A vote for the Australian way of life

27 September 2023

By: John Roskam

A lack of ‘details’ is not why the Voice is failing

I’ve started my emails to you over the last few weeks now with the line ‘Another week…another poll has support for the Voice falling.’  And that’s how I’ll start today.  Two polls came out on Monday – the AFR/Freshwater poll had the Yes vote down to 33% and Newspoll had it at 36%.  The journey of the Voice reveals just how little Anthony Albanese knows about the nation.  He has fundamentally misread the Australian public.

Peter Dutton risks making the same mistake.  If the Voice referendum is defeated it won’t be because the public weren’t given ‘the details’.  It will be because Australians voted to endorse the principle that all Australians are equal – that we should not be divided by race; and that, as Bob Hawke said at our Bicentenary, ‘In Australia there is no hierarchy of descent, there must be no privilege of origin.’

If on October 14 Australians vote to affirm the bedrock principle of Australian democracy – equality of citizenship – the referendum result will be a victory for the Australian way of life.

A few days ago Peter Dutton said ‘All of the analysis that I read, commentators from the left and right…they miss – most of them – this vital point:  It’s turned from 60% support to 40% support because the prime minister won’t give the detail.’  Then yesterday Anthony Albanese said that if the referendums fails one of the reasons will be because the Liberal Party refused to give the Voice bipartisan support.

I don’t accept either of those two explanations as to why a majority of Australians reject the Voice.  Those explanations sell the Australian people short, it ignores the evidence to the contrary, and it implies that Australians would somehow accept racial division embedded in the constitution if they were given the details as to how such a scheme would operate.  No amount of detail or bipartisan support can compensate for the fact that the Voice is wrong in principle.

According to a RedBridge poll the number one reason why Australians would vote No is because ‘It divides us’.  According the AFR/Freshwater Strategy poll the top three reasons why voters would switch from Yes to No are: ‘the Voice is detracting from the nation’s bigger priorities, like cost of living/housing’; ‘Now that I know more about the Voice, I like the idea less’; and ‘The Yes campaign has failed to make a compelling case’.  If anything, it’s likely that the more details that Australians have about the Voice they less likely they are to vote for it.

If on on the evening of October 14 Peter Dutton takes to the podium and declares the referendum was defeated because Australians weren’t given the ‘details’ then what the country has gone through for the last twelve months will have been in vain.  As Rowan Dean wrote in this week’s Spectator Australia:

The Voice is rotten through and through; it is abhorrent in principle and history suggests it will be disastrous in practice.  Full stop.

The Yes campaign’s lazy and intellectually bereft claim that ‘we’ve tried and failed at everything else, so we may as well try this’ is an insult to every Australian whose taxes have gone to help disadvantaged Aborigines for decades.

The reality is that every member of parliament who has served in a government and is now voting Yes should actually resign as a point of principle because it is they the parliamentarians, not we the voters, who have failed indigenous Australians.  Abysmally.

Thank goodness of Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price who has had the mental toughness and adroitness to retain her laser-like focus on the issues and the principles at stake.  Speaking the language of the average Aussie, she has forcefully pointed out that were can never be a treaty because we were never at war; that intergenerational trauma is not something that can be exclusively claimed by any one identity group; that pre-colonial Aboriginal society was not some ‘Pascoan paradise;’ and that the benefits of British settlement far outweigh the negatives.

Once upon a time these sentiments were regarded as common sense.  Alas, the left has been eating away at these historic facts, one by one, through lies, fraudulent education, deception and dissembling.

Constitutional recognition of some Australians and not others suffers from the same failure of principle as the Voice.  Either we’re all equal – or we’re not.  I’ve long struggled to understand the principle behind constitutional recognition of one group of Australians.  To quote Bob Hawke again, the country has been created by all of us.

Australia’s national identity has been shaped by our convict and colonial origins, by the often tragic relationship over the last two hundred years between the Aboriginal people and the European newcomers, by successive waves of immigrants from all over the world, and by the hard work of generations of Australian-born men and women.

