With under two weeks to go it’s looking like a serious defeat for the Voice, meaning I should be able to sit back and start thinking about other issues. But I can’t. Here are some random thoughts.
Recently from The Australian:
Launching a new ad on Monday to run across television for the final two weeks of the campaign, the Yes campaign is pivoting its messaging towards consequences of a No vote.
A mother stands in an empty room and viewers are shown an empty cot and nursery with no baby, with a voiceover saying:
“What if I told you that our infant mortality rate is twice as high as non-Indigenous babies? That they’ll grow up half as likely to find employment and will face a life expectancy that’s eight years less than the rest of the country? A No vote means no progress.”
We are told this referendum is about achieving constitutional recognition in a practical, rather than merely symbolic, way. Effectively, they are tacking a supposedly practical initiative – one which should stand alone on its own merits – onto the issue of constitutional recognition. Maybe they think doing so will make constitutional recognition itself more palatable to the general Australian community? No, it can’t be that, because we are being constantly told up to 95 per cent of Australians would support constitutional recognition sans the Voice.
OK, so it must be in order that the Voice cannot be easily dispensed with when, as is inevitable, it proves to be an expensive white elephant at best. The theory is that this Voice is so essential to Aboriginal well-being – closing the gap – that it has to be able to survive attacks on it by racist far-right governments, such as might be led by Peter Dutton. But, if the consequences of a No vote are as described above, why has Albanese ruled out legislating a Voice in the event the referendum fails? And, if he does relent and legislate it, the dire warning above will come to nothing. If, that is, you believe the Voice will have any practical effect in, say, Yuendemu.
Here’s Troy Bramston further promulgating the notion that, if the Voice does not go into the Constitution, it is beyond the wit of any Australian government to ‘close the gap’:
Because here is the thing: if you vote No, you are voting for nothing to change. This proposal for an Indigenous advisory body is all there is on offer. There is no second referendum. There is no alternative proposal to help alleviate systematic entrenched disadvantage. This is it.
No alternative? What about a legislated Voice, Troy? More from him:
now is the time for those who are planning to vote No to reconsider and vote Yes, ignoring the shrill calls to war and rage
This is projection on steroids. Where are the shrill calls coming from, Troy? Peter Dutton, Jacinta Price, Warren Mundine?
Another breaking news story from The Australian:
Nathan Cleary led the greatest grand final comeback in NRL history on Sunday for the Penrith Panthers, and now his new Yes campaign teammates hope they are not too far behind chasing another miracle victory.
The Panthers co-captain was unveiled as a coup for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament just hours after orchestrating a come-from-behind victory in the final 20 minutes of the NRL grand final, with the message “No Voice, No Choice – come on Australia, vote Yes”.
‘A coup’? We are talking about a change to the Constitution for Heaven’s sake! Has Cleary even read it? Well, sure he’s better than Shaquille O’Neal, but is that the best they can do after a year of cliches, platitudes and virtue signalling? Was John Farnham a coup? Was Cathy Freeman a coup? How many coups like this will the Yes camp need to accumulate in the next few days in order to overcome the fact people are voting No because they see this as racially divisive and/or they cannot vote for a Constitutional amendment that is so lacking in detail or clarity.
Meanwhile, Voice stalwart Chris Kenny, in the absence of any substance in support of the Voice, is reduced to castigating Sam Newman for his call to boo ‘welcomes to country’ at football finals. What a triumph for the Yes case that boos were not evident in either the AFL or NRL Grand Final ‘welcomes to country’, as Kenny smugly demonstrated in an incisive segment on his Sky News show last Monday. At this late and dire stage of the contest, Kenny might achieve more by finally answering serious questions that have been put to him, such as if the Voice is advisory only, why does the new section not contain an explicit caveat to the effect ‘representations emanating from the Voice will not be binding on either the Parliament or the Executive Government’?
Incidentally, I posed that question in a letter to The Australian, which was rejected three times, in favour of, for example, this from Len Monk, of Belmont, Victoria:
It is sad that the idea of the voice has brought out doubts, fears, and anger because the proposed constitutional change seeks only an enduring acknowledgment of our First Nations peoples by ensuring a broad cross-section of Indigenous views is brought to the table when Indigenous policies are being developed. There is no need to fear that racial division would arise from this change – there are already race provisions in sections of the Constitution, which have not led to any consternation.
In an open letter, published at the beginning of August, nine of Australia’s foremost judges concluded that the proposed amendment will not reduce the rights of any citizen. Organisationally, it creates an advisory body constitutionally cushioned from short-term politics to enable it to focus on longer-term solutions. More focused policies could lead to reduced spending. Why be bewildered that there is no detail in the proposal – the Constitution is a statement of principles, and the composition and operation of the advisory body are specifically left to follow the normal democratic processes of parliament. The voice is, in essence, a heartfelt expression of pride and anguish for our country. It would reverse the indignity of a Constitution that once counted the First Nations peoples as less than human and instead look to them to help solve the terrible disadvantage many Indigenous people suffer.
The Australian is entitled to, and indeed does a good job of, publishing a range of opinions in its Letters page. But you would think its Letters Editor would baulk at offerings that contain inflammatory and egregiously incorrect claims.
The Yes camp is becoming increasingly desperate. If the Voice goes down, we will have dodged a bullet, certainly, but no-one will have won out of this ill-conceived and costly misadventure.