The Voice

One Vote Good, Two Votes Bad

As Geoffrey Blainey puts it, the golden rule of democracy is “one person, one vote”[[1]] The Australian Constitution embodies this golden principle by giving all Australians an equal right to vote for members of federal Parliament. It also offers an equal opportunity to stand for election and serve in our system of government. Yet Voice advocates want to break this golden rule by giving those with indigenous ancestry a second vote through the Voice. As Malcolm Turnbull explained before he changed his mind:

Our democracy is built on the foundation of all Australian citizens having equal civic rights – all being able to stand for and serve in … our national parliament … A constitutionally enshrined additional representative assembly for which only Indigenous Australians could vote for or serve in is inconsistent with this fundamental principle.[[2]]

The whole fabric of the Constitution defines how individuals can be involved in running the nation. The notion that the Constitution should recognise minority groups within the country is totally foreign to its ethos. A major problem is that group rights inevitably undermine the individual rights of others.[[3]]

Consider the situation of two school friends, one with and one without indigenous ancestry, who apply for the same course at their preferred university. Suppose the indigenous student has a lower ATAR but, with bonus points for indigeneity, gets a higher ranking. If the indigenous student is accepted for the course but his friend is not, wouldn’t the non-indigenous student feel cheated? After graduation, if the indigenous person finds employers look upon his academic results as tainted by racial preference, would he not feel cheated?

This was the experience of US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, who said his Yale law degree “bore the taint of racial preference”. When applying for jobs in law firms, Thomas said he was “asked pointed questions, unsubtly suggesting that they doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated”. He argued that discrimination is always wrong, regardless of intention, adding, “I have long believed that large racial preferences in college admissions stamp blacks and Hispanics with a badge of inferiority.”[[4]]

Prominent Aboriginal leader Nyunggai Warren Mundine says that Aboriginal elders coined the term “sit-down money” to describe full-time welfare payments.[[5]] Noel Pearson has damned these unearned payments as a poison that has weakened family life in marginalised communities and destroyed the social norms that used to protect the vulnerable.[[6]]

There are no winners with race-based laws. By putting a constant focus on race, they are divisive. They are damaging to both the favoured and the disfavoured.

The Constitution unites our nation

Without doubt, indigenous Australians have suffered greatly in the past, and many still suffer today. Remote Aboriginal communities exhibit high rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and violent crime. Children have unacceptably poor educational outcomes and adults experience excessively high incarceration rates. All Australians long for progress on closing the gap. However, the Constitution is not the vehicle for addressing these problems.

The Constitution is the rulebook by which, as the Parliamentary Education Office says, Australia is governed. It establishes the composition of the federal parliament, lays out how it works and what powers it has. It also outlines how the federal and state parliaments share power, and the roles of the executive government and the High Court of Australia.[[7]] In other words, the Constitution is about power, who has it and how it is exercised. History tells us that the concentration of power in the hands of one person is dangerous. We need only think about Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and the millions of their own people each of them murdered. The best protection against tyranny is a constitution that separates power while upholding equal citizenship.

The Australian Constitution separates power so effectively that it is one of the oldest, most stable and most successful in the world. It separates power between the three main arms of government: the legislature (which makes laws), the executive government (which administers them) and the judiciary (which interprets them). Law-making power is shared between the House of Representatives and the Senate, and between the Commonwealth and the states. Each of these centres of power has a separate chapter in the Constitution.

The Voice is all about power. It is the most radical proposed change to the Constitution since Federation. Previous referenda have sought to change only a few words in existing sections of the Constitution, but the Voice would add an entirely new chapter – a new centre of power rivalling the parliament, the government, the courts and the states. This new centre of power would fundamentally change the power balance in the Constitution with unknown implications.

The existing centres of power are open to all Australians, of any race, ancestry, sex or other attribute. It is a structure that fosters national unity and embodies the Federation motto: “One Nation. One People. One Destiny”. The race-based Voice would divide and undermine the very purpose of the Constitution: to unite the nation.

