to the referendum working group, has decided that, yes, indeed, by including advice not just to Parliament but to the executive government as well, there is an undoubted potential for litigation: Craven writes (paywalled)

The concept of the voice has always centred upon legislation, which could never be obstructed by views from the voice. That is why it usually is called the “voice to parliament”. But it does include executive action as well. This has become a problem.

During the past few months, there have been suggestions that executive action could be challenged through the voice. Notably, two eminent former High Court judges with very different views of the voice – Ken Hayne and Ian Callinan – have each suggested executive action might be open to attack. Right or wrong, the issue has been launched.

Hayne, a fellow member of the government’s Constitutional Expert Group, says the problem is minimal. In practice, the situation would be very rare. Anyway, it would only delay a government decision, not stop it.

Craven’s particular example is:

In a national crisis, the prime minister urgently needs to deploy strategic aircraft in the Northern Territory. They are a natural target. The Territory has a disproportionately high Indigenous population. The government does not wait for the voice, there is a challenge, and the move is “delayed”. But time is critical. The political optics are awful. Government is paralysed.

That flies in the face of Albanese’s repeated assertion that the Voice would be advisory only, that it would have no veto.

Following Craven’s contribution, it was reported in The Australian (paywalled):

Anthony Albanese has flagged changing the draft constitutional amendment for a voice to parliament so it cannot make representations to executive government, as he accused critics of “pretending” there is not already clear detail.

The Prime Minister said he was not being prescriptive about his proposed change to the Constitution, which says the voice “may make representations to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”, and wanted to bring as many people as possible on the “journey” to constitutional recognition.

“I’m aware that there is a view over whether it be ‘executive government’ or ‘government’. Those things will be worked through,” Mr Albanese told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

The underlined words are curious.  Unless he misspoke, this is Albanese at his obscurantist best.  Currently the proposed wording of the referendum question says that the Voice may make representations to both ‘Parliament and the Executive Government’.  Here he seems to be suggesting that the wording could be amended to allow representations to ‘Parliament and the government’. Constitutionally, in this sense, there is no difference between ‘government’ and ‘executive government’.  The Constitution does not use the term ‘government’, except in describing that place where the Parliament sits as ‘the seat of government’.   It only talks about ‘executive government’.  A referendum question that used the term ‘government’ would be opening a legal can of worms because the Constitution does not recognise the term ‘government’, or, at least it does not distinguish between ‘executive government’ and ‘government’.  In the Constitution, the term ‘government’, without being separately defined, can only mean ‘executive government’.

But the fact is, Albanese will not be permitted to water down the question to only provide advice to Parliament even if he wanted to.  It is the referendum working group, dominated by Prof Marcia Langton, which will draft the final question.  And there is no way they will remove the provision of advice to the executive government, as was revealed in an interview Langton did with the ABC.  I reproduce it in full below, with my comments interspersed.  The interviewer is Ali Moore, and, I must say, she does a better job of objectivity than most of her colleagues:

MOORE: Do you feel strongly [the Voice] should be able to make representations to Parliament and the executive government and if so, how do you define executive government?

It is not up to Langton, or anyone else, to define executive government.  We are talking about a proposed Constitutional provision, and it is the Constitution that defines executive government.

LANGTON: The term executive government is a bit of a furphy [hardly a furphy. See my comment above] and, in reality the part about giving advice on laws and policies that affect indigenous people means that necessarily we will be involved in advising on matters that might end up in a bill. Well, how do you discuss a bill without first working through the policy? I mean bills just don’t fall out of the sky.  They result from policy work by governments. Say, just take an ordinary issue for instance like the current one that’s very interesting is indigenous data.  There’s a deputy secretary’s group that meets to discuss how the government will deal with data, especially because the European Union has new laws on privacy around data.  The Australian government has to be in compliance with these laws because of trade matters.  So, there’s a group of indigenous people giving advice on exactly that issue at the moment.

Langton clearly envisages the Voice giving advice to government.  In her words it sounds very much like an integral part of government.

MOORE: So does the executive government mean advice to department heads, advice to Cabinet, advice to bureaucrats?

LANGTON: Well, obviously it’s going to mean advice to department heads. That’s how government works. And one of the problems that has been raised – and I don’t accept it but I’m just explaining it to you – by Greg Craven is the view that nothing that the Voice advises should be justiciable – or be able to be taken to court. So, I ask, why would we restrict the Voice to making representations that can’t be challenged in court and how could we ever predict whether some vexatious litigant mightn’t take a matter to court?  So, you know here’s the problem.  This is what really shocks me about Craven’s view on this.  People want a fair process but then they don’t want anything that indigenous people say to be subject to Australian laws in the same way that every matter is.  Coming from a lawyer I find that really odd.

