The Voice

The Uluru Statement’s Fine-Print Addendum

Gary Johns (The Burden of Culture) has been criticised by some for suggesting that the availability of special benefits and preferment for those claiming Aboriginal ancestry gives rise to a need to verify such claims; via, say, DNA testing. The critics are way off the mark. DNA testing would, of course, be obnoxious, if it were used to exclude particular racial groups from enjoying rights generally available to others. It is quite a different matter when used to entitle a particular racial group of people; and whose numbers are grossly inflated by impostors. Then what’s  obnoxious are the impostors and the racially-based entitlement itself. And there is no bigger selective entitlement than the Voice.

The Voice elevates selective entitlement to a constitutional level. The Voice is a precursor and enabler of a treaty and reparations; and yet more race-based entitlements. That’s clear from the one-page statement and its content: Voice, Treaty, Truth. It’s clearer still from the other pages about which so much fuss is being made. It matters little whether the additional “18 to 20 pages” (the 25 pages as released under an FOI request to the NIAA) are formally part of the Uluru Statement. Though from Anthony Albanese down to Chris Kenny, so many on the Yes side obviously believe it to be vital to dissociate the one-pager from the rest. This is plain silly, if not outright disingenuous. Whichever way you cut it, records of the process which culminate in a short far-reaching statement, like the Uluru Statement, are always important in interpreting the meaning and scope of the statement.

Enquiring as to the intentions of those framing constitutional-type documents is a stock-standard way of proceeding when trying to interpret particular parts of such a document. And for that purpose, records of the debates, discussions and supporting material which led up to the final document are essential. Why run away from that commonplace procedure unless you want to keep things deliberately vague? The question is not whether the additional pages are formally part of the Uluru Statement, it is whether they are relevant in better understanding that Statement. It would be strange indeed if the answer were to be no. The answer is obviously yes.

I found the following juxtaposition on the op-ed page of The Australian on August 10 informative. Peta Credlin quotes Megan Davis in her 2018 Henry Parkes Oration:

The Uluru statement from the Heart isn’t just the first one-page statement; it’s actually a very lengthy document of about 18 to 20 pages, and a very powerful part of this document reflects what happened in the dialogues.

This seems clear enough to me. It’s a pity Ms Davis now to wants to cloud the matter by playing with words. In her op-ed piece she replayed her 2018 speech in the following terms: “ … where I say the Uluru Statement is not only the one pager, that there’s 18-20 more pages for Australians to read. This is alluding to the many pieces of information that informed the Uluru Statement or provide context to the statement.”

My point is, what’s the difference? Either the additional pages are part of the Statement or they are instrumental in being able to properly interpret and understand the Statement. Either way, they are part and parcel of the deal. In equal measure, the one-pager and the additional pages taken together are part and parcel of the deal Australians are being asked to sign up to by agreeing to the addition of just three clauses into the Constitution.

By waving around one A4 piece of paper in the parliament, the Prime Minister tries to give the impression that there is little to it, just as he tries to give the impression that the referendum is simply about recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and giving them a say in their own affairs. This is deceptive I’m afraid and ill-becoming. The referendum adds three clauses to the Constitution; less than a one-pager, only 77 words on my count; far fewer than the 439 words of the one-pager. A word counts says very little about the import of the words. In this case, about the radical import of the words.

11 thoughts on “The Uluru Statement’s Fine-Print Addendum

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Mr. Smith, you mention “imposters” and rightly so, but what about “poseurs” as well for if one takes the trouble of looking up the spouses or “partners” of Noel Pearson, Lidia Thorpe’s supposed boyfriend, Linda Burney, Adam Goodes, Ernie Dingo, and Thomas Mayo, to see what they look like the results are very interesting indeed. The potential for aboriginal people to enrichen themselves beyond our wildest dreams should have a caveat at least so just as one needs all the right numbers to win powerball for instance, a DNA test should be mandatory to weed out the Pasco types and perhaps any dilution of the aboriginal DNA after Mungo Man would disqualify aboriginality for they are the ones trumpeting about being here forever or at least 65,000 years.

  • brandee says:

    An excellent analysis Peter, and in summary “The question is —-whether the additional pages —-are relevant”.
    How naïve are the conservative politicians who think that a small insertion to the Constitution mentioning Indigenous, Settler, and Immigrant Australia will satisfy the customary tribal demand sharers and the political revolutionaries.
    Nothing less than the break up of Australia will satisfy the revolutionary parties so hands off the Constitution.
    Conservatives have given enough in the hugely expensive NIAA which is voice enough.

  • Lonsdale says:

    That we are expected to make changes to the Constitution based on a single page document is madness


    That old addage, when entering into any contract applies: “read the fine print” before you commit. In this regard, voting YES in the forthcoming regferendum is surely an irresponsible and complacent act, tantamount to handing the Albanese government a signed cheque made out to The Voice with the generous proviso of allowing them of filling in the amount later.

  • cbattle1 says:

    I’m reminded of a similar type of “Statement From The Heart”, which was written in the 19th century by Marx and Engels: “The Communist Manifesto”!

  • Peter OBrien says:

    “Enquiring as to the intentions of those framing constitutional-type documents is a stock-standard way of proceeding when trying to interpret particular parts of such a document.”
    Spot on Peter, that is the essence of the matter.

    • Brian Boru says:

      Yes, Peter and Peter but there are other vital and generally overlooked considerations when any statute confers a power on any authority.
      Our Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum politicians mostly fail to consider these vital consequences of their legislation. That is, what scope is there for abuse of the grant of power and what unintended effects can it have.
      That’s why those pages are embarrassing to the “Yes” urgers.

  • pmprociv says:

    Albanese is also fond of explaining our constitution to the punters as “the nation’s birth certificate”. And this bloke is our prime minister! What school did he go to?

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Further to my point above, Peter, I have been puzzled as to why the Aboriginal activists have been so up front with the Orwellian Document 14 agenda, Megan Davis even urging every Australian to read it. I think it is because, as a constitutional lawyer and one of of the authors of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, she knows that in any legal challenge, the High Court will be more likely to see it their way if it could be demonstrated that the information had been widely promulgated before the election, that this is what the voters intended. For example they could argue, on the basis of page 17 of
    Document 14, that a Voice that can make representations is not just an advisory body.
    On the other hand Albanese wants to avoid this level of detail. He just wants to win the referendum and take his place in history. And he knows that the more people know about Document 14, the less likely that is.

  • Mike O'Ceirin says:

    It is clear that what is required by the voice is to break the model of a representative democracy. Currently 3% of the population who consider themselves indigenous has a representation in federal parliament of 7%. But that is not good enough. In today’s Australian Pearson states a body for first nations people as he puts it should govern themselves. If it comes to pass it will be an absolute disaster because seldom does a small group know how to govern themselves within the framework of the whole.

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