One of the arguments in support of the Voice which I keep coming across from the Prime Minister down is that whatever has been done so far hasn’t worked. Then we are invited implicitly or explicitly to embrace a non sequitur and vote Yes.
There it is again in the Yes-case pamphlet. I’ve emphasised the telling sentence in the extract below.
There are big challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: A life expectancy 8 years shorter than non-Indigenous Australians. Worse rates of disease and infant mortality. A suicide rate twice as high. Fewer opportunities for education and training. Clearly, the current approach isn’t working. To close these gaps, find solutions and plan for the future we need to listen to advice from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about issues affecting their lives and communities.
Let me get personal. Whatever I’ve been doing so far to pick winning stocks on the ASX has on the whole not worked. Yet what to do. I am absolutely sure that there’s a heap of Bernie Madoff types out there who would say to me, “Peter, what you’ve been doing hasn’t worked. Have I got a winning scheme for you!” Of course, there are also reputable, competent and lucky-stock-picker advisers out there who would improve my position. It’s question of finding them. Hard. I once subscribed to a service which recommended Retail Food Group. Later, tens of thousands of dollars plus change in the red, I thought, that wasn’t a good idea.
What I’m saying is that understanding something isn’t working does not of itself point to what will work. And, in the general scheme of things, there is often a very large number of options to choose from; not many, if any, of which will work. That’s the business of life that we are all in together. I’m labouring the point. Shouldn’t have to, it’s obvious. Or is it? Yes proponents evidently don’t think so.
Movers and shakers in the Yes camp clearly think that there are large numbers of people in voterland who are dumb enough to buy the non sequitur. And they are probably right in view of the steep decline in intelligence among sections of the populace over the past decade or two. I know this decline has happened and put forward the election of Teals as one piece of compelling evidence. How about the creepy enthusiasm in Melbourne for being locked up by Dan. And what about those people who happily walked about outside in masks. Want more proof? How about a belief that the intensity and frequency of bushfires will lessen if we build more wind and solar farms. I mean you have to be approaching idiot classification to believe that, yet it’s out there. I dare say most ABC devotees believe it.
Unfortunately, the whole business of the Voice and Aboriginal affairs in general is not just plagued with intellectual limitations, it is plagued with identity politics. In this case, every facet of human experience is reduced to the single perspective of race. As night follows day, the puerile and meaningless follow. To wit,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a life expectancy 8 years shorter than non-Indigenous Australians, have worse rates of disease and infant mortality, a suicide rate twice as high and fewer opportunities for education and training.
This is puerile and meaningless because you can’t put hundreds of thousands of people living in radically different circumstances into the one exclusive bucket. There are many non-indigenous Australians who also are severely disadvantaged. There are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are particularly advantaged. For examples of the latter have a look at those pushing the Voice. In general, aggregates provide no useful information to guide policy.
Take the suicide rate among defence force personnel. According to a government monitoring source, compared with the Australian population, the rate of suicide between 1997 and 2020 for Australian defence force personnel who had left the service was 27 percent higher for males and 107 percent higher for females. However, the suicide rate was less than half the Australian average for male defence force members serving fulltime or in the reserves. My point is that taking defence force personnel as a whole would be meaningless and provide no insight at all into the problem. Equally referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people en bloc is meaningless.
At the last census in 2021, 812,728 people self-identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. That’s 3.2 percent of Australia’s population, up from 2.8 percent in 2016 and 2.5 percent in 2011. Not bad for a group suffering a shorter lifespan and worse rates of disease and infant mortality. Of course, we suspect that a proportion of these so-called Aboriginal people are white people with a suntan. Many more have a very weak DNA bond with Aboriginality. Many are doing very well through their own efforts and also, regrettably, through racially-based preferment. Many are employed, live in cities and towns, and experience the same ups and downs as other folk. Others, notably among those living on the outskirts of regional towns or in remote communities, are in serious trouble. Unemployment, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse is rife; so we hear on the news in the big cities. Children apparently run wild instead of attending school. My question: is the proposed Voice for them? Or is it also for well-heeled Aboriginal people living in trendy parts of Sydney and Melbourne?
The whole concept of the Voice is ridiculous at its very core. Special representation in the Constitution for millionaires living in the inner city provided they can point to a distant Aboriginal ancestor, really? Linda Burney should do her job competently and focus laser-like on the actual problem which she should know about intimately having spent months living in and travelling to the communities in trouble and having been provided with expert briefings from public servants who have also spent considerable time on the ground with the communities in question. You might notice here that I am making common-sense presumptions about how ministers for Aboriginal affairs and their taxpayer-funded advisers tackle their job.
If in fact Burney has been halfway competent, I can only wonder at how she, and to be fair, her hapless predecessors, have come up with zilch. Instead Burney and the government to which she belongs search desperately to fob off the problem, which she is paid to solve, onto some wise people with secret cures. Why then do we need her?