Over two hundred years, and through extraordinary effort and commitment, we have together built a wealthy and prosperous nation; young, strong, dynamic and vibrant; a nation capable of addressing those economic and social challenges that confront us and willing to protect and enhance our democratic freedoms and our individual liberties.

(Sure, you might quibble with parts of that second paragraph.  I’m not sure quite how ‘dynamic and vibrant’ we are and far too many Australians are unwilling to stand up for our ‘democratic freedoms and our individual liberties’ – but as statement of an ideal it’s very good.  It has a spirit and tone quite different from how our elites now talk about Australia.  Indeed in 2020 the Morrison government replaced ‘young’ with ‘one’ in the national anthem.  Apparently to call our country ‘young’ is now controversial.)

Greg Sheridan in yesterday’s Australian was quite right when he wrote about the Liberal Party has been reluctant to simply say ‘No’ to the demands of those who seek to divide us.

…the Liberals, before the arrival of Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, have been guilty of wretchedly counter-productive bipartisanship on indigenous issues.  When they were in government they never had the intestinal fortitude to say an outright no to the Aboriginal activist political leaders.

…the Coalition was extremely unlikely ever to support a constitutional voice or a treaty but they were too scared to have an argument about it in government.

As much as anything these mealy-mouthed bipartisan equivocations from the Coalition led us into the mess we’re in today.  The whole edifice of indigenous policy bipartisanship has really been uniquely challenged, intellectually and politically, by Price.  She holds a huge political lesson for Australian politics.

If you really believe something, such as that the Constitution should not be changed to enshrine racial division, and a constituency is against you on the issue, you must make a sustained effort to win them over not by disguising your position but by having the argument and trying to win it.

To remind you of the history of the Voice, it’s a concept that emerged from proposals for constitutional recognition contained in the Labor/Greens Agreement following the 2010 election.  In return for Greens’ support Julia Gillard committed to a number of measures including a referendum on recognition in the constitution of both indigenous Australians and local government.  (The Agreement makes interesting reading today.  It was signed by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan on behalf of the ALP, and Bob Brown, Christine Milne, and Adam Bandt for the Greens.)

After the election of the Coalition government in 2013 the process for constitutional recognition continued and the Turnbull government appointed a Referendum Council that recommended the creation of ‘a representative body that gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament.’  This body became the ‘Voice’.  Significantly the Council said that one of the preconditions for the establishment of the Voice be that the concept must be ‘capable of being supported by an overwhelming majority of Australians from across the political and social spectrums.’  No-one talks about that precondition anymore, and it’s something the Albanese government has ignored.

Sometimes it takes someone outside of our own country to make clear to us what’s at stake in the political contests of the day.  So it is that in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, columnist Gerard Baker placed the referendum into a global context.  In an article entitled ‘The New Moral Order Is Already Crumbling – Globalism, climate-change alarmism and cultural self-annihilation have all come under serious challenge’ he started by discussing the decision of Rishi Sunak to begin the backdown from net zero.

Last week, Britain’s notionally Conservative government took a small but symbolically important step in climate apostasy, announcing some sensible tweaks to a program of regulatory decarbonisation mandates…[that] didn’t actually involve – yet- a formal retreat from the ambitious goal of making the country ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050.

But the howls from almost the entire establishment were an encouraging sign that the priesthood knows its days are numbered.

Baker then talked about Australia as an example of the democratic pushback against ‘cultural self-annihilation’.  It’s an insightful perspective.

[In Australia] the left-wing government there, eager to impress the world with its moral bona fides, has called for a reform to the constitution designed to redress the grievances of the Aboriginal population.  Called the Voice to the Parliament, the measures would create a constitutional body that Parliament would be required to consult on all legislative and other matters relating to indigenous peoples.

The referendum that was expected to approve this change takes place next month, but the campaign has run into fierce opposition.

The most recent polls suggest Australians will reject the move by a large majority.  It seems they – like many of us in the rest of the West – have had enough of leaders’ insistence on dividing us by race and other attributes rather than uniting us around our common national identity.