Anthony Albanese continues to bluster and deceive on the Voice. At a recent press conference, he said the proposal comprises three elements. Words to the effect that (a) there will be a Voice (b) it will give advice and (c) Parliament will remain supreme. His claim about the second element is false. The wording of the proposed constitutional amendment says the Voice may make ‘representations’. In fact, nowhere is the word ‘advice’ included in the amendment. Representations can, and will, include demands.
As to Parliament remaining supreme and dictating what the Voice can and cannot do, that is totally disingenuous. The vague wording of the proposed amendment will offer fertile ground for the High Court, egged on by activists such as Thomas Mayo (see the video clip below), Megan Davis and Marcus Stewart (to name but a few), to have the final say on the remit and powers of the Voice.
But even if Albanese’s claim were true and the High Court could not intervene, the supremacy of Parliament is not guaranteed. Albanese’s statement implies that Parliament would not cede any veto or political power to the Voice that was not envisaged by the general public who accepted his assurance that this is just about constitutional recognition, a simple change and “just good manners”.
The logic underlying Albanese’s implication, that we are meant to naively accept, is that Parliament would never do anything stupid. Like destroying our national energy grid in the fruitless pursuit of net zero. Or locking down entire cities to control a virus that we knew only threatened the very old or immune compromised. Or establishing a First Nations assembly to dictate the terms of a treaty. Or passing Aboriginal Heritage legislation that will burden business, and even home-owners, with yet another layer of bureaucratic brown tape. Or dismantling an effective border protection regime leading to 50,000 illegal arrivals and thousands of deaths.
What are the odds of the Greens, enriched (like uranium) by the addition of a couple of replacement Lidia Thorpes, wringing concessions out of a Labor government, more than half of whose members would be that green-left way inclined in the first place?
Meanwhile, Peter Dutton’s suggestion that the referendum be shelved or delayed, while probably well-intentioned, is misguided. The last thing we want now is for Albanese to announce with a heavy heart (and probably some tears) that owing to the misinformation being promulgated by the No “scare campaign” – be given a graceful way to get off this tiger he so smugly mounted back in May 2022. Putting it on the backburner will just prolong the agony. We need to apply the garlic and stake right now, while we still have the chance.
At this stage, in light of how the polls are trending, postponment would be Albanese’s best play, but it will not happen because it’s not Caucus pulling his strings on this issue. It’s the Voice Referendum Working Group and the likes of Thomas Mayo featured in the clip above. They will never allow a delay, even allowing what the polls are telling them to expect. This embryonic Voice would exercise its second veto over government policy. The first being to outright reject advice from the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General to remove representations to the Executive Government from the proposal. On reflection, perhaps I am giving Dutton too little credit for political smarts. He probably knows this too.
Now here comes the shameless plug. As I said earlier, it will not be enough to defeat the referendum. It must be defeated convincingly, and it must be defeated on the correct grounds. The Opposition’s primary strategy based on calling out the lack of detail, rather than opposing a constitutional Voice on principle, suggests there is some form of the Voice that might be acceptable in the Constitution.
We do not want the basis of the defeat to be that people voted it down because they didn’t understand it. We want it to be that people voted no because they did understand it, that it is wrong in principle. That is where my book The Indigenous Voice to Parliament? –The No Case comes in. It covers all the arguments for the Voice, including the emotive ones – the ones based on atonement for past wrongs – that are likely to resonate with different sections of the community. If you haven’t already bought a copy, may I suggest you buy two – one for you and one for a friend. And ask him/her to do the same. My friend Rodger Lamb did that and he tells me his gift turned his friend from Yes to No.
At a recent family event, I sensed that the tide is turning against the Voice. We need to turn it into a flood.