Equal citizenship’s Judeo-Christian roots

The peaceful federation of the former colonies on this island continent to form the nation of Australia was an astonishing achievement. Almost uniquely in world history, a majority of people in each former colony voted in referendums to adopt the proposed Constitution. At that time, Aborigines were already voting, as Keith Windschuttle has painstakingly explained.[[8]]

The central purpose of the Australian Constitution, as expressed in its preface, is to unite the people of the six states. This purpose is embodied in the Constitution’s giving equal citizenship to all Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, namely in eligibility to vote, stand for election and serve in parliament.[[9]]

This emphasis on equal citizenship predates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in 1948 by the newly formed United Nations in the aftermath of the Second World War. Motivated by a desire to guard against future atrocities like those perpetrated in Nazi Germany, the UDHR preface recognised that:

…the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

Those who drafted the UDHR considered referring to mankind’s creation in the image of God as the foundation of human dignity. One of the drafters, Greek Orthodox theologian, Charles Malik, wanted this included.[[10]] He represented Lebanon when the United Nations was founded in 1945. However, this Judeo-Christian belief was rejected ‘on the ground that this would undermine the Declaration’s broader appeal’.[[11]] Malik argued passionately for grounding human rights in the authority of something external and transcendent, lest such rights be used for conferring rights on some and denying them to others.[[12]] Still fresh in their mind was Germany, where the law was used as a tool to confer rights on some citizens (Aryans) and to revoke them from others (non‐Aryans and political opponents).

Malik “helped codify into international law the concept of the image of God in every human being—albeit in its secular rendering of inherent dignity.”[[13]] The Catholic[[14]] and Protestant[[15]] traditions also uphold the image of God (imago Dei) as the foundation of human rights. The Constitution embodies this respect for human dignity by upholding the fundamental democratic principle: “one person, one vote”. Not “one vote for most Australians, two votes for those of Indigenous racial identity.” The Judaeo-Christian roots of our Constitution are explicitly acknowledged in the preface through the words “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God”.[[16]]

Scripture advocates equal treatment

In both Jewish and Christian understanding, human rights are based on the belief that:

God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.[[17]]

God created only one race: the human race. Every person, whatever their race, ancestry, sex or other attribute is equally made in God’s image and is entitled to equal treatment under the law.

The Old Testament demands both the same laws for all and also the impartial administration of justice. That ancient Hebrew community included both native Israelites and sojourners – those non-Israelites who lived among them as labourers and traders. This is clear from commands such as:

You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God Leviticus 24:22.[[18]]

This ideal wasn’t always applied in practice. At the time of Jesus, the Jews had no respect for the Samaritans, whose ancestry differed from theirs. Jesus, however, showed respect for the Samaritans, in both his teaching and his actions. His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37) taught respect and his contact with the Samaritan woman (John 4:9) demonstrated that value.[[19]]

The apostle Paul reinforced Jesus’s teaching by insisting that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).[[20]] This was despite the great antipathy between Jews and Greeks in the ancient world, where each regarded the other as barbarian. In Christian and Jewish understanding, all Australian citizens, male or female, black or white, old or young, immigrant or native born, rich or poor, religious or not, should be considered first-class citizens enjoying the same rights and responsibilities.

Christian and Jewish leaders oppose the Voice

Some of the best-informed Christian and Jewish leaders in Australia today are actively opposing the Voice.

Former deputy prime minister and lay Protestant John Anderson AC believes it would “actually prove to be detrimental to the cause of Indigenous disadvantage” and lead to divisiveness and cynicism. It would prove to be a “distraction from the very practical challenges of closing the gaps in health, education, domestic violence, substance abuse, employment and income.”[[21]]

Former prime minister and lay Catholic Tony Abbott says, “Any special voice – for some but not for others, especially a voice based on ancestry – would still mean we are no longer one, equal people.” It would be wrong in principle and “it would be a huge mistake to say yes to something that’s wrong in principle”, he adds.[[22]]

The president of the Australian Jewish Association, Dr David Adler, says, “The Voice is inconsistent with Jewish values and would do great harm to Australia. By unnecessarily placing it in the Australian constitution, the harm becomes permanent.”[[23]]

Our Constitution already provides for special laws to address problems suffered by particular groups such as Indigenous Australians. Embedding the Voice in the Constitution is something else entirely, giving unprecedented power to just one racial group.

