29 January 2023

Australians, and Albanese, need to rise above grubby politics and back the Voice wholeheartedly

| Ian Bushnell
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Anthony Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese needs to step up and reassure the nation. Photo: Screenshot.

It was never going to be straightforward.

Not with the likes of Peter Dutton desperate to climb out of the slough of irrelevance the Liberal Party has created for itself.

The referendum to change the Constitution to allow an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is becoming enveloped in the spoiling politics of Dutton from the Right and the perpetual resistance mob from the Left.

Both assaults are muddying the waters and confusing voters, particularly when Indigenous people themselves appear divided.

Dutton’s target is clearly Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who invested his authority and credibility in the referendum during the election but has since vacated the playing field somewhat.

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Forget Dutton’s humbug about a lack of detail and his Queensland copper’s concern for the people of Alice Springs.

This is all about getting a win – and what easier target is there than a referendum, which is notoriously difficult to get over the line.

Sow some doubt, exploit a remote town’s ongoing tragedy and deploy, even if by inference, the racist tropes about Aborigines and alcohol.

Dutton needs a victory, but with a poverty of actual policy across the board, going after Albanese through the referendum is his real politick, aided and abetted by the coterie of conservative commentators in the Murdoch press who are making all kinds of baseless claims about how Australia’s system of government is at risk.

Dutton can even roll out his own Indigenous Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price to beat the drum for practical action, as opposed to the so-called empty symbolism of the Voice.

Dutton should be deplored for this patently political and destructive strategy, which shows he has not learnt anything from his time in government or from the last election.

On the other side, a Greens faction and some Indigenous activists have allied in a bid to torpedo the Voice purely for their own aggrandisement and advancement, knowing full well that their demands are unrealistic and cannot be met.

They are upping the ante, introducing the notion of black seats in Parliament and providing enough ammunition for opponents of every shape, while feeding their own need to be forever part of the struggle.

Getting lost in the crossfire is the hope for First Nations people to have a consultative pipeline to Parliament that might just result in decisions made in their interests and lead to better outcomes right down to a local level.

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Providing recognition in the Constitution for First Nations should also provide a turning point for Australia as important as the destruction of Terra Nullius. Other countries have managed this without their world collapsing.

The authors of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the architects of the Voice, who have invested decades in getting to this point, are both furious and despairing about the descent into political gamesmanship but are not about to give way.

What they need, though, is for the Prime Minister, who has been trying to be statesmanlike but lacking in fire, to dismantle Dutton’s cynical game plan, build a coalition of support for the referendum and reassure Australians of its worth.

He and Voice supporters also need to show that First Nations people are on the whole supportive and that those screaming for its demise do not represent a significant portion.

No-one expected that there wouldn’t be issues to iron out, or that the proposition was ever going to be universally accepted, but the level of misinformation and negativity is disappointing.

Polling suggests that support may be wavering, yet last year’s election result also suggests that voters are less tolerant of divisive politics and more open to seizing an opportunity for a better way forward.

Much like the plebiscite on same-sex marriage.

Albanese will need to re-harness that hope and wrest control of the narrative from the spoilers, headline seekers and those on the Right whose agenda is more about protecting established privilege than concern for the Constitution and Australia’s system of government.

It is also in Labor’s interests to run hard on the referendum because if it fails due to a soft campaign not only will Indigenous people feel betrayed but voters will recoil from a party that once again isn’t prepared to stay the course on a major commitment, much like the Rudd Government’s capitulation on climate change policy.

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This is all just a bunch of white people deciding on black peoples fate.

HiddenDragon7:41 pm 30 Jan 23

Albanese has not “vacated the playing field” on this issue but it might seem like that because he hasn’t had anything new to say on the subject since the federal election – it’s just the same glib, vacuous, platitudinous talking points that we have heard over and over again. The only difference is that there is now, if anything, a greater air of impatience and moral condescension in the delivery of those talking points.

