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Byron Shire
April 22, 2024

Editorial: Will the nation find its Voice?

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Later this year we will be asked if we agree to establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Opinion polls show that opposition to the Voice proposal is growing.

The polling trend against the referendum can be explained in many ways, from an innocent misunderstanding of its constitutional effect through to outright racism, but the strongest factor is undoubtedly the misinformation being pumped out by the usual suspects.

When you encounter a question you lack the knowledge to answer, a good rule of thumb is to look at the kind of people who have gathered on both sides of the argument.

The referendum proposal is an attempt to realise the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

It is supported by charities, sporting organisations and progressive political groups. It is also backed by federal and state Labor and the Greens, by many federal Liberal backbenchers and by the Liberal parties of NSW, WA and Tasmania.

Apart from a handful of First Nations people who say the proposal is irrelevant to their aspirations, the ‘No’ case is supported, financed and exaggerated by right-wing politicians, white supremacists, the Murdoch media and reactionary Christian groups.

Creatures as soul-damaged as Peter Dutton, Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer are leading the negative campaign, which should tell you all you need to know about its motivation.

They have latched on to a typical culture war cause: they pretend the Voice is damaging to the interests of ordinary Australians, that it curtails their rights and gives Indigenous people privileges. 

It is the same lie that far right populists constantly proclaim: we are the aggrieved parties, we are the victims here – not the children in detention, not the Aboriginal people murdered by police – we are the oppressed, who will suffer terribly if something, anything, is given to ‘others’, to people who are not us.

When improving the lives of a small number of ‘others’ is represented as damaging to the wellbeing of a larger entitled group, what is intended by this lie is the maintenance of inequality. 

The populists won’t hear of positive action, even if everybody gains – as is the case when improving the health, welfare and education of minority groups massively benefits the community as a whole.

Another argument against enacting any progressive agenda, an argument favoured by John Howard, is that the present generation did not have a hand in whatever historical crimes may have been committed against First Nations peoples, and so their predicament today should not cause citizens any guilt, or inspire any remedial action.

A little reflection shows the difference between ‘fault’ and ‘responsibility’, and that responsibility falls on us if we are beneficiaries, however innocent, of a fault. A whole continent, with all its riches, did not become our inheritance by accident, and we cannot deny present obligations by wilfully forgetting the past.

Looked at with ordinary human empathy, the answer to the question posed by the referendum is a simple ‘Yes’. For more detail see www.voice.gov.au.

David Lovejoy, Echo co-founder

 

News tips are welcome: [email protected]


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17 COMMENTS

  1. I think the first nations people have a right to say what is happening in their land, what right have we got to say they do not. I think the white people have a lot to answer for the way we have treated them over the years our ancestors in particular . definitely a yes from me.

    • Aboriginals must have a lot to answer for given the way their ancestors treated our ancestors who were just trying to build the civilisation that the Aboriginals enjoy the benefits of, and in fact, demand more of its benefits for free. Why should they get any say in a civilisation they did not build? Of course, if you want to see it as, they provided the land, and we built the civilisation, and we both benefit, then your position would become rather untenable.

      If you want an adversarial narrative, I can assure you, it would end in genocide in the future as the future non-White/non-Aboriginal majority will see them as a political problem to be solved to be dealt with permanently, without the procrastination that European Enlightenment/Age of Reason/Christian moralising causes in White people. Others will treat them as Palestinians. Be careful not to set them up as a target.

  2. If the Aboriginals have not benefited from White man civilisation, why are they so averse to going out on the land and living like their ancestors? There are a small number that live pseudo-tribal lifestyle, augmented with some ‘White man magic’, but that’s true of a surprising number of White people. But instead, they want money and stuff and political power.

    And if you could point out where these White sepremisms are, that would be helpful, as we would like to recruit them. No one, not even on the far-far-right, wants to rule over non-whites. Maybe you mean ‘White separatists’, there are an increasing number of them, but they don’t ‘hate’ non-whites, in fact they get along with the Aboriginal separatist.

  3. I must admit, I have never seen such a biased editorial.
    Remember Hans, The Vietnam invasion and conscription of minors was “supported by charities, sporting organisations and progressive political groups. It is also backed by federal and state Labor and the Greens, by many federal Liberal backbenchers and by the Liberal parties of NSW, WA and Tasmania. ( well of course not including the Greens, though they probably would have contributed to the general ‘pile on’ mentality.)
    Neither you, nor your short-sighted ilk, have a mandate on the truth or morality.
    The creation of a race-based political entity is evil, ” what is intended by this lie is the maintenance of inequality. ” and is about as appropriate as the illegal invasion of Iraq, the war crimes we committed there and Afghanistan, all of which have been ignored by your list of sycophants and head-nodders.
    Gladys (the koala killer) has been proven corrupt, in stealing $6 million from public money to support her toy-boy’s political aspirations but … no charges will be pursued. Perhaps Hans, as in the above example, the deeds and issues need to be examined, not the populist appeal of your argument.
    Cheers, G”)

    • It’s Lovejoy Senior, not Junior. I got caught out too. Thought Hans forgot to take his meds or something, but no, it’s David. I’m looking forward to seeing how Editor Lovejoy III runs the show. She pretty much carried Hans on their political podcast.