Peace and unity between people can be fostered, not by institutionalising difference, but by equal treatment for all. This is why we should vote “No”.

Dr David Phillips is a former research scientist and founder of FamilyVoice Australia


[[1]] Geoffrey Blainey, “Before we vote on Indigenous voice to parliament, let’s get all our facts in order”, The Weekend Australian, 1 July 2023,

[[2]] Cited by Greg Sheridan, “If successful the Voice will delegitimise modern Australia”, The Australian, 8 July 2023,

[[3]] Aaron Rhodes, “How ‘Collective Human Rights’ Undermine Individual Human Rights”, Special Report No.227, The Heritage Foundation, 25 June 2020,

[[4]] Nick Cater, “US ruling exposes folly of entrenched division by race”, The Australian, 10 July 2023,

[[5]] Nyunggai Warren Mundine, “Weaning a nation off welfare”, The Spectator Australia, 15 August 2020,

[[6]] Miranda Devine, “The tragedy of sit-down money”, The Daily Telegraph, 2 April 2011,

[[7]] “The Australian Constitution in focus”, Australian Parliamentary Education Office,

[[8]] Aboriginal men had the same right to vote as other male British subjects aged over 21 in South Australia from 1856, Victoria from 1857 and New South Wales from 1858 and in Tasmania from 1896.

[[9]] Australian Constitution, ss 41, 34, 16.

[[10]] “Charles Malik”, Wikipedia,

[[11]] Jeremy Waldron, “The Image of God: Rights, Reason, and Order”, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-85, 15 December 2010,

[[12]] Emilie Kao, “Conviction in Crisis: The Image of God and Christian Global Responsibility”, Providence Magazine, 31 January 2018,

[[13]] Emilie Kao, “Conviction in Crisis: The Image of God and Christian Global Responsibility”, Providence Magazine, 31 January 2018,

[[14]] “Life and Dignity of the Human Person”, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1998,

[[15]] Johan Tangelder, “Human Rights need God”, Reformed Perspective, 11 July 2019,

[[16]] “Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act”, Australia’s Constitution With Overview and Notes by the Australian Government Solicitor, Parliamentary Education Office, November 2022.

[[17]] Genesis 1:27,

[[18]] Leviticus 24:22,; see also Numbers 9:14, “You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native”,

[[19]] Luke 10:29–37,; John 4:1-26,

[[20]] Galatians 3:28,

[[21]] John Anderson, “Indigenous voice to parliament will be a distraction from the real problems”, The Australian, 16 June 2023,

[[22]] Tony Abbott, “A watered down Indigenous voice to parliament would still be an affront to the ideal of constitutional equality”, The Australian, 22 May 2023,

[[23]] David Adler, “Why Jews should vote No to the Voice – History has taught us that racial division never ends well”, The Spectator Australia, 8 July 2023,

8 thoughts on “One Vote Good, Two Votes Bad

  • Alistair says:

    There seems to be a flaw in this argument.
    Im thinking it is true that the Australian people get … One person-one vote. But from what I have seen on the “Voice” proposal there does not appear to be any intention that Aborigines will get the equivalent of … One person – one vote in the selection of the their “Voice” representatives. (How ironic that Aborigines complain (unjustifiably) that they were denied a vote in the Australian Parliament – and yet appear to be championing an Aboriginal House of Parliament that will deny them a vote as well!) For a start – Michael Mansell’s 30,000 fake Tasmainan Aborigines will all diluting the Aboriginal vote. The SA Premier saying all you need is a Stat Dec and you’re in.

    I guess my main objection (one of many) to the “Voice” is that our Constitutional Lawyers appear so disillusioned with Australian Rule of Law and Australian Democracy that they prefer to champion the “stone age” variant of Aboriginal customary law and a strictly hierarchical patriarchy political structure – all to be enshrined in perpetuity in our (apparently) out of date Constitution.