This is a very confused position but, again, it is quite clear that Langton agrees matters arising from the Voice are justiciable and that is the way she wants it to be.  Craven is not saying that anything Aboriginal people say should not be subject to Australian laws. What he is saying is that if this Voice is being sold as an advisory body only, then a rejection of, or failure to obtain, its advice per se should not be justiciable.  But if rejection of such advice turns out to have deleterious consequences, the Voice, or any other affected party could, of course, litigate against the government.  Just as the National Farmers Federation could not litigate the rejection of its advice on any particular matter, but it could seek a court injunction to prevent or delay the government implementing some decision for which there is clear evidence of possible adverse consequences for the industry. Or it could eventually initiate a class action on behalf of, say, cattle breeders deprived of income because of an ill-conceived government decision. 

MOORE: The point from Greg Craven, who we should point out is an adviser to the referendum working group, he gives legal advice and what he’s saying is if the Voice is making representations to the Executive government, his concern is it could be challenged. If a government decision is made without listening to the Voice it could be challenged in the High Court and potentially stopped from being implemented until the Voice had been heard.

LANGTON: That is a possibility and why would we not want that to be the case?

If matters arising from the Voice are justiciable, it is not only government intransigence that could result in litigation.   If the Voice believes its advice, having been heard on a particular matter has nonetheless not been given sufficient weight, then it could challenge a government decision.  Sure, it might lose, but if it wins then that would be undoubtedly the exercising of a veto.

One example of this might be a Voice recommendation that alcohol bans should not be imposed because they are discriminatory and demeaning to Aboriginal people.  It is not hard to imagine a High Court that might find this argument compelling in law, even though they might recognize the adverse consequences that flow from it.  The justices would expect Parliament to address those consequences in some other way.

MOORE: And could that lead to unnecessary, or necessary depending on your point of view, delay to the implementation of decisions?

LANGTON: Ah well, if the government doesn’t accept a decision, then it would mean it would never be implemented but the point is the Voice has to be able to give advice. If nothing that the Voice says is subject to the ordinary laws of Australia – in other words it’s completely gutted and has no standing if you like – then the government can ignore all of the Voice’s decisions with impunity. And I think that’s what Craven’s aiming for – you know, a toothless tiger that can be ignored at all times.

‘Decisions’ of the Voice, not ‘recommendations’?  A Freudian slip, perhaps?

MOORE: Just to clarify, although this giving advice only, you would see it as reasonable that if a government decision is made without listening to the Voice or without fully taking its advice into consideration you would expect there to be a court challenge until such time as full consideration is given to the Voice’s advice?

LANGTON: Ah, I think you need to understand Craven’s view on this is a singular view. No other constitutional lawyer agrees with him on the Constitutional working party.  He’s alone in his view on this. The other constitutional lawyers have said this is unlikely. 

‘Unlikely’.  Well, that’s comforting!  We can safely put this in the Constitution because a couple of Constitutional law experts say a particular outcome is unlikely?  Of course, lawyers and judges are noted for their unanimity in interpretation of the law. Oh, except for Ian Callinan, Kenneth Hayne and now, apparently, Greg Craven.

LANGTON: It would never be a problem and the reason why they say that is because people give advice all the time to government.  And it’s not litigated. There’s no legal action. So, if this were like any other advisory body – and there are many of them in existence right now – just that they’re not Aboriginal advisory bodies [No Aboriginal advisory bodies? Really?] – you know it’s possible someone may take a matter to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.  But would it win?  If it was a silly proposition it wouldn’t win in court and courts would very quickly become familiar with the kind of nonsense that’s been raised as the spectre that anything Aborigines say will end up in court, this is really a very silly argument.

So, we go from justiciability being a good thing to it would never happen. 

MOORE: I have a question from [listener] Lisa. How would the obligation to consult the Voice process work in a practical sense?  Which also goes to a question I have.  I know Parliament is going to be designing the actual process but do you see the Voice as something that has to have a single piece of advice?  Does it have to be unanimous, or can there be a minority opinion?

