The Voice

In the Wake of the Voice

The Voice to Parliament referendum has failed. The country voted No resoundingly; only in the ACT did it meet with any kind of general success.  I took little pleasure in this victory, knowing that it made our country another shade uglier.  So 40 per cent of the country went to bed that Saturday night believing that the rest are incorrigible racists.  That 60 per cent woke up on Sunday resenting the aspersions cast upon their character. It does not make for a happy polity, yet rub along we must.

This is the inevitable outcome of progressive overreach, of an attempt to emotionally blackmail the country into affirming a symbolic expression of power, the power of the progressive worldview.  The Voice was in many respects an ideational version of the Arc de Triomphe, erected to remind everybody of the rightness of our soft revolutionaries.  Aborigines were treated much like civilians in Gaza, as human shields, objects as much as subjects for those who pushed the thing forward.  Laura Tingle recently lamented in the ABC that the thing broke down into a dispute between white people.  What else could it be, when white people still compose the majority in our country?  Aborigines could never meaningfully swing the thing electorally, even if we did regard them as a bloc, which they are not, any more than any other ethnos can form a perfect union. 

Our present version of democracy has many problems, but one redeeming feature is the brake the demos can occasionally apply to elite machinations. Perhaps the real referendum was not the friends we met along the way, but a reflection on the way the rest of the country views those insufferable inner-city elites. The clear dissonance between the institutional proof and the social proof our referendum provided is heartening.  Virtually every institution – government, corporate, educational – was behind the Voice, and yet it could not prevail.  Even in a society as propagandised as ours this demonstrates the futility of total capture, though it might encourage harder means by our home-grown zealots.

The other reading of this is less encouraging.  It means that many people quietly resent the governing ethos we’ve adopted, and yet feel powerless to oppose it beyond the quiet sanctity of the ballot box.  And, one might think, why ought they?  The obligation the franchise demands might be considered by some an unwelcome burden; after all, this is why we vote for representatives, and have elites to begin with.  But what to do when all the cultural and apparatchik and commercial elites, those immune to the ballot box, think the same way – and by all accounts appear to hate the majority of those they rule, indirectly or otherwise?  This might suggest we have adopted the habits of thought usually reserved for those living in totalitarian states.  The result is to live in a state of partial humiliation, where we must assent to things we do not believe to be true, and always watch our words.

And untruths abound.  The first untruth is the Pocahontas-inspired belief that Aboriginal communities somehow have a special knowledge about what would benefit them most, and that they are now somehow immune to the incentives that plagued organisations such as ATSIC: the very premise the Voice was based upon.  Akin to this is the idea that dialogue and discussion can solve all human problems, that if we just listened a little more, all would be well.  I would have thought this idea would have gone out of fashion around the same time as the League of Nations, but it seems to be reinvented by each new generation of liberals.  To assume goodwill on the basis of melanin seems foolish, and counterintuitive to anybody who can read statistics and draw the necessary, if unpleasant, conclusions.  Further to this is the idea that the Good can only be realised in the language of equality and rights: that all good must have a form of egalitarianism within it as a prime ingredient.  Above all, we believe in the erection of symbols, of pseudo-religious cant, and of fooling with language.  Where practical matters are arrived upon, we pretend it is not paternalism when really it is its truest manifestation.  This might seem appropriate to a society as disconnected from the proximate as many Western polities now are.  Such policy can only be performed at a level of scale, with several degrees of separation, by government decree, generally at federal or state level, enacted by byzantine bureaucracies that are often completely dysfunctional.  This, you see, lets you off the hook; we can defer our own civic duties upward accordingly.  It makes one pine to read the Anti-Federalist Papers afresh. 

Then there is the belief that the problems in Aboriginal communities are somehow special and removed from the problems suffered by humanity generally, and require special cures that can only be arrived at by the equivalent of political witch doctors.  In this, I am a universalist.  If there is more crime, more policing tends to help, as New York demonstrated in the 1990s.  There is no subject better guaranteed to make a progressive squirm, and call you names, than to refer to the problem of indigenous crime.  The latest weasel word is intergenerational trauma, as though all people living prior to the advent of antibiotics and through the various travails of the twentieth century ought not lay claim to the same thing.  The issue of indigenous crime is more often boomeranged back upon general society, as though it is our own failings that cause such things – which, again, is really the purest sort of paternalism, to treat offenders as eternal children.  English Common Law is the most robust form the world has seen, and we undermine it to appease misguided consciences at great risk.  The types who would do so regard criminals as victims, usually of something systemic, another of our avant garde weasel words.  Blaming the victim is verboten, unless the victim happens to be white.  Then we squirm afresh to generate the necessary excuses, most of which are furnished for us by the sociology departments of American universities. 

