One of the Left’s perennial threats is that, should they be denied their ends, Australia’s “international reputation will be in tatters”. We heard it back in 2004, when the Bakhtiari family of Aghani impersonators and self-proclaimed ‘asylum seekers’ was bundled into a plane and sent home to their native Pakistan. In 2013, ignoring the catastropharian edicts from the Climate Change Authority was pitched as the shame and stain du jour, guaranteed to make Australia an outcast in the community of nations. The following year it was the alleged mistreatment of detainees in the Manus Island and Nauru centres, and in 2015 it was insufficient aid to Nepal that would do the tattering. Only last year, according to Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh, cancelling a French submarine contract, along with Scott Morrison’s purported sympathies for Donald Trump, were twin catalysts for global opprobrium to engulf us. Google “reputation in tatters” and you’ll find scores of Left activists and organisations drawing consolation in defeat from the expectation that Australia must suffer for spurning their causes and wisdom.
It should come as no surprise that, with every poll showing the Yes campaign for the Voice in all sorts of trouble, the shredded remnants of Australia’s good name are said to be set for yet a further mincing, which is what Prime Minister Anthony Albanese assured parliament in February would be the consequence if wicked No-voters were to carry the day. That the Left will do everything it can to promote Australia’s slandering need not be doubted. They have done it before and they will do it again.
Given the avalanche of slurs a Voice defeat is sure to generate, it’s a good thing Jason L. Riley, an American conservative who sits on the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board, has mounted a pre-emptive strike (paywalled) on the inevitable lies about racist intolerance, white supremacy, colonialist boots on black throats and all the rest of the pavlovian reactions we hear whenever the Left doesn’t get its way. Riley, who toured Australia at the invitation of the Centre for Independent Studies, quotes Quadrant, writing
… in the current issue of Quadrant, an Australian monthly, Peter Purcell noted that in far too many aboriginal communities, domestic violence and child abuse are endemic. “Adult fighting among both men and women is common, as are clashes between families armed with machetes, crowbars and bats,” he wrote. “Daylight home invasions, vehicle theft, property damage and physical violence are the daily experience for townspeople.”
Part of the problem is the studied vagueness of the referendum’s language, which gives the impression that Mr. Albanese and his allies have something to hide … What, precisely, does enshrining an indigenous voice to Parliament in the constitution mean in practice?
How can the government give a special voice to one racial group without necessarily diminishing other voices? Indian-Australians are the fastest-growing minority. Do they deserve constitutionally embedded special rights as well?
Supporters of the referendum can’t or won’t answer these questions.
They say the details will be fleshed out at some future date and accuse skeptics of having ulterior motives. “While it is not true to say that every Australian who votes No in the Voice referendum is a racist,” said veteran Australian journalist Niki Savva, “you can bet your bottom dollar that every racist will vote No.”
It is a pity the WSJ column is paywalled, because it is refreshing to see so much that is wrong about the Voice laid out so succinctly. Riley ends it thus:
Australia already spends billions of dollars annually on indigenous welfare programs. If a greater “voice” for the indigenous population simply translates into more government lucre for politically connected tribal elders and aboriginal elites in urban areas—which is the track record of racial preferences for minorities in countries all over the world—the result may well be wider social and economic disparities for everyday indigenous Australians. Worse, it will further subsidize antisocial behavior and thereby retard the development of attitudes, habits and skills that facilitate upward mobility.
When the Voice goes down and the Left howls in chorus about our “international reputation in tatters”, it might be handy to have that paragraph bookmarked for sending to the sore losers in your circle. It will make the misery of their defeat and impotence all the sweeter to behold.