The Voice

The Book Every Australian Needs to Read

The latest Newspoll, I am sorry to report, is likely to make opponents of the Voice to Parliament a bit edgy. A decent majority of 56 per cent favours constitutional disfigurement while only 37 per cent plans to vote ‘No’.

Regrettably, there seems to be lingering post-election goodwill for Albanese’s Labor government, as even supporters would admit it hasn’t handled the ‘Yes’ case particularly well so far. Last year, when Albanese enlisted NBA star Shaquille O’Neal to the cause, the PM invited some bemusement but deserved a lot more ridicule. His more recent performances have been characterised by prevarication and insistent huffing at anyone who inquires about those pesky details. Instead of bothering to make his case, Albanese has preferred to fling the charge of culture war incitement at his opponents. Apparently, you can be acquitted of that charge if you are for a radical, race-based transformation of Australian governance; only those against it, you see, are fighting a culture war.

Such political incompetence — fingers crossed — will continue to define the government’s approach. As the referendum draws nearer, the soft ‘Yes’ cohort of some 28 per cent, those happy to offer partial support for the time being, could very well fall off. Those persuadable voters, as well as vigorous opponents, would benefit from reading this edited collection from Peter Kurti and Warren Mundine, Beyond Belief: Rethinking the Voice to Parliament (which can be ordered here).

On the very first page of the foreword by Senator Jacinta Price, it’s pleasing to find a spirited attack on the Aboriginal Industry. This cadre of professors, bureaucrats and other misfits’ demands, via the establishment of the Voice, a nice reward for its decades of failures. The Industry now claims that only constitutional amendment can provide the solutions to the dysfunction of remote communities and that unbudging gap. Of course, such an advisory body will have to be staffed by … guess who!

Senator Price will have none of this and rejoins that it all sounds too good to be true. She continues, in refreshingly blunt fashion:

The globally unprecedented Voice proposal … will divide Australia along racial lines, entrench indigenous separatism, and constitutionally enshrine the idea that Aboriginal people are perpetual victims forever in need of special measures.

Tony Abbott picks up these threads and makes the ‘No’ case with perspicacity, although his first preference is for the referendum to be abandoned entirely. Abbott issues a number of important warnings: the Voice is merely the prelude to treaties and “truth-telling”; once established, it would further exacerbate the difficulties of passing legislation; and most importantly, the body itself, if made up of the urban Aboriginal elite, is “likely to be a permanent echo chamber for grievance.” Abbott also understands that the ‘Yes’ vote could only succeed by manipulating Australians’ sense of guilt and their desire to avoid wandering over to the wrong side of history.

Janet Albrechtsen and Chris Merritt of The Australian take up the inevitable role of the High Court in deciding the scope of the Voice. Albrechtsen, whose columns on this topic have been truly essential reading, has greater room here to set out what makes the Voice so legally dodgy as well as its potential devastation on Australian political life. To bolster her case, she offers an all too plausible and nerve-wracking thought experiment of Australia in 2029, held hostage by activist MPs and ruled by a Voice that won’t shut up.

Merritt provides crucial background on our serially activist High Court and the attendant risks of giving its judges creative licence over the Voice, which will come to mean whatever they imagine it to mean. He is particularly good on the promiscuousness of Albanese’s proposed language from Garma, which, he argues, is very much by design:

The intention — unexpressed by the government — is clearly to vest this body with additional powers once the referendum is out of the way. What those powers might be is unknown.

I like best the sense of outrage from these writers, their contempt for these most recent Constitutional vandals and their cheerleaders, many of whom should know better. For balance, though, it’s important to have a typically thoughtful and measured contribution from Anthony Dillon, who is highly sceptical of the proposal but open to a change of mind. He is at his most eloquent and persuasive when making the argument against separatism, which he calls

a mindset that has failed, and can only ever fail, for Aboriginal Australians, and with tragic consequences.