    • Daffy says:

      The other component of Aboriginal culture that the Uluru Manifesto includes is ‘payback’. Under this rubric a (suspected) perpetrator’s relatives have to suffer ‘payback’ for the alleged perpetrator’s alleged crimes…even if they resulted from sorcery.
      And back we go to the past and all its…what…charming advantages?

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    It is correct that some aborigines suffer with alcohol, drugs, poor education, violence, incarceration, as you note.
    But, if your past resembles mine, we have been exposed to the lures of alcohol, drugs, violence, wagging school and we have organised our personal choices to stay free of major harms and incarceration. It was our personal choice.
    Nobody is requiring these aborigines to continue their plights. It is logically invalid for us to be required to assist in avoiding these outcomes. “I am not my brother’s keeper”. I should not be asked to change my Constitution to enforce me to be a keeper, potentially or actually.
    The most we should do is ensure that our actions do no harm. In that respect, my mind is completely free of guilt.
    For these reasons, we as ordinary people should encourage those involved with this “voice” movement to cease and desist. It is no more that bureaucracy acting beyond its charter in responding to activism that should have been ignored. Officials involved with voice action not acting in response to an expressed request of the mass of ordinary people.
    Geoff S

    • john mac says:

      S’funny Geoff , when I read “No doubt … suffered greatly in the past ” I rolled my eyes and wasn’t going to post a comment – the sheer overuse and falsity of that statement not only annoying , but completely unhelpful , but you’ve spoken for me , cheers to that . They (indigenous) and only they are responsible for their plight , and for fixing it . Discarded Landcruisers, new houses destroyed ,sitdown cash , access to education and health ?! As they say ,” You can lead a horse to water …” They are coming for our property , our hard earned way of life and nothing will change except the immense prosperity of a chosen few and power to wreak havoc on civilisation.

  • brandee says:

    David Phillips has ‘without doubt’ presented here in excellent detail the Voice referendum problems.
    However, like Geoff Sherrington I was affronted by the all-too-common description of Aborigines as suffering people or suffering victims with the implication that someone else is to blame.

    Perhaps better to say that the inevitable transition from traditional palaeolithic culture to an advanced technical culture has been a huge transition and has been very difficult for some. Saying that suggests there is neither victim nor blame.

    • john mac says:

      Just responded to GS’s comment with the same ire at the lazy use of the “Suffered greatly” trope ! Then I read yours ! Nice to know others are as piqued as myself at this perpetuation of Aboriginals as victims with no possible chance at joining civilised society . A very uncomfortable conversation would have to take place regarding this issue , and nobody wants to go there . Equality exists for all citizens of this country (I would argue the white , hetero male is at the bottom of the totem pole) , so what’s holding them back , countless billions and hundreds of programs apparently not the answer ?? IQ is taboo in any discussion.

  • Stephen Due says:

    While we’re on the subject…
    The practice of flying a supposed Aboriginal flag beside the Australian flag implies, as does the Voice proposal itself, that Australia comprises not one nation but two. Often there is a flag representing Torres Strait Islanders as well. This practice is especially egregious when the flags are flown -as they invariably are – outside government offices. The Australian flag should fly alone in those situations.
    The current, widespread practice accords with published protocols, but the protocols were not delivered from Mount Sinai and could be changed. I notice, incidentally, that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, ends its page on flag protocol with the statement that “PM&C acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of country throughout Australia” etc. This is nonsense, in so far as it implies that the Aboriginals were or are by default “owners’ and “custodians” in the same sense in which we understand those words. They were here – and that’s about it. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags ought to be flown by institutions representing those groups, but not in positions that imply they have an independent status beside and equal to that of the Australian people as a whole.

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    Flag protocol requires the Australian flag to be on the left of others, but the same height. This patently fails when the view is from the back. The desirable system to display dominance is to fly the Australian flag higher than others, as it used to be before the matter was decided by those who cannot face the concept of superiority.
    Geoff S

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