Telling the truth in democracies is risky, as Socrates discovered.  Thus we arrive at the prime problem of pluralistic societies, that the truth can be arrived at by consensus, that it is ‘somewhere in the middle,’ that it must have no teeth and be suitably palatable, and most of all, that it can’t be mean to anybody.  If anything, this referendum demonstrated the state of total dishonesty which we now take as given.  The Yes crowd really want to reinvent the country, to abandon the traditional lines upon which we are composed, and use the delicate elements of our history as a petard.  That they were hoisted on it serves them right, though I doubt being blown up will slow them down very much.  In character they are like the Spanish revolutionaries who disinterred nuns and put their cadavers on public display. Those who pick at scabs have no right to accuse the other half of the country of opening wounds. 

Similarly, I am sure many who voted No were not entirely honest about why they did so, because people want to appear to be nice.  A country like ours can afford to be a little cavalier with racial issues, at least for now.  We are not living in South Africa. If the numbers were different, the attitudes would be harder; spend some time in Port Moresby.  Countries are racialised not by matter of legislation but by virtue of having different races within them.  This appears to be reasonably true no matter where you live – a lesson we appear intent on learning via first principle application.  The future may well be reruns of the Voice, different in form but similar in purpose, applied to all our different groupings, if we are not careful.  Our delicate form of civic nationalism, about which and for a brief period we appeared proud, seems to have been dispensed with, in favour of a generalised self-loathing among the historic Australian nation, one that will only deepen in the wake of this debacle.  Even if this is not the case among the Everyman, it certainly seems the case across our institutions, and among the young, who might prove the apocryphal aphorism about those who remain socialists after thirty having no brains.   

The Yes crowd seem secretly happy that they’ve exposed the country as irretrievably racist.  It allows them greater scope to put to work their messianic mission of recreating our country, and you can already see this playing out in the popular media and in the ABC, who I very much wish would have a week of silence themselves.  They are counting on the Boomers dying out and the demographics shifting accordingly, and they have been playing the long game for a while.  The country will awake to this too late, and by then there will be nothing that can be done about it.  Consider the spirit behind the Voice a shot across the bow.  There will be more of this sort of thing in the future, not less, unless we have a radical course correction.  The first thing we must do is rediscover the virtue of telling the truth, however unpleasant it seems.  The truth is liberating, but sometimes comes with hemlock.  For now, the Yes crowd have had a taste of it, but it is important not to overstate the victory.  They are intent on using wounds to drive their vision forward, and wounds are easier to open than to close. 

29 thoughts on “In the Wake of the Voice

  • Phillip says:

    I voted NO because I do not support racism or apartheid.
    Unfortunately I have zero faith that Albanese will pay any attention to the vote of the people. He like other socialist Premiers will activate all mechanisms to legislate within Parliament.

    I voted NO because I support the operation of the current fair and reasonable Constitution for all Australians. We do not need a Voice, a Treaty nor a Makaratta. I thought we said NO to all that selfishness, but like Christopher Joliffe, I doubt Albanese will support democracy.

    • rosross says:


      Well said and many did the same. And this is not the end of it but, as we saw with the Voice campaign, much can be gained through debate and the general public can learn things they previously did not know.

      We had open and informed debate in many mediums, including Quadrant which led the way and no doubt will continue to do so. Through social media, the information from the other side was disseminated and I would be prepared to bet the ignorance level in regard to aboriginal history and the situation of those with aboriginal ancestry today, has diminished considerably.

      Yes lost the day because they had little information to offer and resorted to bullying. Our freedom of speech is hardwon and facts can be presented without bullying or censorship.

      I firmly believe Australia dodged a bullet with the voice because there was so much debate and differences of opinion, at least on the No side, were accepted and generally respected.

    • Gordon Cheyne says:

      I may have missed it, but I didn’t see mobs of Aborigines marching down the streets chanting “We want a Voice!”