LANGTON: I envisage minority opinions on some matters, in which case there wouldn’t be a lot of point in giving the advice to a Parliamentary committee or to a departmental head. The normal procedure is that there be a consensus, although there might be very difficult matters on which you would agree that people should have a conscience vote.  But one would expect the advice of an advisory group on important mattes to be unanimous.  Bit here’s how it would work. Take Alice Springs for instance.  What, you know has become the right-wing icon pinup town for Aboriginal people causing trouble in town.  There are many other towns where this occurs and many other suburbs, take St Kilda. 

Yes, Marcia, things are pretty grim in St Kilda.  It’s in the news every night.

LANGTON: And if there had been a Voice, this is what would have happened.  The local Voice in Central Australia would have advised the government not to abolish the Stronger Futures legislation and thereby abolish all the alcohol restrictions, but rather bring in a planning regime so that the communities could plan how to manage alcohol sensibly to avoid the kind of disruptions that we’ve seen of late. And this is precisely what happened.  All of the Aboriginal organisations in Central Australia, particularly the medical organisations, wrote to the government and said exactly this and they were ignored.

MOORE: So why would the Voice be any different? Because the Voice could provide that advice as you’ve just said as many Aboriginal organisations did in relation to Alice Springs, and they were ignored.  The Voice can just be ignored, can’t it?

LANGTON: Well, that’s why we’re having this debate. So, what happened with the correspondence was, it landed on a Minister’s desk and nobody else saw it. 

Would that be Minister for Indigenous Australians and strong proponent of the Voice, Linda Burney?  So how did it come out?  Oh yes, that’s right.  It came out because Senator Jacinta Price, who is vehemently opposed to the Voice, and others, including some of the media like Sky News, screamed blue murder until PM Albanese was shamed into going to the Northern Territory and eventually reading the riot act to the NT Chief Minister.

LANGTON: The media weren’t much interested in the problems — Ah, in fact not at all, but if the Voice were to be able to, as our Voice Codesign Report suggests, table this advice at a Parliamentary committee, then the advice would be transparent and available to all Parliament.  It wouldn’t just sit on a Minister’s desk and be ignored.

Consider yourself properly rebuked, Minister Burney.

MOORE: So, it would not be able to be ignored, is your point, because there would be transparency around it?

LANGTON: Correct

MOORE: Marcia Langton, we are in very early days, aren’t we?  There are months more of conversations to be had before this referendum.

LANGTON: Yes there are, and you can see that there are hundreds of these policy questions that need rational responses and, you know, the normal governmental procedures which involve principles like transparency and accountability. And in terms of accountability I would expect that once the Voice — say the national body rather than a regional body — has tabled advice in the Parliament, or sent advice to a departmental head, there would be a written reply. And so, if we expect that there be written replies, then you have the normal procedures of government and you’d expect, therefore, transparency and accountability. And why would a lawyer suggest that those normal procedures of government that happen every day for all Australians suddenly not be just in this case alone not be litigiable in court?

The idea that the Voice would give advice to the executive government was not Albanese’s brainchild.  It is throughout the 272 page Co-Design Report, co-authored by Langton, and it underpins the whole structure of this massively bureaucratic Voice edifice.  Without it the Report becomes moribund.

Readers may not be aware that there is no Department of Indigenous Affairs as such. No ivory tower bureaucracy ensconsed in Canberra developing policy, drafting laws and overseeing implementation, as we see in most other ministries.  The minister for Indigenous Australians is part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and exercises her responsibilities through a number of agencies and boards that include:

Aboriginal Hostels Limited, Anindilyakwa Land Council, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Central Land Council, Indigenous Business Australia, Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, National Indigenous Australians Agency, Northern Land Council, Northern Territory Aboriginal Investment Corporation, Tiwi Land Council, Torres Strait Regional Authority, Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group and Aboriginal Hostels Limited (Board), Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (Board), Central Land Council (Board), Indigenous Business Australia (Board) and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (Board)

So, there is hardly a lack of grass roots advice on Aboriginal matters.  Nonetheless, the Voice will insinuate itself into the workings of these groups – as well as other Departments such as Health, Education, Energy and Climate Change – to such an extent they will effectively become part of the government.  Indeed, on reflection, there may not need to be any litigation because nothing will emanate from the government that is not already a product of the Voice. 

And that makes the Voice an Aboriginal-only Parliament.

24 thoughts on “Thank You, Marcia Langton, for Your Candour

  • NarelleG says:

    @Peter

    Well researched and presented – thank you.

    “And that makes the Voice an Aboriginal-only Parliament.”