    • Ken I don’t see how you can say weirdly the Vietnam invasion and conscription was supported by these groups. Many groups opposed it but what does that have to do with the current debate about the voice?

      • Rod, it seems you don’t see much at all. The main point the author is spuriously attempting to make is that the credentials of those supposedly in favour of entrenched racial discrimination in our constitution is somehow beyond reproach, while I point out that it was precisely these scum who were baying for the blood of those unwilling to illegally invade another country and murder their citizens.
        You may infer that I detest the type of mob mentality that David is advocating, as well as those so week minded who would be persuaded to permanently destroy the last vestiges of democracy in our law, in order to appease the most violent, criminal and anti-social (and by their own designation. ‘ mob ‘) in our midst and openly plotting to bring down the society which nurtures and provides for their magnificent advancement from the stone age to civilisation.
        Cheers, G”)

  4. Precisely because you think that everyone non-Aboriginal is “entitled”, you cannot understand why there is so much opposition to this attempt at segregation.

  5. An important historic and necessary change to the Australian Constitution of course will Include both the YES and no campaigns, the NO campaigners create a friction thus keeping the topic in the limelight, another opportunity to make voters think, discuss and ask questions.
    There is a mass of information on the developing Voice and Referendum headed by a committee of 20 regarded members, which will continue to be updated to later in the year.
    As a layperson, following and disseminating information with free hand outs of the Uluru Statement from the the Heart (along with FAQ & Answers), since its presentation and invitation to ALL Australians in 2017, I can recommend the following links to those wishing to be informed on line:

    Ulurustatement.org

    • The voters have asked questions, and have gotten fobbed off by the Yes campaign, thus the polling swing. Now, Yes is trying to divert to ‘Recognition’ to avoid being asked Voice questions to begin with. I’d like to know where in the Constitution the White people that built the actual country are recognised. It’s quite the neutral document, but equality is not good enough for some. If using government as a weapon in an ethnic conflict is the game, we can do that too.

  6. David it is irrelevant who has gathered either
    Side regarding the Voice ! What so can you say the
    Same for the same sex marriage vote ? Where
    5 million voted against ? If it had been a different
    Voting system i doubt if the SSM would have got up.
    The Voice proposal has been hijacked by extreme
    Left-wing activist’s who have no good intentions
    Only but to recognise Aboriginal people’s
    In our Constitution..agree 💯 percent
    Treaty , truth telling, reparations..
    Will absolutely destroy this country..

    • I fear Minister Burney’s finger-wagging jumble/fumbles at the Canberra ‘bubble’ Press Club may only increase the “NO” case.
      Unless the “YES” get better leadership than this, it could adversely affect their % of votes.

    • Oh know, sounds like American politics we got 5 million votes against Ssm but we didn’t win. I don’t know about lefties hijacking the voice debate but it seems as if the hate and muddying of the issues is coming from groups who oppose it like the NATs who said no before it even came to parliament and then say they want a civil debate. How is that allowing a civil debate when fact checking shows many lies and misdirections being spread by the same people( talking about independent fact checkers not Andrew bolt).

  7. Reading some of these comments confirms what a deeply racist country Australia has become. Despite, per capita that First Nation people are the most incarcerated people on the globe. That there is no International Charter that upholds their Rights adopted and enacted by Australian Politicians, that 10 Year old FIRST NATION children can be placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in NT prisons, that Close the Gap policies continue to fail, that Deaths in Custody continues to rise to over 450 persons since the Royal Commission in 1991, aided by the lack of interest by Politicians to ratify into action ALL RECOMMENDATIONS TO PREVENT DEATHS. These facts do not affect the soul of racists. ALL THE MORE REASON TO ADVANCE THE YES VOTE. YES YES YES. REMEDY THE DEEPLY RACIST AUSTRALIAN CONSTITUTION AND DEVELOP THE POLITICAL WILL FOR A HUMANE AUSTRALIA.

    • They have the same rights as the rest of us, but with more priveledges. If you are trying to say they can’t make it in a Western high tech free market democracy, then maybe you should be advocating for them to have their own sovereign republics, separate from the rest of us, instead of expecting 97% of people to be disadvantaged for the benefit of 3%, half of whom aparently have no Aboriginal/Torries ancestory anyway. Calling people names and going all caps will give you an ironic effect.

  8. Jo if you perceive that individuals who have
    a view or opinion regarding the voice is Racist !!
    Then maybe you should get your blinkers
    Off and come to terms with democracy…
    Like now ..

  9. The whole point of the Voice is that there is no representative body to advise Parliament on behalf of Indigenous peoples since ATSIC was abolished. Please don’t say Indigenous parliamentarians do that, they are constrained by party policy. As a historian I’ve seen too many government ‘initiatives’ towards Indigenous people which have turned out to be harmful or useless because no consultation occurred. I can see that people might be worried about a lack of detail for the referendum itself but another lesson of history is that the ‘dead hand of the past’ can come into operation if you put too much detail into a Constitution. Just look at the ‘right to bear arms’ clause in the American constitution, meant for a militia, which allows nutcases to have a bunch of automatic weapons in their basements. The form that the Voice takes will be debated by that democracy that Barrow and CVS have so much faith in, but at least if it’s enshrined in the Constitution it can’t be abolished by the next government along – only changed in form.

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