A very good reason why there have been no compelling new arguments advanced and detailed in favour of a constitutionally entrenched “voice” is that it’s basically a nice idea – a balm to troubled non-indigenous consciences, and a symbolic gesture which holds little promise of achieving any more than previous experiments.

The saddest acknowledgement of this has come from those (including at least one member of Albanese’s cabinet) who have publicly stated that “we’ve tried everything else”. As desolate as that is, it would not be an argument against trying – but initially, at least, on a legislated basis (using the powers inserted in the Constitution after the 1967 referendum) – and then, after some years experience, putting the idea to the people as a referendum.

Trevor Willis5:05 pm 30 Jan 23

That is the greatest piece of rubbish I have ever read.
Obviously, Mr Bushnall has no idea on what 2 sides of a debate are. If he really wants to learn about real aboriginal problems, he and his vocal minority should go to Alice Springs and see what the real issues are with those people.
Unfortunately, the aboriginal problems are caused by the aborigines themselves.
They are not in any position to be telling our elected government what is required for their betterment, as they can’t agree amongst themselves on what is actually needed.
Hopefully, it will be a definitive NO vote for the Voice or we will have apartheid and racial conflict between blacks and whites which will completely ruin our great country.

Well said. Agree 100% with you, Trevor. If people are going to write/publish an article on the ‘Voice’, then they need to present both sides of the debate.

‘exploit a remote town’s ongoing tragedy and deploy, even if by inference, the racist tropes about Aborigines and alcohol.’ Alice Springs may be remote geographically but it is iconic as far as The Outback, overseas tourism and Australia’s image is concerned. It only got centre stage because the mayor wanted the troops called in. Katherine, Tennant Creek and Darwin are all experience similar destructive behaviour. Northern Queensland and Northern Western Australia have been in crisis mode for the last 3 or 4 years without having The Intervention to blame. Inference is not required. Indigenous citizens in all of these locations aren’t afraid of being called racist and openly acknowledge and decry the impact that intoxicated and drug affected indigenous locals are having on their families, other indigenous citizens and the towns they live in or near. They’re living the trope! With little structural detail how does the author know that the hard left and indigenous activists won’t engineer the domination of The Voice should it get up? It’s a fine line between ‘advice’ and demands and it would be a brave government that would risk being branded racist for not acceding to such ‘advice’.

Wow. Another calm and reasonable piece from a terribly disgruntled lefty. How dare people have a contrary opinion? Off to the stocks with them eh Bushy? No ad hominem attacks on Lidia Thorpe!!

The voice is just labors voice to haunt the next Libreral Government.

Fails to identify any problems and proposes no solutions.

The grubby polictics is the claim of racism if you don’t support it.

The internet isn’t mentioned in the constituion doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or isn’t important.
The voice is putting deep state into law.

There are many indigenous organisations in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to advise the government on indigenous issues already.

There is the National Indigenous Australians Agency established in 2019, which coordinates indigenous policy across government departments and is responsible for the Closing the Gap strategy. There is also the Indigenous Advisory Council established in 2013, which provides advise to the government on indigenous affairs to improve the lives of indigenous Australians. There are also many other indigenous organisations advising government, including Indigenous Business Australia and several Land Councils.

All of these indigenous voices to government were established without a Referendum.

The problem with the claims about “muddying the waters” us that it wouldn’t be possible if this proposal was well thought out and a good idea.

I honestly can’t believe that so called “progressives” are suggesting that including racist clauses in our constitution is somehow reasonable and will create unity.

The questions around detail posed by Dutton are perfectly reasonable and should be readily answerable by anyone who thinks this is a good idea.

The “just trust us, we’ll work it out later” message is laughable for something so important.

Stephen Saunders8:04 am 30 Jan 23

It seems cruel, that the “No” campaign is now saying, “Indigenous and Migrants”.

But it’s also fair, given that Albanese has steamrollered voters with his “Migration Nation” of 300K immigration a year.

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