  • Greg Jeffs says:

    It is perhaps not relevant to say that the ACT voted YES. Maybe more proper to say that the highly urbanised seats of Fenner, Canberra and Bean voted YES. Much as Grayndler, Sydney and Wentworth or McNamara, Melbourne and Higgins did. The point being that the jurisdiction known as the Australian Capital Territory had no part of the referendum outcome. Only the Federal seats contained within it. Of course, the same could be said for the Northern Territory. No jurisdictions that have weight in the referendum voted YES.

    • W.A. Reid says:

      The inner city electorate of Canberra, centred on the ANU and the ‘more established’ (read affluent) suburbs voted YES 70/30.
      In the outer two ACT electorates, Bean and Fenner, it was YES 56/44.

  • Dallas Beaufort says:

    Truth Telling; Aboriginal Women and children were a source of food for the tribes survival, canabilism, eaten raw?

  • STD says:

    Truth telling- Bruce Pascoe has an incurable imaginative case of indigenous foot rot.

  • Tony Tea says:

    Anyone see Savva in today’s Age? The opening paragraph was enough for me:
    “With the bloody success of its campaign to destroy the Voice, it is obvious the Coalition will use the same techniques, apparatus and expertise to try to smash Anthony Albanese at the next federal election.”

  • Dallas Beaufort says:

    Truth Telling; I had a dream the Man from Snowy River voted No to the Voice.

  • Michael says:

    Aboriginal culture is the root cause of the famous ‘gap’, not the solution to it.

  • Aussietom says:

    “…you can already see this playing out in the popular media and in the ABC, who I very much wish would have a week of silence themselves”

    Indeed. I hear on good authority the latest ABC move is to rename the state capitals with aboriginal names first and the English ones second.

    Next of course will be the state names.

    • Twyford Hall says:

      It would be good if the ABC renamed itself Gondawanaland broadcasting or something similar. That would make it clear it is not an Australian outfit.

    • Ian Bruce says:

      My first question to anyone who thinks calling our state capitals by some made-up pseudo indigenous name is this: did these places exist prior to the arrival of the First Fleet? If not, how can they therefore have aboriginal names?

      Methinks that the elements calling for this sort of rubbish are bereft of any intelligence, let alone being “better educated” than the average punter.

      I also note that Marcia Langton is also well beyond 30 and still a died-in-the-wool socialist. What conclusion might one draw from that fact………………..

      • Paul W says:

        I understand that they use the name of the area that the city was originally founded on. But given that the cities themselves are now enormous and cover many different areas, I don’t know how they choose a name. In any case, it is a complete misapplication, as the name for an area is not the name for a city. A swamp, a mountain, a valley, a plain, are not the same as a city. What a tragedy that this distinction cannot be appreciated.
        There is absolutely nothing wrong with learning about the natural landscapes that our cities were built on, and that must at some point come into contact with aboriginal culture, because they certainly did live in those areas for thousands of years. Why then must they intrude onto that which is not theirs – the invention of city?
        Our great national heritage is weakened by all these things being merged together and not categorised distinctly and properly, and appreciated each in their own right.

        • pmprociv says:

          Spot on, Paul W — and renaming a city erases the historical context of that city, of the circumstances surrounding its establishment. It’s a rewriting of history — he who controls the past, controls the present — and we all know where that leads.

  • Sandra Worrall-Hart says:

    What is ‘truth’?

  • Alistair says:

    From the Australian today …
    “Nearly 100 of Australia’s leading Indigenous figures and organisations have condemned the ­Coalition’s call for a royal commission into child sex abuse in Aboriginal communities.”

    What we find is that the “Voice” was about Aboriginal leadership silencing debate rather than encouraging it.

    • pmprociv says:

      And should such a Royal Commission be set up, it will be essential to have input from reputable and experienced anthropologists, thoroughly familiar with traditional Aboriginal cultural practices.

