The Voice debate – like many Australians, I’m over it. Now, having decided its a big NO from me, the whole sorry and needlessly divisive result of the Prime Minister’s brain fart reminds me of a question posed decades ago by Professor Julius Sumner Miller, whose ABC TV show introduced countless young Australians to the joy and wonder of physics. “Why is it so?”, he would exclaim and then explain why.
There’s an easy answer. The Voice is a move to enshrine an unelected advisory body in the Australian Constitution and further divide our great nation on racial lines. QED. As the late TV professor might have put it in answering his own question: because it’s racist. There’s a clear message in our National Anthem, “Australians let us all rejoice for we are one and free…” It does not continue, “One rule for you and another rule for me …” That will be the case if the Yes vote, backed by Corporate Australia’s millions of virtue-projecting dollars, defies the pollsters’ expectations and actually gets up (perish the thought). But despite all that money being subtracted from shareholders’ dividends for a nakedly partisan cause with which many of those same shareholders vehemently disagree, the Voice has hit a flat note. Support, according to the polls, continues to plummet.
Why is it so? Well it seems there are a lot of Australians fed up with endless welcomes to country and smoking ceremonies at every major sporting venue and road opening. Then there are the tiresome lectures whenever the PM spots a microphone and repeats his false promises that this would be a purely advisory body with no power to compel Parliament to act. He seems so sincere you could almost believe him — until you look a little deeper, that is.
Does raising an eyebrow at all this choreographed spin and nonsense make us racist? Not in my book. Most of us are more concerned with the escalating cost of living, power bills through the roof (despite Labor’s repeated promise to reduce them by $275 annually). Food and other non-negotiables, such as rents and mortgages, are also escalating. All this and more while Treasurer Jim Chalmers rabbits on about his “Wellbeing Budget”. I’m not sure what parallel universe Dr. Jim’s been visiting in his very own model of the Tardis, but it is far removed from real life here in the real Australia.
Many of us are also aware of the duplicity that is the stock in trade of Anthony Albanese, Ms Burney et al in their oft-repeated assertions that the Voice will be purely advisory. Yet we also remember how, on the night of Labor’s election victory, the new Prime Minister swore blind that he would adopt the Uluru Statement in full. Repeat, in full. This, of course, encapsulates the Voice plus Treaty and Truth, as displayed on the T-shirt he was snaped wearing. That picture came to light after a clash with Radio 2GB commentator Ben Fordham, who Albanese wrongly accusing of reading from a “misleading” No campaign leaflet for asserting a treaty and reparations would form any part whatsoever of the Voice. “Compensation has nothing to do with what people will vote for in the last quarter of this year,” he claimed.
But that’s not what The Voice architects have said. Thomas Mayo has stated the Voice is a campaign tool to
…punish politicians, abolish colonialist institutions [and] pay the rent, pay reparations and compensation. There is nothing that we can do that is more powerful than building a first nations’ Voice, a black institution, a black political force to be reckoned with.
“Yes” colleague Teela Reid also believes the Voice is about squeezing “reparations” out of fellow Australians and thus “redistributing power”.
First Nations want the power in their hands, that’s what the Voice is about … a journey with all Australians to begin to demolish the systems that continue to oppress us.
Linda Burney says The Voice won’t attempt to change Australia Day. Ms Reid says it will abolish it if it wants to.
I guess we can’t have Australians celebrating “Invasion Day” even though the British “invaders” have a much better record at advancing their colony here and in other places around the globe than any of their European counterparts. Undoubtedly bad things happened — there were frontier conflicts, although nothing to the bloody extent the University of Newcastle’s Massacre Map would have you believe — but there was never an official mainland “war” against so-called “first nations” people. That label, borrowed from Canada/US, is a misnomer as there is evidence of waves of Aborigines displacing earlier arrivals.. See this Scientific American report for background .
It’s also sad that the Voice debate has heaped vitriol on two leading “No” campaigners, prominent indigenous figures Warren Mundine and The Opposition’s Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister, Senator Jacinta Price. Mundine in particular has revealed in interviews on Sky News that he twice seriously considered suicide because of unrelenting abuse from some of his own people and Yes advocates. He is now reportedly seeking professional help, but says he is also worried about Senator Price over similar treatment to which she and members of her family have been subjected. In recent days, faced with the declining polls, the tone of the Yes campaign has mellowed somewhat and it seems to be now more focussed on trusting “the vibe” than labelling anyone who disagrees as a vile racist. Let’s see if they can keep the vitriol suppressed as Referendum Day draws closer and the polling fails to improve.
The current parliamentary sittings have done nothing to enhance the Yes case, with the PM, Ms Burney and other Labor luminaries dodging direct questions, including about a Makarratta commission’s direct link with the Voice’s Treaty and Truth elements. Obfuscation, sniggers, sneers and smears bring nothing to the debate except resentment on the part of those so maligned. The Voice, we are told by its advocates, will bring Australia together. Well riots bring people together too, and it is the dragon’s teeth of enduring discord and resentment this reckless proposal is sowing.
Rather than claiming all problems facing indigenous communities can somehow be solved with an enshrined (but so far undefined) Voice in the Constitution, they should explain why this can’t be achieved by the numerous state and federal agencies who have received copious funding over many years. This is shown in a direct quote from a Productivity Commission report:
Total direct expenditure on services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in 2012-13 was estimated to be $30.3 billion, accounting for 6.1 per cent of total direct general government expenditure.
Where has all the money gone, Albo? You wouldn’t notice any good it has bought in the remote outback communities most in need.
Meanwhile, there were 812,728 people who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin in the 2021 Census – up from 649,171 in 2016. This represents an increase of 25.2 per cent or 163,557 and was higher than the increases between 2006 and 2011 (20.5 per cent) and 2011 and 2016 (18.4 per cent). You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to see the trend here. If the Yes vote succeeds, you can bet the house, if you’re fortunate enough to own one, that a further surge in the ranks of box-tickers will overload the capacity for largesse of any government unless some meaningful checks put a stop to a blank-cheque approach. Obviously, to determine who gets what and how much, the only sure way would be to impose genetic testing. Is that really what Australia wants? I don’t think so.
My grandfather, old Hans, arrived unaccompanied as a penniless teenage Danish immigrant in the 1880s and worked alongside the Kanakas in the Bundaberg canefields before eventually buying his own farm. Maybe he had a romp in the hay with a young indigenous girl, who knows? Maybe there’s a box I can tick. Julius Sumner Miller asked ‘Why is it so?’. The simple answer in the case of the Voice: because there are significant advantages to signing up with the Gimme-munee Nation
John Mikkelsen is a former editor of three Queensland regional newspapers, columnist, freelance writer and author of the Amazon Books Memoir, Don’t Call Me Nev