The Voice

Setting The Lancet Straight on the Voice

There being insufficient time before the October 14 referendum to submit this rebuttal to The Lancet, we are sending this modestly amended version to Quadrant, where it has been a topic of recent interest.

The online Lancet article by Anderson et al published on September 28 exported a local Australian matter  — the referendum to amend the Constitution and create a Voice — to a global audience which the authors’ address with bias and omission. Their article presents the appearance of academic neutrality but the authors all support the proposed constitutional change. Marcia Langton and Tom Calma co-wrote the foundational design of the Voice presented to the government.  While citing that document they neglect to name themselves as the authors while wrongly naming another organisation, the National Indigenous Australians Agency, as the primary source. We give the correct reference below.

Langton’s low threshold for playing the race card is well known. In a recent speech she branded those who promote the ‘No’ option as ‘racist or stupid’.  The Lancet paper’s title — Racism and the 2023 Australian constitutional referendum — quite deliberately raises the spectre of racism based on mere disagreement with the proposed constitutional amendment. The authors make no effort to explain why, in this largely non-racist nation, a majority of the electorate in opinion polls have said they intend to vote ‘No’ in a referendum seeking to profoundly change the Constitution.  These reasons are:

1/ The proposal establishes a privilege based on Aboriginal ancestry (i.e. race-based identity) giving a group of Australian citizens representing about three per cent of the population a unique and effectively irreversible constitutional right to lobby (politely called “to provide advice”) to the Parliament and the executive.

Thus the referendum proposal is based on race. In constitutional terms, the existence of no other lobby group would be acknowledged.

2/ The government and Aboriginal activists claim the Voice is essential to improve poor health statistics, social circumstances, education and housing, but have not divulged the policy basis on which its advice would be made. One has to either accept or reject this claim, as discussion on how it would be achieved is impossible without details.

Furthermore, the background papers to the Uluru Statement from the Heart deal exclusively with matters such as negotiation of a treaty, reparations for colonial occupation and “truth-telling”. By themselves these prescriptions are unlikely to have any beneficial effect on Aboriginal living standards.  To quote The Lancet: “A Voice does not guarantee outcomes.”  On this we heartily agree.

3/ The government has steadfastly declined to provide any details about how the Voice would operate, how its members would be appointed, whether it would be a single Voice or a hierarchy of voices (national, regional and local), as proposed by Langton and Calma, or how much it will cost. Instead it has told the electors to await the required enabling legislation to be presented to Parliament after the referendum.

The government also decided against a Constitutional Convention which usually precedes a referendum. Such short-sighted decisions act to support voters inclined to vote No.

4/ There is disagreement amongst Aboriginal people over the Voice. The Lancet does not mention the influence of Jacinta Nampijinpa Price or Nunggai Warren Mundine, two prominent Aboriginal leaders of the No campaign whose views arise from personal knowledge.

There may indeed have been an increase in racist talk in Australia related to the referendum, as The Lancet article claims  This is extremely regrettable but is not the doing of the No campaign.  We suggest it became inevitable when the Parliament was presented with a constitutional amendment giving a preference to one group of citizens (currently equal in law) based on “ancestry”. It was inevitable that people would question the validity of such a proposal without any implication of racist motives.

The problems of Aboriginal peoples deserve urgent solutions, which we hope work to that end will proceed with urgency after the predicted majority vote No in the forthcoming election.  Meantime, we regret the publication of prejudicial material by The Lancet.

The authors are three retired medical practioners and a solicitor living in regional WA: Alasdair Millar, physician and clinical pharmacologist; Arthur C Harris, physician and endocrinologist; Nigel Sinclair, cardiologist; Johan Willers, solicitor



  1. Anderson I, Paradies Y, Langton M, Lovett R, Calma T. Racism and the 2023 Australian constitutional referendum.  Lancet, Published Online September 28, 2023.
  2. Langton M, Calma T. Indigenous Voice co-design process: final report to the Australian Government. July, 2021.
  3. Roberts, G. Marcia Langton ‘racism’ comments thrown into Voice debate during Question Time.  ABC News, 13 September 2023.
  4. Pilbara native title case: the fight to decide if Fortescue pays compensation to Indigenous owners.  The Guardian Australia, 27 August 2023.
  5. Cheong J, Mills C, Bourke K. Industry leaders warn of ‘big ripple effect’ on Australian economy, international reputation after Woodside defeat.

14 thoughts on “Setting The Lancet Straight on the Voice

  • Tony Tea says:

    Correction, Doctors and Lawyer: Langton didn’t brand those who promote the ‘No’ option as ‘racist or stupid’, she simply branded their racist and stupid opinions as racist and stupid; just like how she wasn’t in the Communist Party, but was in the Communist League. They are two completely, absolutely, totally and wholly differently different horses of a different colour.

    • Alasdair Millar says:

      You appear to be saying that Langton branded “their [people who say NO] racist and stupid opinions as racist and stupid” and that this is different to branding those who promote the ‘No’ option as ‘racist or stupid’. You must be joking. The NO campaign consists of people and has no separate existence from its adherents, so if you brand brand the campaign you brand the adherents.

      We did not refer to Langton’s political views but your reference from left field to the Communist Party and Communist League as being “completely, absolutely, totally and wholly differently different horses of a different colour” also requires comment. The Communist League established in London in 1847 is regarded as being the original communist party. There has never been a Communist League of (or in) Australia but the Communist Party of Australia established a separate wing for young members in many countries. In Australia it was called the the Young Communist League of Australia, established in 1923. It changed its name to the Young Socialist League in 1968 and no longer exists. Thus the history demonstrates that the two organisations (CP and CL) are (to use your simile) horses of exactly the same colour.

    • tom says:

      We’re not the Judean People’s Front! We’re the Peoples Front of Judea!

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    Tony Tea:. I suggest the above post by you cannot possibly be tongue-in-cheek. Otherwise, it would leave ytou open to accusation of being a something-or-otherist.

  • padraic says:

    It would be nice if the Lancet stuck to its medical knitting and confined its social views to public health calamities like out of control drug abuse with its resultant impact on human health, particularly re those illicit drugs that cause brain damage and/or other serious health issues.

  • Searcher says:

    It seems that we should not be surprised to see The Lancet printing communist/Deep-State agitprop. So we must take that into account on the topic of Wuhan virus vaccination, presumably for all medical journals.

  • Bernie Masters says:

    I emailed Ian Anderson, the lead author of the Lancet article, challenging him to respond to two criticisms I had of his article. Strangely, he has not yet replied.

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