Lessons from the Voice Referendum

Well the Voice referendum has been a painful experience for a lot of us. It was essentially a divisive exercise that provided an opportunity for progressives to exaggerate perceived racism in the Australian population. It was built on an antidemocratic effort to give some Australians, based on their ancestry and history, additional benefits over and above other citizens. That the referendum failed so abysmally should give the Voice proponents cause to reflect.

As a fervent No voter, I also believe that, in order not to inflame further division, we need to temper our emotional response for this victory. We should assume that just as the majority of the No voters were not racists that many of the Yes voters had good intentions.

The outcome, however, was a wonderful affirmation of the strength of our democracy. That ordinary people from our suburbs and regions were able to prevail over a much better funded campaign headed by the prime minister and supported by indigenous activists, large corporates, sporting stars, churches and assorted celebrities, was indeed a wondrous vindication of our democracy.

Those political historians that follow and analyse these things, rightfully point out that any referendum that doesn’t have bipartisan support is likely to fail. That longstanding trend has again been reinforced.

As I write this essay, the Prime Minister has declared he will consult aboriginal leaders and take his time in determining how the government might respond. None of us would want the government to do anything different – except for one thing.

More than likely the prime minister will continue to consult the same people who led him to embark on this disastrous referendum. They are largely separatists and participants in the “aboriginal Industry” who want to preserve racial division including preserving the remote communities that practice domestic violence, child sexual abuse and a confected ideal about aboriginal culture. What’s more they seem bereft of any ideas of how to improve the lot of the indigenous disadvantaged except by spending a lot more taxpayers’ dollars. In this enterprise they are often fronted by so-called indigenous leaders who are often not democratically chosen and who demonstrably don’t represent all the distinct composite parts of the indigenous population.

The agenda of this group is not about reconciliation, it is about indigenous sovereignty, reparations for historic abuses (whether real or manufactured) and the continuation of dysfunctional indigenous lives on the spurious motive of preserving indigenous culture. In short it is not about empowering indigenous individuals but granting more power to activists.

Where the ideals of the activists and the Labor party merge is in the belief that government alone is responsible for righting indigenous wrongs. It promotes the idea of victimhood and diminishes the notion of individual agency. Inevitably the proposed solution will entail more government spending, more government bureaucracy. And that, of course, suits the Labor Party.

I won’t believe that the prime minister is fair dinkum in his stated desire to consult widely with indigenous leaders until he has consulted with the likes of Warren Mundine and Jacinta Price,

As Warren Mundine has frequently said, indigenous disadvantage won’t be allayed until all indigenous kids go to school and indigenous adults go to work. And of course Senator Price wants expenditure on efforts to improve indigenous welfare audited which poses not only a threat to the government but also to the beneficiaries of such spending in the “aboriginal industry”. As well she has called for a Royal Commission on the sexual abuse of indigenous children which the government, incongruously, is resisting.

Whilst the government prior to the referendum was all for “truth telling” it now seems that any inquiry that might show indigenous culture in a bad light is to be avoided at all costs. Apparently there are only some truths that can be told and those are the ones that aid the cause of the indigenous activists! Indigenous leaders are complaining that Peter Dutton and Senator Price are trying to politicise the welfare of indigenous children by calling for this Royal Commission. How pathetic is that? Up until the referendum they were highlighting such things as part of indigenous disadvantage and were assuring us, unconvincingly, that the Voice would resolve all such issues. But now the Voice has been defeated, speaking of such issues is now suddenly offensive and a display of political opportunism never mind that it might lead to some useful, practical outcomes.

Very obviously, the referendum serves as an important message to those wishing to pursue conservative politics. In the last decade or so conservatives ( the Liberal party in particular) have committed an inordinate amount of their resources in trying to hold or win back seats in inner city electorates that have been strongly contested by the more “woke” candidates of the Labor left, the Greens and, more recently, the Teals..

The referendum highlighted the fact that these so-called “progressive” agendas (pf which the Voice was one) are really only supported by the inner city elites.

Watering down strong conservative positions to try and attract back the allegiance of these inner city elites is a foolish strategy insofar as it is not only unlikely to attract such voters, but even more disastrously, it alienates the conservatives natural core in the suburbs and the regions.

(In a broader sense it reflects the lack of courage of the conservative parties in recent decades that have refused to fight against the “culture wars” that the left has waged resulting in the rise of identity politics and the imposition of “wokeness” on an unwilling society.)

Nationals leader, David Littleproud understood this when he committed his party to opposing the Voice quite early in the piece. I suspect that when Peter Dutton finally committed the Liberal Party to opposing the Voice, the referendum was doomed to fail. Dutton sealed the deal when his Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Julian Leeser, stood down to support the Voice and Dutton replaced him with the formidable Jacinta Price.

In Queensland, where the shine is rapidly coming off Premier Palaszczuk, LNP Opposition Leader, David Crisafulli has been steadily winning support for the conservatives. But then, inexplicably, he supported Labor in pursuing a state based Truth Telling and Treaty initiative. Now, with almost 80% of Queensland’s voters rejecting the Voice referendum, he has withdrawn his party’s support. Surely all political parties need to reassess their position after such a convincing rejection. Nevertheless many politicians are finding it hard to digest, including the Prime Minister.

My reading of the current status of the issues raised by the Voice proposal is, that again, we should not be complacent.. The proponents of the Voice are attempting to rationalise away the defeat in a number of ways.

The Prime Minister is still refusing to reject the other aspects of the Uluru Statement, viz Truth Telling and Treaty. This seems to me to be an arrogant rejection of the will of the people.

