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Wednesday 20 September 2023

Why I am voting NO to the Voice.

Like most Australians I am disappointed in the lack of progress in eliminating the gap in living standards between many, mainly outback, indigenous citizens and the average Australian (GAP). It remains shameful that despite multiple attempts over decades and despite significant investment in public funds there still remains a significant GAP. Certainly, past efforts have not worked, and new approaches are justified. The current proposal to change Australia’s Constitution to recognise a new body called a Voice and empower this body to make representations to all levels of executive government is no doubt a genuine effort by many of its proponents to redress past failures.

 However, I believe this proposal is seriously flawed, and, despite the best intentions of its proponents, should be voted down in the upcoming referendum.

 There are many reasons for my rejection of this proposal, but I can summarise them under the following.

    It is undemocratic and racially discriminatory.

    It is divisive & dangerous.

    Constitutional change is NOT required to eliminate the GAP.

Let me elucidate each of these in turn.

It is undemocratic & racially discriminatory.

The founding principle of any democracy is that all citizens have equal rights. However, the Voice proposes to give some additional rights to just some citizens. That is the right to be selected to a new body called the Voice which has the ‘right’ to make representations to all levels of executive government. While proponents of the Voice argue that no special ‘rights’ will be conferred to the Voice, that is clearly not true. The ‘rightto make representations to all levels of executive government is clearly a right and it is highly valuable, otherwise why would the proponents of the Voice want it. Yet only some citizens will be able to be members of the Voice.

So, the Voice breaks the most fundamental principle of a democracy that all citizens are equal and is therefore undemocratic.

Worse still the citizens entitled to be part of the Voice are selected on the basis of their ancestry, which means that they are all of the one race. This is clearly racially discriminatory.

Proponents of the Voice argue that it is not discrimination because it confers a benefit to the race rather than a disadvantage.

However, Article 1 of the UN Universal declaration of human rights bans all unequal treatment of citizens based on their race, even when the different treatment confers benefits. Article I does allow temporary beneficial discrimination. However, the Voice is being put into the constitution making the benefits of taking part in the Voice permanent and would therefore contravene Article 1.

Far from the opponents of the Voice being racist, as they have been labelled often enough, it is the proponents of the Voice who are proposing to make Australia’s Constitution racist. 

It is divisive & dangerous.

Without doubt the Voice debate has created enormous division in our social discourse. Some of this was to be expected as there are always two sides to any proposition. However, the level of acrimony seems unprecedented. Clearly the opposing sides are passionate about their views, and this is likely to continue sometime after the referendum but would normally die down.

However, by entrenching a racial component to the governance of our country, the Voice would forever cause division.  Wherever the Voice makes representations it would have proponents and opponents. Each of these sides\ would continue to fight for acceptance by the Government, the media, and the electorate. So instead of having just opposing political parties with all the general debate/acrimony that entails, the Voice would introduce another dimension for further social and political division.

But not only would we have a country harder to govern due to increased division on our legislative discourse, the Voice would set a path with multiple potential dangers. Very likely changes not anticipated but impossible to correct once the Constitutional change has been made.

 There is a long history of attempts by many governments at both reconciliation and eliminating the GAP. Each such attempt was accompanied by honied words promising all the benefits that the Voice proponents promise today, ‘bringing the country together’, unity, ‘doing the right thing by our indigenous brothers’, raising living standards. These include native title, multiple bodies such as ATSIC, now disbanded due to corruption, and the currently active NIIA etc, stolen children commissions and ‘sorry day’.

All of these attempts at ‘reconciliation’ and eliminating the GAP have failed to deliver either. But they did generate further demands.

The most recent ‘request’ is the Voice, a substantial Constitutional change that would change the governance of Australia virtually permanently. But that is not the end, the Uluṟu statement gave a road map, first the Voice, then a treaty, and then ‘truth telling’. But many of the proponents of the Voice have also voiced further demands for changing Australia day, some want reparations and even self-governance.

Over the same period that these claims and concessions have occurred, we have seen the emergence of a small but growing number of militant indigenous activists, criticising every aspect of Australian history and social norms. They claim sovereignty over all land, want reparations, declare there is a ‘war’ between white ’colonists’ and indigenous, and accuse Australians of past genocide and even claiming ongoing genocide. These small groups can easily turn violent and can in turn cause the formation of vigilante groups in opposition. We have seen this type of militancy occur in other social movements, civil rights, eco terrorism, etc.

The Voice will only feed the extremists, encouraging further ever more divisive demands. This is dangerous.

It is unnecessary.

Finally, the change to the Constitution, to constitutionally entrench the Voice, is not necessary.

I personally do not accept the claims by proponents that the Voice would reduce the GAP.  After all we have heard that claim before without any change in the GAP. However, my main objection is that changing the Constitution to entrench the Voice would make our Constitution undemocratic and racist.

I do not have a strong issue with legislating the Voice and evaluating if it works.

If it does and makes a significant reduction of the GAP, then obviously putting it in the Constitution is not necessary. And if it doesn’t work then you can change it or close it down.

This approach highlights the inconvenient fact that the only reason the Voice needs to be put into the Constitution is to prevent it from being removed if it fails.

An alternate vision

The Voice proposal encompasses a vision of Australia that permanently separates non-indigenous Australians from Indigenous Australians, with different rights, different flags and different accepted visions of Australia.

 However old fashioned it may be, my vision for Australia is best outlined by the old Seekers song.

“We are one,

But we are many,

And from all the lands of earth we come,

We’ll share a dream.

And sing with one voice.

I am, you are, we are Australian”.


Yes, let us all ‘sing with one voice’, lets unite our country, one nation, one flag, one people, all equal.


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