Would it be too fanciful to suggest some sort of selective woke virus has infected Chris Kenny’s brain? How else to explain the positively Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation he seems to undergo whenever the subject of The Voice comes up? Normally forensic in calling out the cant, hypocrisy and downright dishonesty that pervades Leftist thought these days – think CAGW, gender issues etc etc – Kenny’s conservative and sceptical instincts seem to desert him whenever any criticism or doubt is raised, or questions asked, about his pet cause.
His first reaction is to say ‘Sure let’s have a debate’ but his contribution is to simply pooh-pooh or dismiss any and all criticisms. As an example, here is an email I sent him a week or so ago:
In September 2022, in a debate on your Sky News program, constitutional expert Dr Shireen Morris claimed that the Constitution ‘explicitly excluded Aborigines’. You repeated that claim in an article in The Australian and last night again on your program.
This is a disingenuous claim.
In using the word ‘explicitly’, Morris can only have been referring to the original Section 51(xxvi) or Section 127 as these are the only sections that explicitly referred to Aborigines. Section 51(xxvi) did not exclude Aborigines from the Commonwealth or the Constitution. It merely excluded them from the class of people for whom the Commonwealth could make special laws, because that was the responsibility of the States. As British subjects resident in Australia at the time, Aborigines were subject to every other provision of the Constitution in the same way that white people were. And Section 127, which was repealed in 1967, only constrained government from counting Aboriginal people in ‘reckoning the numbers of people of the Commonwealth or a State or other part of the Commonwealth’. It did not exclude them from any other provision of the Constitution.
If there were any intention to specifically exclude Aborigines from the Constitution we would expect find some discussion on this matter in the proceedings of the Constitutional Conventions. There is no such discussion.
I totally disagree with your position on the Voice but readily concede that most of your points are at least arguable. This one is not. It is in the same league as the Flora and Fauna myth.
Kenny’s dismissive response, hardly redolent of a debate:
Thanks, it is a point of semantics in many ways, Aborigines were mentioned in the constitution but only (in two places) to exclude them….
I could not let that go:
That is a specious argument. The fact that Aborigines were specifically excluded from two provisions necessarily means they were included in all the others. The Constitution does not talk about the British people. It just talks about ‘the people’ ‘the people of the six colonies’ or the ‘people of a State’. Aborigines were included in ‘people’. The colonies made laws to protect and advance Aboriginal people. In NSW, Vic, Tasmania and South Australia, Aboriginal men had the vote at the time of Federation. As did Aboriginal women in SA as well.
There is no doubt that Aborigines, as part of ‘the people’, were included in the Constitution.
That they were not specifically mentioned in the context of being the original inhabitants is quite another matter.
I did not get a response to that. Possibly Kenny would argue that he has better things to do with his time than to exchange emails with me.
In a recent Weekend Australian, Kenny had a piece in which he posited answers to Peter Dutton’s 15 questions. That (paywalled) article drew over 1700 online comments, almost all of them negative. Kenny, to his credit, often responds in person to comments on his articles. As far as I’m aware he is the only one who does that. He replied to seven comments posted over the space of a couple of hours, so that’s a pretty good effort. He can’t spend all day combing through online threads. My comment was:
As usual, Chris Kenny speaks only of the Voice. He does not mention the Uluru Statement, of which the Voice is an integral element. It was the Uluru Statement that Albanese has pledged to implement in full – not just a Voice. That includes ‘truth telling’, treaty and some form of self-government. Aboriginal leaders such as Langton and Pearson have made it clear that the Voice is an enabling mechanism for these further demands. That is why they are desperate to have it in the Constitution. They don’t care about a legislated Voice because they recognize that, as far as giving useful advice is concerned, it will be a large bureaucratic white elephant. The strident demands will not cease once the Voice is in the Constitution. We know that Kenny is passionate about the Voice. It would be nice to know what he thinks about ‘truth telling’, treaty and self-government.
That comment attracted 159 likes but unfortunately did not elicit a response from Kenny. So, following his Monday night Sky News program, I followed up with a email to him which made essentially the same point:
Last night you pooh-poohed the idea that the Voice has anything to do with Aboriginal sovereignty. But the Voice is just one part of the Uluru Statement that Albanese has promised to implement in full. The Statement mentions sovereignty four times. It also demands ‘truth telling’ and treaty. Aboriginal leaders, including Dr Marcia Langton, have made it quite clear that the Voice is an enabling mechanism for these other demands. That they will use the Voice to prosecute these other issues.
You only ever talk about the Voice, as if it were the end game. You seem to avoid mentioning the Uluru Statement. Do you support the idea of a treaty, for example, and what do you imagine the Aboriginal community will want out of a treaty? And what might they be prepared to concede, if anything, in order to get it? Do you really believe that if the Voice is entrenched in the Constitution it will only be extremists like Thorpe who will demand more?
That also failed to elicit a response, so let me recap, in full, the Voice segment that Kenny aired on Monday night. My comments are interposed:
KENNY: Others on the No side have continued to make increasingly desperate claims against the Voice – the claims about how the Voice will divide the nation, put race into the Constitution, create apartheid, confer special privileges and a host of other arguments that just don’t stack up and are designed really to just stoke unjustified fears.
[Cut to screen grab of Rowan Dean explaining the real agenda behind the Voice]
But the latest arguments put by the No advocates are the most absurd. They cite the extremist rantings of the black sovereignty movement and use this to pretend that the Voice could undermine our sovereignty.
Look, I gotta say, this stuff is pretty silly. The black sovereignty movement, the radical fringe has most recently been given voice by Senator Lidia Thorpe. Thorpe opposes the Voice because it’s not radical enough. Thorpe doesn’t want a voice to Parliament. She wants indigenous people to reject the Parliament and claim their own nation states.
[Cut to screen grab of Thorpe outlining her grand vision]
Yeah, so that’s Thorpe. But conservative Voice opponents are saying that the Voice will fall victim to her radicalism – even though she rejects the Voice because it’s not radical enough.
It was not Thorpe who linked sovereignty to the Voice. It was Albanese, as I was the first to point out:
Recently, Green’s warlord, the noxious Senator Lidia Thorpe, said she would not support the Voice unless it could be guaranteed that it would not cede Aboriginal sovereignty.
Not to worry, Albanese got his hand-picked panel of constitutional experts (you know, the ones who assured us that, contrary to advice from former High Court Justices Ian Callinan and Kenneth Hayne, matters arising from the Voice would not be justiciable) to work.
Consequently, The Australian was able to report last Thursday that “The Albanese government has published a summary of legal advice from constitutional experts who say there is no basis to claims from the far left that an Indigenous voice will cede sovereignty.
Firstly, it beggars belief that the government would even entertain the idea that any form of sovereignty still resides with the Aboriginal community, that they would indulge such fantasies on the part of extremists like Thorpe.
In other words, Thorpe is irrelevant. In effect, what Albanese is saying goes something like this: “Don’t worry, Lidia, you can still pursue your dreams of sovereignty. In fact, we’re all on the same page. We’re just going to get there by more subtle means, so the gullible public don’t see what we’re up to until it’s too late.”
[Cut to screen grab of Thorpe declaring war]
KENNY: Yes, Senator Thorpe is off the charts. Her frustration with the Voice is because it accepts our Parliament and is only advisory. Well, that actually demonstrates why the Voice is OK. And look, no push for black sovereignty could ever work through the Voice even if anyone tried it because it would make a mockery of the Voice and allow Parliament to easily ignore it. Besides, the Voice has no power. It only exists under our sovereignty and the Parliament retains all of the authority.
The Parliament would easily ignore a demand for some form of Aboriginal sovereignty? Really?
Kenny spends most of his time railing against stupid government decision injurious to our sovereignty – like signing up to Net Zero emissions, like killing our coal and gas industries, like allowing Woke ideology to corrupt our education system, like removing TPVs, like imposing lockdowns and vaccination mandates – and yet he seems to think the most left-wing Labor government since Whitlam, in thrall to the even more crazy Greens, would not hesitate in a frenzy of virtue signalling to hand over some degree of power to noisy Aboriginal activists. Like they’re doing in Victoria.
KENNY: Ironically, the real worry here is Thorpe in the here and now, as a crucial crossbench Senator has more power than the Voice ever would and she attacks our sovereignty. Mind you, Thorpe is happy to have a seat in Parliament and take a salary from taxpayers.
Anyway, the point is nothing can overturn our sovereignty short of Beijing invading. Our Parliaments are our sovereignty. Our courts implement the law under authority derived from our sovereignty. Even Mabo and native title were only delivered under our sovereignty and can only continue to function under Australian sovereignty.
Conservative critics of the Voice (who number everyone except Kenny) are not claiming Aboriginal sovereignty will extinguish Australian sovereignty. Sovereignty in Australia, in terms of law-making, is shared between the Commonwealth and the states. What Aboriginal activists – Kenny’s Voice colleague Marcia Langton among them – want, as a minimum, is equal status with the states. The more moderate of them want an Aboriginal state, or states, in which Aboriginal people will be governed by a separate set of laws from the rest of us. It is not just extremists like Thorpe who want this. It’s Chris Kenny’s fellow travellers. He need only read Keith Windschuttle’s expose of this in his recent Quadrant Online article, “Living on Stolen Land“, to satisfy him of that. Or better still, read Keith’s masterful work The Break-Up of Australia. Does Kenny support yet another level of government in this country?
KENNY: Seriously, to try to discredit the Voice because one Voice opponent is ranting about sovereignty is like trying to oppose the whole idea of Parliament because an incoherent radical like Senator Thorpe got elected to it. Let’s continue the Yes/No debate but let’s keep it real.
Kenny must be the only one who believes this is all just about an advisory body to Parliament. That is why any debate with him is futile. But give him his due, he has his beliefs and he’s sticking to them, as per the video below.
Later in the same show, Kenny certainly seemed to disapprove the idea of two anthems being played at the US Superbowl – the national anthem and a black anthem. In a separate email, I invited him to explain why two anthems in the US is bad and two (or three) flags in Australia is OK. He declined to answer. How could he? The only coherent answer he might be able to give would be that the US is different because black Americans possess no unique sovereignty of their own. Oops!