7 February 2023

Voice referendum requires action from Albanese on what we are - and aren't - voting on

| Ross Solly
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Tom Calma

Tom Calma was named Senior Australian of the Year for 2023 for a lifetime of advocacy. Photo: NADC/Salty Dingo.

In the week when one of the key players in the campaign for the Voice was recognised as an Australian hero, the path to this year’s referendum took a very bad turn.

Professor Tom Calma, a man who has campaigned almost all of his life for the betterment of Australia’s Indigenous community, was rightly named the Senior Australian of the Year as part of the Australia Day honours list. It’s hard to find someone more deserving.

In his acceptance speech and countless interviews after, Professor Calma was humble and measured. But he also pointed out he hoped to be able to use his award to sell the case for Yes at the Voice referendum.

Well, that was enough for some.

‘How dare he politicise the Australia Day Awards?’ they said. What a load of tosh. He won the award because of the work he has been doing on a variety of important Indigenous issues, so of course he would use this award to further causes, no matter what they were.

After all, would we expect Taryn Brumfitt, the Australian of the Year, not to continue campaigning for more support for those who are being body shamed?

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It also seemed Professor Calma has spooked those in the media who have now decided to go all out to try and have the Voice consigned to the dustbin of history. One particular news outlet devoted an obscene amount of column space on the weekend to arguments about why people should vote No.

Many of the arguments were spurious at best, a whole line of straw men designed to further muddy the waters and to make Tom Calma’s task even harder. Those who believed these changes would sail through with little resistance must now be dreading the months ahead.

It appears obvious now that rather than unite the nation, the Voice campaign is not going to be good for our country. If the sort of arguments being trotted out on both sides of the debate are anything to go by, we will end up strongly divided. The more desperate each side gets, the more radical the arguments will become.

And now Warren Mundine, the former ALP national president who quit the party and later ran for the Liberal Party, has added further confusion to the debate by announcing his campaign for a No vote will call for constitutional recognition of both Indigenous people and migrants.

This will add more tension to the campaigns and has the potential to further split Australian communities.

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It bears remembering, the proposal behind the Voice is to establish a committee of Indigenous leaders who will be able to provide advice to elected lawmakers on issues affecting their communities.

Provide advice only. They won’t be able to make laws; they won’t be able to block laws. Their powers will be very limited.

What started off as potentially a low-key affair enjoying bipartisan support is falling away very quickly. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is being urged to move fast to take control, but it’s beginning to look like this horse has bolted.

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The referendum for the ‘Voice’ is estimated to cost the Australian taxpayer around $80 million dollars. This money could be better spent on housing, medical care and other things that will actually improve life for Australian people (including Indigenous Australians). The voice is political ideological statement that won’t actually improve anyone’s life, and is a total waste of time and money.

The voice is the emperors new clothes. Obviously not enough people are familar with it.

HiddenDragon9:00 pm 01 Feb 23

“It appears obvious now that rather than unite the nation, the Voice campaign is not going to be good for our country.”

Indeed, and having banged on endlessly about how painful and damaging it was to deal with marriage equality through a plebiscite rather than a simple vote in both houses of the federal parliament, the Left should have learned its lesson from that very recent history.

The insistence on upfront constitutional entrenchment in this case might have more to do with hubris derived from reading too much into the results of the last federal election and the impatience for an enduring legacy on the part of one of the oldest and longest serving MPs ever to become PM – particularly when the would-be successors are already preening and positioning.

That said, and in spite of the clumsy handling to date by the PM and other proponents, the referendum is more likely than not to succeed, for the same reason that the majority of Australians support “real action” on climate change – i.e. it makes them feel good about themselves and is perceived as having little or no direct cost.

The Uluru Statement in 2017 called on an indigenous voice enshrined in the constitution and outlines the reasons perfectly well.

A lot of people think it’s racist to put a cultural clause into the constitution. They are wrong. Racism seeks to disadvantage one group over another. The Voice seeks to rebalance the scales, not to disadvantage white people. Read the Uluru statement.

Most Aussies would not even know what it feels like to be a minority.

So you think all Indigenous Australians are inherently disadvantaged due to their racial ancestry.?

Wait, what was that definition of racism again?

Those who peddle this type of racist paternalism only perpetuate the problems they claim to want to solve.

I read it in the Uluṟu Statement…the very same document that called for a voice to parliament.

Bunch of left/right hacks think it’s political, but funnily enough it wasn’t Albo’s idea.

It’s written in the Uluṟu statement. Not my idea.

Bunch of anti-left political hacks think it’s political cause it appeared that Albo invented the idea.

He didn’t, but good on him for having the balls to put it up for the nation to decide. That’s democratic.

Bad on the ******* Aussie political hack who doesn’t have a clue what’s in the Uluṟu Statement.

Balance needed4:36 pm 01 Feb 23

“Many of the arguments were spurious at best, a whole line of straw men designed to further muddy the waters…”

Some justification for these allegations would have been helpful, to dispel the possibility that this comment is itself a straw man argument.

There are 3 main reasons I’m inclined to vote no. First, the Government’s inexplicable refusal to obtain legal advice. This is either incredibly dumb or deliberate. Second, the continued use of ad hominem attacks (shoot the messenger) by yes proponents, (you are racists, rednecks etc) which are only used when logic, evidence and reason cannot win debates. Third, the indigenous community itself is split.

Trevor Willis2:31 pm 01 Feb 23

“A committee of Indigenous leaders to provide advice to elected lawmakers”— I don’t think that is possible.
There are 500 different tribes/mobs/groups of aborigines and each has a different language/customs etc.
Consequently many can’t understand other languages and in some instances have a dislike for other mobs.
In addition, the women have completely different needs than the men so it is impossible to get a committee that would represent all aborigines.
The so called “Voice” is a complete and utter waste of time, money and effort and any sensible person would not even consider the proposal so it will be a definite NO

Stephen Saunders8:12 am 01 Feb 23

Again, Mundine’s intervention is crass, but a wedge is a wedge. “Migration Nation” Albanese and “Wellbeing Budget” Chalmers have steamrollered voters with 300K immigration levels. Their zealotry is being repaid in kind.

If it does go down, Albanese will blame everyone but himself. And, by indirect effect of his miscalculation, I would be stuck with King Charles for that much longer.

“It appears obvious now that rather than unite the nation, the Voice campaign is not going to be good for our country. If the sort of arguments being trotted out on both sides of the debate are anything to go by, we will end up strongly divided.”

I’m truly shocked that some actually think including ill defined, racist clauses in our constitution could in any way unite people.

“What started off as potentially a low-key affair”

Constitutional change is never simple and never low key, it shows a surprising level of ignorance to think it would be.

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