18 April 2023
When Prime Minister Albanese first released the government’s plan to introduce a referendum to amend the Constitution to include an Indigenous Voice, he insisted that the debate should be respectful. What he seems to have meant to say was that it should be respectful if you are promoting the ‘No’ case. If you are promoting the ‘Yes’ case the respectful rule does not apply.
The ‘Yes’ proponents can be as nasty, insulting, and bullying as they think necessary because they want to believe they are on the side of good – certainly we have already seen this behaviour on social media. They are of the opinion that they are virtuous and hold the moral high ground.
When Opposition leader Peter Dutton said the Liberal Party would say ‘No’ to the Voice, the floodgates of childish vitriolic attacks opened, and the insults came gushing through.
In the same way that playground bullies attack someone who is supposedly different, the ‘Yes’ proponents swarmed in with their insults.
The Prime Minister called Peter Dutton a ‘grave digger’ burying Uluru. By that he did not mean burying a big rock in Alice Springs. He was referring to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Last week, Aboriginal activist Noel Pearson said about Julian Leeser, the then Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs who is of the Jewish faith: ‘I’m wondering whether Julian expects us to wear a tattoo identifying ourselves as Indigenous? Or that our clothes should be adorned with some kind of badge identifying us as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander?’ Pearson has since apologised.
Julian Leeser had a cheap shot at the supporters of the ‘No’ campaign when he professed at a press conference to stand on the moral high ground, saying: ‘I want to say to my children, your father stood up for something he believed in.’ In my view, he has inferred that voting ‘Yes’ is noble, principled, and proper, and to vote ‘No’ is dishonourable and immoral.’ Perhaps Leeser might explain how he reconciles the inclusion of race in the Constitution with such ‘principled’ morality…?
The leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, called Mr Dutton and the Liberal party racists. ‘The Liberals are a small racist rump sliding into irrelevance. The rest of the country is starting to reckon with its past as we march towards a treaty, but Peter Dutton is trying to ignite a culture war. Peter Dutton sat out the apology, and under his leadership, the Liberals have found themselves on the wrong side of history yet again. The passage of the Voice referendum is a crucial pathway towards Truth and Treaty, and its failure would set back these important reforms by decades. We will be strongly campaigning Yes at the referendum.’
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said of the Liberals: ‘They are a mean, nasty outfit with hearts about as big as their dwindling primary vote.’
Professor Marcia Langton said: ‘I think his opposition to the Voice relies absolutely on deceit and misrepresentations. And, and I have to say, a great deal of ignorance. He [Dutton] wants to sow confusion and doubt, so that the undecided people and the people who are wavering, because they’re starting to think “Yeah, I haven’t seen any detail” … they think that he’s able to, you know, swing them to a ‘No’ vote to secure what he believes is his constituency.’
Not one of them answered the main issue raised by Peter Dutton, which was how can the Voice, enshrined in the Constitution on racial grounds, benefit all Australians?
The childish name calling should stop now.
If the proponents of the ‘Yes’ campaign want the Australian Constitution to be race-based, they should say it, own it, and be proud of it.
Many appear to want the Voice to be a vehicle by which the Uluru Statement from the Heart can be the foundation of the Australian legislative framework and the only way that can happen is through amending the Constitution which is the fundamental law of the country.
Once laws are made giving validity to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, enforcement of those laws is to come from the Makarrata Commission, which is specifically mentioned in the Uluru statement.
The Prime Minister should now make available in the public domain the draft legislative framework that will create the Makarrata Commission. How will the Commissioner or Commissioners be appointed? What will its terms of reference be? Who will have a right of appearance? Will there be an appeal process to a Court? What powers will it have in relation to enforcement? What laws will be relevant in this tribunal, Australian common law or Aboriginal Customary Law?
The Uluru Statement refers to the cultural and spiritual connection to land in terms of land ownership. Will the Makarrata Commission have jurisdiction to decide such land rights disputes?
Will the government, as a protective mechanism enshrine in law that freehold land extinguishes native title as was decided in the 1992 Mabo High Court case?
The Prime Minister has an obvious duty to the Australian public to address these issues and many more before asking them to amend their Constitution. Prime Minister Albanese should be reminded that the Australian Constitution is just that, the Constitution of and for all Australians.
The proponents of the ‘No’ vote predominantly oppose the Voice in principle because it seeks to introduce racism into the constitution. They say it, they own that position, and they are proud of their attempts to defend it.
They, as concerned Australians defending their Constitution, are entitled to know the legislation which the Voice proponents want in order to incorporate the Uluru Statement from the Heart into law.
The government is committed to making laws for the benefit of all Australians. That is why they are elected to govern. The government, the working committee of the Voice and all proponents of the Voice should be proud of the legislative framework they propose to incorporate the Uluru statement from the Heart and the Makarrata Commission into law which is supposed to benefit all Australians. So, they should be proud to tell us what that legislative framework is in detail.
The Prime Minister is keen to enlist sporting celebrities, icons of stage and film to promote the Voice as well as anyone he thinks will have influence over others to gather votes.
These people have a duty to those they think they influence. They surely do not wish to mislead the very people who revere them as mentors and icons. They, therefore, have a vested interest to know exactly what they are promoting.
The voting public know their decisions have lasting effects and therefore need and should be informed.
The Prime minister should respect the voting population that enabled him to take over an office of enormous responsibility.