There are three indictments levelled at the Voice referendum No case.
The first is that it appeals to the essentially racist nature of Australia and Australians. Andrew Bolt was the first to call out the absurdity of the charge, pointing to the empirical evidence that, at the start of this process, polling showed overwhelming support for the proposal, and asking how is it possible that, in the space of less than a year, a large section of the populace suddenly became racist, just coincidentally as more and more compelling reasons to vote No emerged.
The second indictment is that No campaigners have embraced a partisan position. Both Chris Kenny and Nicki Gemmell made this accusation in last Weekend Australian, but they are not the only ones pushing this line. Partisan means based on party politics, rather than the merits or otherwise of the Voice. I don’t know if Peter Dutton is motivated, solely or even primarily to promote a No vote in order to inflict a political defeat on PM Albanese and hang the consequences for the Aboriginal people. I sincerely suspect not. But I would point out to Kenny et al, that the No campaign was well advanced – championed by Jacinta Price, Warren Mundine, most Sky News presenters, most News Corp journalists, the folks at the IPA and us here at Quadrant – long before Dutton committed the Coalition. And if the now 60 per cent of voters planning on voting No are motivated by the desire to give the Coalition a political win over Labor, then one would expect this sentiment to also be reflected in the 2PP polling. But the reverse is true.
And the third charge is that the No campaign is based on misinformation. This is Kenny’s go-to argument. And any attempt to refute this claim by providing a detailed response is met with Kenny’s standard defence: ‘There are some reasons to vote against the Voice but I don’t buy them’. Hardly rigorous but at least consistent. I don’t intend to go through that pointless exercise here, but let me give one example of misinformation, which seems irrefutable to me.
Recently, singer Kamahl, tweeted that he was considering voting No, so he was invited to a re-education camp conducted by Aboriginal comedian Dane Simpson and Aboriginal constitutional lawyer Eddie Synot. Synot, a PhD candidate who researches/teaches at Griffith University, is described as
a nationally known Wamba Wamba First Nations public lawyer and researcher. Eddie has professional and academic experience in Indigenous affairs and public administration. Eddie has worked across both State and Commonwealth levels of government, including Indigenous affairs, environmental protection, and law enforcement, and has worked for the past decade in higher education and community development.
The whole of the re-education session can be viewed in the clip embedded at the foot of this article, but I’ll give you a little taste.Following the pleasantries, Kamahl begins by asking how two groups of Australians can be treated differently under the law purely on the basis of race? He concedes that some Aborigines need special support, then gives his Voice educators their opening:
Kamahl (summarising the narrative he’s been fed): …you [Aboriginal people], learn a language, you become a group, you are isolated. Nobody else comes near you, interferes with you and then, in this case, suddenly, 200 years ago, suddenly white guys come in and they want to wipe you out.
Simpson/Synot (off-camera): Yeah
Kamahl: So, the thing is for the people who survived – you knowif the white men had their way they would have liked to have wiped out the black race –
I can almost hear them thinking ‘We’ve got a right Charlie here’.
Kamahl: They could have, they would have – fortunately the Aboriginal people survived. And I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know until Monday or Tuesday that, till 1967, they were considered not human.
Kamahl: I can’t … (words fail him; head in hands in disbelief)
Simpson: Yeah, and that’s not even that long ago. That affected my Mum and my Dad as well, you know. And I think the other thing is we’re moving forward. In 1967 we had a massive Yes. But where this stems from is that Aboriginal people are still not recognized in the Constitution that we have right now So they’re saying that when they turned up to Australia ..
At this stage I’m sure readers will also have their head in their hands and be lost for words, at least the polite variety. Not necessarily because Kamahl has trotted out this thoroughly and universally discredited urban myth of the ‘legally non-human Aborigine), or that Dane Simpson professes to believe it. He may well do. But what beggars belief is that a trained lawyer specialising in Aboriginal affairs would not know this to be false. And yet he makes no attempt whatsoever to correct Kamahl (or Simpson. for that matter). But let us return to Simpson and Synot’s honours class in miseducation:
Kamahl: Now what other people are in the Constitution then? If the Indigenous people are not in the Constitution ..
Synot: We weren’t here.
Kamahl: So in other words, the rest of the Australians are in the Constitution?
Excellent question, Kamahl. Unfortunately, answer came there none.
Synot: When Captain Cook turned up it was empty. And that’s what’s in the Constitution right now.
Kamahl: OK, now maybe I’m thick but anyway, so Captain Cook arrived and a whole lot of white people came in …
Kamahl: So they became citizens. In other words, we are part of England.
Synot resumes bowling furphies from the Redfern end:
Synot: Yeah, British subjects.
Kamahl: So, the people are British subjects and the Indigenous people are nothing. In other words, they are non-existent?
Kamahl: OK, so where is it now?
Simpson: We’re saying the vote would say ‘yes’, there were Aboriginal people here. There were people here before they arrived.
Kamahl is onboard with this:
Kamahl: You can’t change that. That’s what happened.
Simpson: But right now in our Constitution that’s not what we say.
Kamahl: OK, so that has to change. But if that’s all that it means there’s no problem.
Simpson: That’s really what it boils down to. We’re saying ‘Yes, there were people here’ and to rectify some of the, or to come up with some other solutions, we’re going to put in a board of Aboriginal people.
Do Simpson and Synot really believe that the intention of the colonisers was to wipe out the Aboriginal people? Are they not aware of the instructions given by King George III to Arthur Phillip? Do they really believe that Philip and subsequent governors believed the Aborigines did not exist?
Rhetorical questions, of course. But here’s one for you readers– would you buy a used car from this pair, let alone a major constitutional change?
And here’s one for you Chris Kenny: Does this fit your definition of misinformation?
And to Kamahl, if you read this, you are a good-hearted man, and it seems to me you would have had a natural predisposition to vote Yes on the strength of the vibe alone, which is how a clear majority of Australians felt six months ago, before the details — or, rather, lack of them — were dragged out into the light of day. That you initially questioned the proposal does you great credit, as does your willingness to hear the other side. But those two propagandists treated you shamefully (and Synot disgraced himself) by not disabusing you of misconceptions that you had honestly come by.
You have now come by further information which has caused you to opt for No. Good on you. You stated that you were initially an uninformed No, then you became a semi-informed Yes, and now you are a better-informed No. If you wish to improve your understanding even further, you might like to read my book The Indigenous Voice to Parliament – the No Case, published by Connor Court.
But failing that, check out the comments under this YouTube video of The Sunday Project’s interview in which you were quizzed — ‘berated’ might be a better word — for your final decision. You were told you were talking rubbish by the talking heads and plied with fractured facts asserting federal expenditure on Aborigines was barely one-tenth the $40 billion annual figure, adjusted for inflation, the Productivity Commission found to be the case in 2017. The hosts’ hectoring and entirely bogus set-the-record straight ‘fact-check’ that followed. There were 400-odd comments beneath the YouTube clip when I last checked, almost 100 per cent supportive.
If even Project viewers feel this way, this Voice thing is going down.