The Voice

The Voice: Corporate Vanity and the Vibe

It is an unfortunate characteristic of many people in the upper echelons of business, the professions, academia, politics, the churches, the bureaucracy, the media and society generally to believe that they know more than they actually do and are blessed with greater wisdom than they really possess. The late American writer and commentator William F. Buckley once remarked that he would sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2000 faculty members of Harvard University.  The former, he observed, would have more common sense.

Aided by modern communications and personal connections, people in the upper echelons of society are particularly prone to catch whatever vibe is currently permeating society, especially those vibes that can give them warm feelings of personal virtue.  Causes seen to be virtuous, but with little immediate personal impact can provide an irresistible temptation to pontificate, often with all the certainty of ignorance.

Such was the case with the Voice referendum.

The power sought was no minor thing, despite all claims to the contrary. Success in the referendum would have changed the way our nation was governed by establishing a permanent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander body empowered to make representations both to parliament and executive government on all matters deemed to affect Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Leaders of all kinds signalled their virtue by committing the organisations they controlled to support the Voice without taking the trouble to research the issues or go through the bother of consulting their members, whose money they proceeded to spend as if it were their own. We saw this with public companies such as BHP, Wesfarmers and Qantas, all of which made substantial contributions from shareholders’ funds to the cause. Of course, it is the directors, not the shareholders, who are responsible for company management.  However, contributions to the Voice were outside this purpose and could not be justified as charitable donations as the Voice campaign was a political campaign, not a charity.

Directors as individuals had every right to advocate a “Yes” vote but in authorising the allocation of funds to support the Voice it may be argued that they breached their fiduciary duties to shareholders and should be required to reimburse their companies for the costs incurred.

Wesfarmers, for example, sought to justify its $2 million donation as reflecting its longstanding commitment to reconciliation, which it associated with its role as an employer of nearly 4,000 indigenous Australians, together with its engagement with their communities and in listening to and learning from them.  It saw the Voice as promoting reconciliation and supporting improved outcomes for indigenous people, which would benefit shareholders. Like many public companies, Wesfarmers made the fundamental mistake of conflating the Voice issue with their overall obligations to employees, shareholders and the community generally, which include the maximisation of shareholder value and the avoidance of racism.  

Public companies should remember that they have neither mandate nor expertise to seriously research social policy. Many alleged benefits promoted by advocates for the Voice bear the hallmarks of a Melanesian-style cargo cult.  Claims that the Voice would support improved outcomes for indigenous people ignored problems arising from suggested appointment processes for Voice spokesmen having questionable democratic legitimacy and the likelihood of institutional capture by race ideologues who would perpetuate rather than alleviate indigenous disadvantage.

Further, it is far from clear what “reconciliation’ means, what it entails and how we will know when that objective has been reached.  It may sound good but it’s a word that can and will be used to justify claims from the rest of us to the end of time. How does it accord with the fact that many Voice advocates clearly sought power; power they would have been able to use to create division and resentment and set back the prospects for bringing people together in a united nation by many years, if not for ever?

By leaping into the political fray even before referendum terms were finalised and their consequences evaluated, public company directors may have garnered plaudits for their perceived virtue, but what this really reflected was a failure to undertake due diligence. Wesfarmers has argued that support for the Voice was linked to social responsibility, not politics.  However, this argument doesn’t fly.  Social responsibility becomes a political issue whenever government involvement is sought and legislative action thought necessary, which was clearly the case with the Voice referendum.  By joining a campaign that sought to persuade people to vote a particular way, companies were engaging in politics.

It is important that everyone sticks to their appropriate roles.  The genius of a public company structure is that it separates ownership from management, a separation that enables people with different views and backgrounds to come together for mutual benefit.  For this to be sustained, just as it is normally not appropriate for government to take part in the management of a business entity, it is not appropriate for a public company to intervene in areas that are properly the role of citizens generally and their representatives.

There is little evidence that supporting the Voice benefited companies’ brands or businesses.  The referendum’s results indicated that many company employees as well as shareholders and customers would have voted ‘No’ and that this may well have adversely affected their feelings of trust and loyalty towards the companies concerned.   Incidentally, with racial and gender employment targets to meet the diversity-and-inclusion mantras now fashionable, many shareholders would welcome an assurance that company appointments would always be determined on merit, irrespective of race or gender.

It is to be regretted that even now leading Voice proponents fail to understand how grossly offensive to many Australians — some 60 per cent, going by the referendum result — the proposed constitutional changes actually were.  We live in a society with an egalitarian ethos and any proposal to give someone permanent additional rights based on ethnicity rather than individual needs is considered wrong, even immoral.  There is no way any proposed separate constitutional Voice would ever be able to overcome this fundamental deficiency.  People want to be nice, so initially polls showed an overall majority supporting the Voice.  However, as its implications gradually seeped through to the public, support inevitably fell away.