Some of the elites are arguing that the Voice was accepted in inner city electorates where the majority of voters hold university degrees. From this they deduce that the Voice proposal was rejected because it was too complex for the average voter to understand (which stands in stark contrast to the position the Prime Minister took when promoting the proposal to the electorate). This is typical of these elites who would like to have us believe that they have a monopoly on the truth and we lesser educated (and by implication dumber folk) should just be guided by them and their superior acumen.

Aboriginal activists argue that the No vote reflected innate racism in our population and therefore is not morally binding.

I have other concerns too which I can’t elaborate on in this short essay. Suffice to say I don’t believe we have done with these issues yet by a long shot.

In the meantime the Queensland government has offered its employees up to five days leave to mourn the defeat of the referendum. How pathetic we have become if we need to mourn a decision democratically arrived at. There is no likelihood they would have made the same offer to supporters of the No case if the referendum had succeeded. Next thing they will be offering such an opportunity to grieve if Labor loses the next election or Queensland is defeated in the Rugby League State of Origin series.

One of the underlying causes of indigenous dysfunction is the refusal of many to accept their civic responsibilities. In a functional democracy it is incumbent on all of us to accept a majority decision. All of us need to face reality. Such an effort to shield people from reality just feeds the debilitating rush to victimhood.

Finally, the rationale behind the Voice referendum purported to be that the voice of indigenous people was not being heard. Yet the No case was largely prosecuted by two outstanding indigenous voices, viz Warren Nyunggai Mundine and Jacinta Nampijinpa Price. They, more than anyone else, influenced the Australian population to vote No to a divisive and undemocratic modification to our constitution.

Their only reputed sin was that they decried indigenous victimhood and responded to the Voice proposal with common sense and a patriotism that the activists didn’t want to hear!

We, who cherish our country and our democracy, owe a great debt to both of them.

10 Replies to “Lessons from the Voice Referendum”

  1. Well Ted, again all I can say is “quite”!

    It’s quite staggering how badly a Prime Minister can (mis)read the electorate, and then doubly unbelievable how a man in that seniorest of positions can be so insanely in denial after the people have spoken, and spoken so very loudly and clearly.

    Well spoken Ted!

    Yours……. Jack

  2. Why I voted no:
    1. The Prime Minister lied.
    (a) He introduced the debate by saying it is a major change then watered that back to a modest request.
    (b) He also called the Voice and advisory body when the wording is to make representation. Very different legal implications.
    (c) He accepted the Uluru Statement in full, then told the public its only about the Voice.
    (d) If the problem is closing the gap, then by definition one day the gap will be closed. Solving that problem does not need to be enshrined in the constitution
    I cannot accept a truth telling and treaty.
    2. The problem as I see it:
    (a) The disadvantaged we are talking about is about 1/3 of all Aboriginals who live in remote locations and our public policies over the past 100 years or so have been to use welfare to support such communities. People I know have made some excellent points about the impact of such policies. The problem seems clear – the solution, not so clear.
    (b) Australia treats Aboriginal’s differently. Again, people I know have raised raise good points about the impact of this decision.
    3. My suggested solutions:
    (a) I do not support public policy that sets Aboriginal people apart or different. We are all equal.
    Assimilation and integration are NOT the answer. Education and jobs are the answer (subject to the good points others have made).
    (b) While intergenerational trauma probably exists, my kids are literally the second generation away from exactly that. My father and mother in las had horrific upbringings that could have carried through the next generation. They broke the mold and hopefully my wife and I continued to help our kids focus on the future not the past. That’s where I’d like to see public policy and funds directed.

    thanks Ted, I think this is an honest conversation has to be had for the good for us all.

  3. Ted good summary. Albanese squandered $340m and 1 year pandering to the left of his party. Now he, and to a large extent, our Premier are hoist on their own petard. They cannot jettison the progressives in their respective Government members and so this hiatus (about truth and treaty) will take a long time to work through. This means that irrespective of the will of the people ,so loudly spoken , they are heading down the road to autocracy. Unfortunately the younger generations seem to believe autocracy is good irrespective of real world experience. There is only one way to stop them, vote them out at the earliest.
    Mundine and Pearson seem to be on the same page about getting ATSI people into education and then paid work. So it would be good if these two could come together and be the conduit to the relevant Minister ( and Shadow Minister), for all the ideas put forward by the ATSI people (not the activists) and to deliver outcomes and foster transparent accountability.
    Again the responsible Minister currently has all the powers to effect what the progressives told us necessitated the VOICE, without Constitutional amendment. What is lacking is the will.
    The Constitution is not the place to solve operational problems

  4. Thank you Ted. I wish to confirm that the last sixty years have not diminished your rational point of view and your capacity to express the view concisely.

  5. My thanks to all of you for your positive feedback. It is gratifying to know that my essays can provide stimulation for so many of you.

    But I wonder if you might indulge me to make a special mention of my childhood friend, Henry Handley.

    Henry and I went to school together in late primary school and into secondary school.Although we were always close friends he was also a formidable competitor when it came to athletics. He was a great middle distance runner and always posed the greatest danger when I went out to run, particularly in the mile race. After school I lost contact with him. Unbeknownst to me he had gone on to establish himself as a successful business man (which in retrospect came as no surprise). But after all that time we eventually reconnected via e-mail and it gave me great joy to reestablish that connection.So whilst I greatly appreciate all your feedback it was especially poignant and gratifying to see Henry’s response.

    So many thanks to you all but something a little special from you Henry!

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