On the verge of a confected blubber, tellingly befitting tragedy rather than triumph, Anthony Albanese explained that all Australians had to do was vote ‘yes’ to the referendum question:
A proposed law to alter the Constitution to recognise the first peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. “Do you approve this proposed alteration?”
This is entirely deceptive. Political shenanigans. Most people have not been following the ins and outs of the debate. I know, I’ve tested people whom I know. The question explains nothing. Albanese is banking on snowing people; playing on their naivety; on their goodwill; on their emotions.
The referendum question should contain elements of the insertion to be made into the Constitution; and more, as I will explain, if voters are to be halfway informed. Below is the latest form of the proposed insertion. I have shown changes from the form originally proposed by the prime minister. Added words and changes to the order of words are shown in brackets, consequent deletions are shown as strike outs.
There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the parliament and the executive government [of the Commonwealth] on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws with respect to [matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its] the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
The only change of substance is that the Parliament is no longer restricted to making laws on the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Voice but can also make laws on other matters to do with the Voice. But, importantly, making representations to executive government remains a power of the Voice despite objections by the Attorney-General, and by a number of legal commentators who have retained their nous and common sense.
My point is not to do with basic objections to the Voice. Nonetheless, it bears repeating that it will give rights to one group denied to others purely on the basis of racial origin. Why this is acceptable in an enlightened democracy is beyond reason. Why it is supported by certain senior members of the legal fraternity is explicable only in a society gone badly wrong.
There are numbers of ways modern-day society has gone wrong. In this particular case, it comes down, I believe, to extoling victimhood. Lots of Aboriginal people have been convinced by contemptible leaders that they are victims without agency. It’s a hateful thing to have done; it brings people down; makes them mendicants. Robs them of their self-regard. As to legal eagles, don’t be fooled, not all of them are very bright (e.g., condemning Cardinal George Pell because in their view it wasn’t impossible for him to have done it?). Some are ambulance chasers seeing opportunities in victimhood. Many are thoroughgoing leftists intent on piling mischief and misery on civil society.
To my point and the stripped-down simplistic Voice referendum question. This was the question in the republic referendum of 1999.
A Proposed Law: To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament. “Do you approve this proposed alteration?”
This was the question in the 1967 referendum on the status of Aboriginal people.
Question. DO YOU APPROVE the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled— “An Act to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the People of the Aboriginal Race in any State and so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the Population”?
Of course, the constitutional amendments themselves were more detailed but still the essential detail is in the questions. People who hadn’t closely followed the debate would have understood the substance of what they were voting for or against. Not so with the Voice.
The proposed question has no detail at all. It simply asks whether you approve of the Voice. This wouldn’t be nearly solved by adding to the question part of the words proposed to be inserted into the Constitution (specifically the second paragraph). It would still leave the question short of essential detail, like how representatives constituting the Voice will be elected or selected and by whom. Here is a more informative question. Bear in mind that you might do better. I’m no expert at drafting referendum questions.
A proposed law to change the constitution to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander body called the Voice, which will make representations to the parliament and the federal government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and whose members will be appointed by communities of those peoples in the States and Territories in ways determined by the communities in question. “Do you approve this change?”
As we know, the last thing the pro-Voice crowd want is better-informed voters. Hence the simplistic question as it stands. As Robespierre put it, “The secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”