  • pmprociv says:

    Thanks so much for airing all this, Peter — a very important public service. As for already existing official voices to governments, you could also have mentioned NACCHO, NIAA/Empowered Communities, and, right at the pinnacle, the Coalition of Peaks, which has representatives from ONLY THE 80 MOST SIGNIFICANT indigenous organisations.

    Frankly, I can’t accept that our Prime Minister lacks the intellectual capacity to recognise the redundancy of The Voice, or its long-term political consequences and ramifications, potentially disastrous to national cohesion. If he’s not a complete dill, then he must be a liar, assiduously hiding his secret agenda. Or, heaven forbid, could he be both?

    • DougD says:

      “Could he be both”? I recall one love media journalist commenting that Albanese can walk and chew gum at the same time. So the answer to your question is “yes”.

    • rod.stuart says:

      There is a alternative explanation. Could he be getting his orders from a higher power?
      It’s fairly obvious tha tthe Deep State calls the shots in the USA. Th ePresident is a puppet.
      The CCP has been directing the polity in Canbada for decades. (I refer to “Operation Sidewinder” decades ago [https://www.civilianintelligencenetwork.ca/2020/08/26/operation-sidewinder-the-chinese-invasion-of-canada/]
      The CCP has been listening in on 37000 audio capable cameras in Australia.
      How much influence does Soros, the Trilateral Commission, and CFR exert on Canberra?

  • leabrae says:

    Three points. One not from Peter Smith’s excellent article but pertinent:
    1. The Voice will be ‘an Aboriginal-only Parliament’. Mr. Albanese has assumed that this will be in the service of the ALP. Otherwise, what is in it for Labor?
    2. ‘Misinformation’—definition? Penalties? Especially, if, ahem, recalcitrant?
    3. PM ‘is riding a tiger’. If the LNP can find it in itself, finally, to oppose this constitutional amendment then the ALP should be grateful.
    Clearly, Labor viewed the Voice as one step, the second is terminating the constitutional monarchy, towards a de facto one-party state.

  • john.singer says:

    Thank you Peter O’Brien for so succinctly putting some of the many contradictions in this most divisive matter.

    Apart from the problems relating to the Voice itself, there are the problems that PM Albanese creates and has created by his own lack of understanding of Government (not-withstanding his 25 years in Parliament). As the member for Grayndler, he represents an electorate, the Party that nominated him and his own private contributions. However, once sworn in as Prime Minister (despite his watered-down oath) he undertakes a duty to ALL AUSTRALIANS and he begins his term with the most divisive, one-sided actions. Actions to the exclusion or at least the prominence of the major factors affecting all Australians like the cost-of-living. The Voice is not even the most important issue in the minds of the majority of Aboriginal people let alone the ones most in need of the Government’s immediate attention.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good piece Peter.
    You’ve nailed it nicely I think when you refer to the PM as treating us as simpletons. Perhaps this is because he sees himself as a sort of man of the people, who can easily identify with us all , which leads to only one conclusion in my eyes….he sees us as simpletons because he’s a bit of a simpleton himself.
    With words like ‘not prescriptive’ and merely ‘good manners’ he appears to be being led by the nose by people more cunning than he’s able to comprehend…the fate of all simpletons who get into a position of authority.
    Add to this failing his basic, long held progressive left wing mentality and the latest fashion, particularly with the young, of mere ‘performative speech’ …..and the scene seems set for a very unhappy ending if the ‘yes’ vote does get up.
    He talks of the minority Aborigines being devastated and angry if the referendum doesn’t get up….but forgets the feelings of a much larger group if it does.
    How much more of turning the other cheek on these madcap panderings to minorities can the majority of people cop…..I ask myself ?

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    ‘These things will be worked through’ says Albanese airily.
    This is the Australian Constitution we are talking about, Prime Minister, which you want to change in some undefined fashion to only then proceed to ‘work through’ what you have done.
    The answer to that is a resounding NO.
    That is not how you draft Constitutional change. Its original drafters took great care with what they said.
    Australians should very clearly be informed to reject this Voice.
    It is tokenism at its worst, a knee-jerk reaction to activist pressure, which has the capability of becoming far more than ever intended, a dangerous threat to the proper working of our Parliamentary system.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “And that makes the Voice an Aboriginal-only Parliament.”
    And the Federal Parliament will be on-course to become something resembling a backblocks chookhouse, with extensions cobbled on to satisfy any purpose which may arise from time to time.
    Who knows? Chinese Australians might feel a need for their own Voice. (Remember the anti-Chinese riots on the goldfields.?) Muslims likewise. And so on….
    And all these Voices would need their own accomodation: buildings, staffers; the works. The prospects are endless. Voices will likely grow like Topsy, and breed like rabbits.
    And woe betide any government which rejects any advice from any Voice. A Voice will push for the first and last word on a whole range of topics, because there is nothing that does not affect Aboriginal Australians in some special-to-them way. Chinese, Muslims, etc, etc, likewise.

