In the Voice referendum campaign, can there have been a more vacuous battle than that about whether or not the Uluru Statement is a single page page or 26 pages? This is a battle that Sky News presenter Chris Kenny is determined to win. He talks about it nearly every night on his show. And recently he has been joined by an ally in the person of ABC presenter Leigh Sales. She, too, sees this as pivotal in the debate.
After all, we can’t have voters thinking there might be anything calculating behind the one-page poster. That it wasn’t just handed down from the Rainbow Serpent as a generous invitation for 25 million Australians to join indigenous Australians on a journey towards a new, reconciled Australia.
Let me digress for a moment, go back to my past. In military doctrine there is a tool called the “military appreciation”. It is used in planning tactical operations. The most important output from the appreciation is the establishment of ‘the aim’. Get that wrong and everything else is a waste of time. Another important consideration is identification of what is termed ‘the vital ground’. If you fail to take or hold your vital ground, you have failed to achieve your aim. No promotion for you.
In any one appreciation there can only be one vital ground, but there can be features of lesser importance, called ‘ground of tactical Importance’ or GTI, the taking or holding of which can materially assist in defending or taking the vital ground. Given that you never have enough resources, you can’t have too many of them. You have to be choosy.
Now, imagine that you are CO of 4RAR. You are tasked with protecting a certain airfield. You decide that the airfield itself is your vital ground. You will concentrate your forces around the airfield but there is a hill nearby that overlooks an ideal approach to the airfield. You decide to put A Coy on that hill. Then you sit back and await the arrival of the enemy, comfortable that you’ve done all that Staff College has taught you.
But alas, you get a call from OC A Coy on Hill 129. The enemy has discovered some dead ground that you had overlooked on your reconnaissance, and he is being bypassed. Goodbye red tabs.*
Back to the present. It seems to me that Albanese, Kenny, Sales et al have chosen the one-page Uluru Statement as a metaphorical GTI. The problem for them is that Document 14 is metaphorical dead ground which allows them to be bypassed.
My point? It doesn’t really matter if the Uluru Statement is only one page. We can still get all the dirt Albanese & Co don’t want us to know simply by reading Document 14. After all, the Uluru Statement didn’t really spring fully formed from the Rainbow Serpent.
*Staff College graduates and former directing staff, please note: there are no pinks to the above exercise, so please lay off. General readers, please excuse my in-joke.