Similarly, Caroline di Russo’s essay surely reflects the sentiments of a good number of Australians, especially those yet to arrive at a definite position. She writes that every one of us wants to see better lives for Aboriginal Australians, but we are sincere believers in equality; there is a wariness, therefore, about treating one set of citizens differently under an untested mode of governance.

Every essay in this collection deserves close reading, re-reading and reflection. Amanda Stoker writes perceptively on the risks of entrenching identity politics into our Constitution. Bernard Samuelson perhaps too gently reproaches the conservatives who are backing the Voice and offers them — having read Keith Windschuttle, I suspect — a remedial history lesson. In his concise and informed contribution, Scott Prasser gets into the nuts and bolts of the referendum process and adds the obvious but still helpful reminder that it’s okay to vote ‘No’. In short, this book should be widely read, debated, and loaned out, especially to those who won’t find its arguments readily available or even permissible.

After all, the ABC, to the surprise of nobody, has recruited quite a few Voice campaigners to the cause, although you may see them masquerading as journalists or Radio National presenters. Facebook has already banned from its platform videos of those promoting a ‘No’ vote. Victorian schools, under an edict from the Andrews government, has just introduced a new assignment for their students: memorising the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

I do hope the Right is getting ready for what it’s up against. As the campaign intensifies, in politer moments, the Left and the ‘Yes’ advocates are still going to accuse you of racism, bigotry and white-supremacist adjacency. When that comes around — sooner rather than later, I expect — the intellectual, historical and legal arguments in this book will be part of the weaponry on which we must rely.

Beyond Belief: Rethinking the Voice to Parliament
Edited by Peter Kurti & Warren Mundine
Connor Court, 2022, 171 pages, $29.95

4 thoughts on “The Book Every Australian Needs to Read


    Thwart apartheid in Australia. Vote No if the referendum goes ahead. Hopefully this item will register ‘no signal’. on the radar and become ‘dead in the water’.

  • Adelagado says:

    Senator Price. “The globally unprecedented Voice proposal … will constitutionally enshrine the idea that Aboriginal people are perpetual victims forever in need of special measures”
    Well that’s the diplomatic way of putting it. I’d suggest it forever labels aboriginals as intellectually inferior and perpetually in need of special help..

  • GG says:

    How naive to believe a Newspoll. It like the others, is a farcical blend of pre-directed outcomes, framed to achieve a pre-determined result. Newspolls for the Republic referendum in the 90s had the “yes” vote out in front. It lost. It’s about as accurate as the BOM is in predicting the weather.

  • STD says:

    If the Aboriginal so called leaders and elders who actually have the ear of government haven’t been able to fix their peoples problems with their advice to government ,how the hell is a bureaucratic voice going to make one iota of change for good.
    Except of course creating an Aboriginal bureaucratic salary structure- the Perkins effect.
    Political and bureaucratic (ATSIC) measures have been tried and failed and will fail again, the foundation stone is and has been built on the wrong metrics.
    Just because people are poor does not mean that they have to live like pigs.
    People choose to live like they do, this is the wanton lot of some of these people.
    The world has intractable problems that cannot be fixed. The poor will always be with us.
    If these people are happy with their lot, leave them be.
    Mind you unemployment has not helped, alcohol has not helped, drug use has not helped, the western high caloric diet has not helped- socialism has not helped, the mental, psychological and physical health and self esteem and well-being of these people- rape, assault, sloth, poor health outcomes, violence and unemployment, basically are the self image of these people.
    It is my firm belief that politicians and an Aboriginal bureaucracy are not going to solve this problem- there has to be a shift in the psyche of the individual to bring about change.
    Welfare has certainly has not produced welfare changes.
    These people , just like white Australia have been disempowered and disenfranchised as a direct result of bipartisan political discourses and an alien immigration program , that has seen, sought and encouraged-corporate and business outcomes have been put before the welfare of Australia and Families and resulted in societal breakdown- people without common purpose.
    The culprits are political in nature.

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