  • Daffy says:

    I don’t know that the voice will be a ‘major win for Aborigines’. It will be a major win for inner city activist elites, but it will be at the expense of benefits to Aborigines in remote areas. It may also crush the income opportunities of Land Councils sitting on mineral wealth: the left may not let them mine it!

    The mission of the Left is power, plain and raw. To gain and keep power they must have an ‘oppressed underclass’. For their fiction to prevail, the underclass has to remain. Serving the ‘underclass’ simply builds power for the left. Thus nothing they do for the poor actually achieves change…except to increase their number and misery, while suppressing the obvious benefits of free markets and personal enterprise. The Left entertains itself preening on the basis of another fiction: that they have the high moral ground in a narcissistic delusion.

    No good will come of a group of radical leftists who could hold up government interminably with every Bill, policy, current Act and administrative action subject to its inspection.

  • DougD says:

    A frequent comment by Voice supporters is that the call for details is misconceived: it is said that the Constitution only states principles and leaves it to Parliament to determine the details. So Parliament, it is claimed, will always be supreme so far as concerns the Voice. That ignores the obvious point that it is the High Court, not Parliament, that is the supreme interpreter of the Constitution. The Constitution gave Parliament power to legislate with respect to “trade marks”. That’s all the Constitution says about that power. The parliament passed its detailed Trade Marks Act in 1905. It thought the term “trade marks” extended to marks showing goods had been made with union labour. Two High Court judges agreed. But the other three judges held that, properly interpreted, “trade marks” did not extend to union labels. So those provisions of the Trade Marks Act were invalid. It’s not only giving the Voice the right to make representations to the executive government that can operate as an effective veto on action. Parliament can also be stopped in its tracks. As Craven now recognises, even if the Voice could only delay a government or parliamentary decision, not stop it: “Politically and practically, delay often means death to proposed action.”

    • pmprociv says:

      There’s a bit more to this, DougD: Albanese himself, plus a few others, have actually said that if details were provided, it would put people off voting yes. Now, doesn’t that tell us something?! if the punters knew the details beforehand, they wouldn’t support it. Do we need to know anything more? Should The Voice get up, it’ll be too late to change minds once its unpalatable details emerge.

  • geoff_brown1 says:

    May I seek guidance, here?

    A local Aboriginal corporation is handing out brightly coloured shirts, imprinted with slogans.

    “Always was Aboriginal Land, Always Will be.” (That goes down well with the local farmers!)

    “Aboriginal by blood, not by choice.”

    The latest is “Oldest continuous culture, 60,000 years.”

    I do remember reading on this website that the oldest continuous culture was that of the San Bushmen of Southern Africa, in existence for 100,000 years. If anyone has a reference, I would be obliged.

    • pmprociv says:

      No need for references, Geoff — it’s bleeding obvious! Anyone living in Africa, San Bushmen or not, whose ancestors never left the place, obviously comes from a continuous line of African ancestry, going back to when you’d like to believe Homo sapiens first appeared. How’s that for a long, continuous culture? And if the ancestors of today’s Aborigines came via India, I’d say confidently that there’s people in India with family histories (unrecorded, of course) going back well before 60,000 years.

      As for “unchanged” well, that’s a furphy — all cultures change, although without documentation, given that writing and record-keeping are very recent developments (never in ATSI history). No problems with the “continuous” bit: every person alive today comes from a continuous, unbroken line of culture — same as applies to our genetic lineage (not a single one of my ancestors failed to reproduce!).

      But if we accept language as core to human culture, then the evidence of a huge diversity of languages (250 major groups, with maybe 800 dialects, in Oz pre-Europeans) that have evolved since the first invaders ca. 60K years ago — and evolution means change, so the cultures encountered even by Lt. Cook’s crew had already changed quite a bit from their predecessors. And didn’t stop: there’s no denying Indigenous cultures here have evolved big-time since, over the last 250 years, so that today, they bear very little resemblance to “traditional” forms.

    • Katzenjammer says:

      “Oldest continuous culture, 60,000 years.”
      Is that claimed as a benefit or as an impediment?

      • W.A. Reid says:

        “Oldest continuous culture, 60,000 years.” Is that claimed as a benefit or as an impediment?
        It is an indictment.

        By the way, The Australian just rejected my following comment about the use by Senator Lidia Thorpe of the term ‘blak’: “The Urban Dictionary lists a number of meanings for ‘blak’. One is ‘A white girl who is actually very black at heart.'”

  • Michael Waugh says:

    PMPROCIV above has already mentioned NACCHO ( National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation). Its website says ” Our organisation provides advice and guidance to the Australian Government on policy..”. The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples says on its website that it provides “a representative voice”. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services “represents and is the national voice of community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. We advocate at the national level for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ..” PMPROCIV also mentioned the Coalition of Peaks, which is “a representative body to partner with governments at all levels. In March 2019, after months of community consultations across Australia, the Coalition of Peaks entered an historic formal partnership agreement with the Council of Australian Governments on Closing the Gap. By working with the government the Council of Peaks hopes to have a formal say on the design, implementation and evaluation of programs, services and policies that affect Aboriginal people”
    There are hundreds of tax-payer funded Aboriginal organisations :land councils, legal aid bodies, medical clinics, housing bodies and others. There are also indigenous-focussed government departments in all nine Australian governments. For at least 50 years we have poured billions into employing Aboriginal people to advise governments and design programs under a policy of self-determination.
    This is well known to the readers of this journal, but I suspect it is not known to the general public who may well be misled into thinking this proposed constitutional amendment is the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are to be given a voice.
    The number of times I have heard a person say that it is about time we gave Indigenous people a say over their own affairs staggers me. And Langton implies that the proposed “voice” is merely giving Indigenous Australians a say that other Australians already have, when, in fact, it is adding another “voice” to the hundreds of Aboriginal “voices” that have been funded for over half a century. It is clear that Aboriginal people have a much greater say over government actions than non-Aboriginal citizens and that has been the case for decades and this ought be carefully explained to the electorate.

  • nilsm says:

    For years we have been considering the Aboriginal Voice to parliament. But now the proposal is a Voice directly to executive government. Bypassing parliament is dangerous because demands made by the Voice won’t get the parliamentary debate or scrutiny needed for good decisions. Parliament would no longer be needed. The Voice might not even inform Parliament of what it asks ministers to do. Without parliament the Voice might advise executive government to make bad decisions and to squander taxpayers’ money. And we won’t ever be able to vote the Voice out of government.

  • Stephen Due says:

    I would encourage all readers of this and anything else about the Voice to resolve to campaign actively against the socialist propaganda machine which operates under the banners of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Critical Race Theory (CRT). Under those banners we are seeing the introduction of numerous racist policies and programs, including the appointment of incompetent persons to academic and other positions on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or race. DEI and CRT have infected Australian mass media, schools, universities, government and the public service. One awareness-raising approach from the USA, which might also be fruitful here, is the Legal Insurrection Project (legalinsurrection.com).

  • padraic says:

    A good summary of the situation that is essentially an attempt to at best have a separate ATSI polity, or worse, denying the legitimacy of the Australian nation state by handing control to the new ATSI elite. I noted another Freudian slip in that she referred to Craven’s version of the Voice as a “toothless tiger”. The activists are quite honest about what they want, and I fail to understand why people don’t take their statements at face value. For example, in a 2002 paper titled “Ancient Jurisdictions, Aboriginal Polities and Sovereignty”, given to the Indigenous Governance Conference, Canberra, she said:
    “Aboriginal people have continued to argue that not only customary property rights in land but also ancient jurisdictions survive, on the grounds that, just as British sovereignty did not wipe away Aboriginal title, neither did it wipe away Aboriginal jurisdiction. Aboriginal governance under the full body of Aboriginal customary laws, by the same logic as that led to the recognition of native title at common law must, even if in some qualified way, have survived the annexation of Australia by the Crown.”

    The Uluru Statement From The Heart is also very clear about the “timeless sovereignty” of the Aboriginal people, viz: “Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago. This 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, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. 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.”

    In July 1990, a group of Aboriginal activists formed what they called the Aboriginal Provisional Government. Original members included Michael Mansell, Kevin Gilbert, Bob Weatherall, Jack Davis and Geoff Clark. Their aim was to establish an Aboriginal state “with all the essential control, being vested back into Aboriginal communities”. Geoff Clark also became chair of the Hawke Labor government’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).

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