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.