  • cbattle1 says:

    Regarding the move to rename everything, when settlement began in 1788, Governor Phillip and other notables were keen to learn and record the Aboriginal language and place names, but there is no evidence in the journals and diaries of the period that the local Aboriginal people were insistent that places be referred to by their Aboriginal names. Rather, it is more likely that they readily adopted the English names of the civilisation being built up. The British learned the name of the local area where Sydney was being developed as “Gadigal” , but it was observed that the clans or tribes were very fluid about the area, and Bennelong, who was from the north side of the harbour, was never observed acknowledging Gadigal country or elders, past, present and emerging, nor was a “welcome to country ceremony” ever observed being performed. When have Aboriginal people ever referred to the city of Sidney as anything other than what it is? Well, only since the rise of the Aboriginal activist class and their non-Aboriginal Lefty mates. Curiously, it was Governor Phillip who changed the name of the settlement of Rose Hill, up the Parramatta River, to “Parramatta”!
    It may well be the case that some number of Aboriginal names and knowledge is actually sourced from the historical records of the colonists. I believe that has been a factor in the recent “resurrection” of Aboriginal languages, where those early word-lists have been referenced.

    • Paul W says:

      We can add that Bennelong went on a voyage to Britain with Gov Phillip. I believe it’s the case that he met a few members of the British aristocracy there. Sadly he died on the way back to Australia. Nonetheless, how curious that no one seems to have known they were stealing his land… It’s almost as if this entire perspective on life and relations between peoples is a modern-day construct.

  • cbattle1 says:

    Note: Correction to my spelling above where I spelt Sydney as being “Sidney”!

  • Phillip says:

    Well talk about “In Wake of The Voice”…how’s this for a bonza joke….
    ‘Public servants in Queensland are being offered five days of paid leave for psychological distress after the Voice to Parliament referendum failed.’
    Can I claim 5 days leave for the psychological distress because Australians elected Rudd, Turnball and Morrison??
    A lot of us still suffer from the loss of relatives due to war…where is my five days paid leave?

    What a joke…when is this country going to recover some spine?

    • pmprociv says:

      But why stop there? This could be the beginning of a sensitive, new tradition: after every election, all supporters of losing candidates (and political parties), who have always suffered unacknowledged psychological trauma, should from now on be given a week’s compassion leave.

      Maybe we should have trigger warnings outside polling booths: “Caution: the candidate/party you prefer is not guaranteed to win. Vote at your own risk. The government does not take any responsibility for the outcome, or any emotional suffering it might cause you. By ticking the boxes, you accept all responsibility for any personal suffering that might arise.”

      • pmprociv says:

        I should have added: this, of course, would be printed in the 30 leading languages of non-English-speaking Australian citizens. Eventually, Aboriginal languages will need to be added, as The First Nations population grows.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Labor and their mates voted down a motion to have a RC into aboriginal child sexual abuse, and that says it all!!!

  • Jack Brown says:

    The word ‘Nation’, as per the ‘nat’ root, did once refer to the largest grouping of a people related by birth from a common ancestry but over the past few centuries has come to mean a political entity along the lines of a Westphalian nation state. Thus insofar as English words can describe Aboriginal notions the term ‘First Nations’ would once have been a meaningful concept but not in today’s usage. However there was an English word which Aboriginals used to use until very recently to describe the largest collection in which everyone was related by birth and that was ‘Mob’. Also the mobs that existed upon European settlement were not necessarily the first to exist on the continent but those in existence in 1788 so are more properly described as ‘Last Mobs’ or perhaps ‘Pre-existing Mobs’. Another more accurate term would be ‘Founding Mobs’ of the Australian nation, along with the mob whose head man was Govenor Philip’.

  • NarelleG says:

    And the schools just keep on keeping on with their imbedded disinformation.
    Taking my local High School students off for the from regular class – day of ‘brother sista speak’ led by local indigenous people – mid north coast NSW

    This video which Joliffe includes is so wrong and insidous – seeping through the community from ‘training’ of health workers.
    Foundation of Indigenous Sustainable Health

    ‘It can be difficult to understand the impact of intergenerational trauma if we have never experienced it or do not understand the history of this country.

    Today many Aboriginal families still struggle with the effects of intergenerational trauma and to be able to move forward we need to go back to understand and to bring healing.

    FISH – Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health’s mission is to assist in breaking the cycle of generational trauma, poverty and engagement in the justice system for Aboriginal people and enable them to be valued by and able to positively contribute to their community.

    Educating fellow Australians so that we understand where we have been in our history, to understand where we are now, to then know how to heal and move forward is an important element of our work.
    Thank you to the Healing Foundation for producing this video to help people understand intergenerational trauma.’

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