The Prime Minister falsely portrayed the Voice as a “modest request.”  It was far from that.  It was wrong right from the start and Australians have shown wisdom in rejecting the vibe and refusing to be drawn into what may be characterised as constitutional vandalism driven by emotional incontinence — and no shortage of misguided corporate cash and support.

27 thoughts on “The Voice: Corporate Vanity and the Vibe

  • DougD says:

    “Further, it is far from clear what “reconciliation’ means, what it entails and how we will know when that objective has been reached.. It may sound good but it’s a word that can and will be used to justify claims from the rest of us to the end of time.” , In 1999, David Malouf and Jackie Huggins working for the Reconciliation Council, presented to Prime Minister Howard a draft Declaration of Reconciliation. It said: “as one part of the nation expresses its sorrow and profoundly regrets the injustices of the past, so the other part accepts the apology and forgives”. It took until 2008 for a Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to make an apology. But so far as I know, no one has accepted it or expressed any forgiveness. All it produced has been further demands.

    • Patrick Kelly says:

      Here here!! particularly on your point about “forgiveness”

      • David Isaac says:

        There’s nothing for anyone alive today to be sorry for. According to the customs and pressures of the times there’s not much to reproach our ancestors about either. A great continent was never going to be left in the hands of paleolithic people and If not the British then it would have been the French who wrested it from them. Whilst perhaps not their fault, neither was it ours that they were unable to mount significant resistance. That’s the truth which should be taught to every school student.

      • Tom Parker says:

        Hear hear!! unless someone is calling a dog etc.

  • Surftilidie says:

    I believe the word that covers those described in the opening sentence of this essay is “ultracrepidarian”. However, I may be being ultracrepidarian in saying so .

    • ianl says:

      That is most certainly the word. I’ve only ever seen that word deployed two or three times in quite a long life.

      Well done you for remembering its’ existence. I’d completely forgotten it. It also has just the right tang of hypocrisy in its’ purview to include the corporate conceitedness examined in the article here. (Qantas, he come tumbling down, though).

      • PeterPetrum says:

        Ian, a fine comment, but your “hanging apostrophe” on “it’s’ “ is quite incorrect. The word “its” is a possessive in itself. The word “it’s” is an abbreviation of “it is” and is quite acceptable when used for that meaning.

    • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

      Yairs Surftildie, a three dollar fifty word at least and a longer version of “missus” we ordinary peasants use. May a Noah not getcha!

  • RobyH says:

    Unfortunately, it was the Labour government that placed pressure on all the companies to support the voice, requesting support for Brough both through action and finances. Example, the health minister met with large phqrma and told them of the importance of their support for the voice. naturally, the large Pharma would support it because they need future approvals of the minister, I am sure this happened in all areas where government ministers met with significant organisations to ensure their support. It was the government that was operating to undermine democracy and a fair and transparent referendum. .

    • Libertarian says:

      I was going to post the same.

      “However, contributions to the Voice were outside this purpose and could not be justified as charitable donations as the Voice campaign was a political campaign, not a charity.”

      Donations to the church may not have any material benefit, squandering money on the latest trade union stunt isn’t charity.


    Shareholders have every right to expect non-partisanship from the board. In case of the opposite, vote the board out and take legal action for the refund payment of embezzled shareholder funding and dismissal of the board for embezzlement.

  • en passant says:

    Naturally the taxpayer funded Ministry of Propaganda mouthpiece is once more leading the way with a new series now hitting the TV screens called ‘Frontier Wars’. As this must have taken many months to prepare, we can be certain it was ready before the referendum. Was it expected to show that a successful woke ‘yes’ vote was justified after all?
    I will strap myself in, remove all missiles I could throw at the screen and any sharp objects with which I could self-harm and watch to see if ‘truth-telling’ actually involves any truths.
    I am particularly interested in the unavoidable segment they will no doubt screen on ‘The Wills Massacre’ of 1861.
    The Wills Massacre of white colonists by Indigenous people occurred north of modern-day Springsure in Central Queensland, Australia on 17th October 1861. Nineteen men, women and children were killed in the single largest massacre of colonists by Aboriginal people in Australian history. The Gayiri Aboriginal tribe were implicated in the massacre.
    My Question is: have any modern-day aboriginals belonging to this tribe apologised for this massacre or is it only white trash that have to apologise?
    After all, Melbourne City Council is to spend rate-payers money erecting a statue to two aboriginals executed for murdering two shepherds near Narre Warren just 35km from Melbourne, so I guess I know the answer.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    I read that investors are starting to ease off on those companies indulging in all this Environmental Social Governance ( ESG ) restrictive stupidity, and not before time.
    They should include the other two in their thinking as well, namely Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR ) and Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI ). Companies have no business getting involved in them…… it only corrupts the excellent commercial system ( compared to all the others i.e. ) and that economic self regulating “invisible hand “.
    On the word ultracrepidarian I initially thought it must be some sort modern invention but it seems to be older dating back to 1819 in English, and based on a phrase from much much earlier times, in fact Roman.
    It’s based on a Latin phrase meaning “let the cobbler not go beyond his last”. In other words going beyond ones province, with the substantive “A person who does this, esp. an ignorant or presumptious critic”from 1825. It’s the first time I can remember seeing it used.
    So well done Surftilidie.

    • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

      No matter how many of the shareholders in those companies feel, getting rid of the shares as a protest is biting the hand that feeds you if you are self funded in retirement and letters to them opining –cobbler, stick to thine last– are ignored so there isn’t much one can do except hope that the waste of the shareholders money is tax deductible.

    • James McKenzie says:

      Seems we have found a synonym for our democratic elected representatives. The cobbler in those ancient times would have been the centre of gossip: a target for the management of misinformation.

  • Mike says:

    NAB responded to my initial complaint. (I wrote back – weeks ago – refer below – NAB has not responded)

    NAB correctly paraphrased my complaint :
    “I understand that you are disappointed in NAB and other banks as they spent 7 million on the Voice ‘YES’ campaign. You advised that it is a waste of money and NAB should stick to banking.”

    NAB responded (in part) :
    “We wanted people to be informed of the issues around the referendum, while being determined to avoid suggesting to anyone how to vote”.

    Your response is at odds with the facts.

    Refer :


    I await your response. I have been an NAB customer for 40 years.

  • Jeremy Hearn says:

    Very well done Antony!
    This is the best summary of the voice process that I have read.

  • SimonBenson says:

    Directors of woke corporates need to read James 4:14 – it might disturb their complacency. It is of course no coincidence that woke corporates who supported the wasteful and deceitful travesty that was “the voice” alleged referendum* have all gone quiet. One wonders what politically correct whimsy they will seek to fund next using other people’s money. Doubtless another “mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes.”
    * It was not a ‘referendum’ at all as it fell foul of the “submission” test and was unconstitutional.

  • call it out says:

    En passant….for the record, the single biggest massacre of whites by tribes took place in 1840 just south of Adelaide. 26 survivors, men women, and children from the shipwreck of the Maria were killed by the Coorong tribes. The governor sent a police force under a martial law order to find, try, and punish the offenders. Two tribal men were hanged, reports indicate another two or three may have been killed in the chase.
    Funny, the more recent the historical sources for this, the more fudged it becomes. The writing of history changed about 20 years ago, captured by progressives.
    The old sources are more likely to report it as it was.

  • Brenden T Walters says:

    Brilliant article. Who is Anthony Carr? His thesis could well apply to many of the bishops of the Catholic church. The bishop of Bathurst has spent a fortune on his residence and numerous overseas trips, all with Catholic money meant to further the Kingdon of God. Bugger the undeserving poor!

    • guilfoyle says:

      I’ve had the misfortune of attending Mass there. He certainly doesn’t spend the money on the music. Songs from the 70’s – he seems not to know that the Catholic Church has a two thousand year history of liturgical music, including Gregorian chant and composers such as Mozart, Mendelssohn, Hayden and Beethoven. And they choose “On Eagles’ Wings”?!

  • whitelaughter says:

    given support for the voice was constantly falling throughout the campaign, it is probably *continuing* to fall.
    Those trapped in the inner city echo chamber have just been rudely disabused of their belief that everyone agrees with them;
    every electorate with a parliament house in it voted yes – knowing that govt bureaucracy voted for more govt bureaucracy will sour support;
    and Canberra specific – squandering the opportunity to make a protest vote against the usurption of Calvary hospital is going to have consequences for years, or even generations.

  • Brenden T Walters says:

    Much of the commentary on the reason for the large no vote has been far reaching and profound. But I have a sneaking suspicion that a large portion of that large portion of the population just don’t like aborigines very much. They would not accept them meddling in the affairs of state, they made that clear beyond doubt.

  • Jessie says:

    Chapter One
    The Australian Constitution: A Living Document
    H M Morgan
    Copyright 1992 by The Samuel Griffith Society. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply