Devil in the detail of Indigenous voice vote question
Giving one racial group special privileges is clearly racism but that seems to be OK to the Left. If they had any real principles they would see it as obnoxious. They are always zealous to condemn racism in other contexts. But that is not the only reason to be doubtful about the proposals for an "Indigenous Voice" in the Australian federal parliament
Not the sharpest tool in the shed? A few sandwiches short of a picnic? Not the full bucket of chicken?
Don’t you worry about that because Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney is going to make things easy for simple-minded souls like you and me, if she has her way in the wording of the question to be put to the nation in the Indigenous voice referendum.
Ms Burney doesn’t want to burden us with the tiresome detail of what the proposed body would look like before the vote, which may be held as early as November.
She has said that she wants to avoid a repeat of the failed republic referendum when Australians were required to vote on a two-part question that asked how a president should be chosen.
“I think it’s really important that the question be about whether there should be a voice, not about what sort of voice it will be,” Ms Burney said. “I don’t know having a detailed model out there would lead to a clean question about what should be observed in the Constitution.”
This sounds suspiciously like: “Trust us, we’re politicians. No need for you to worry yourselves about how it will work. We’ll look after that. Just vote Yes and she’ll be sweet, mate.”
The unstated fear in this stance is that if Australians are given a look at what is actually being proposed, they will vote it down, for the devil, as always, will be in the detail.
Those pushing for a Yes vote are hoping that they can convince the electorate to just wave it through. There are, however, a few questions that go begging.
Who will determine what constitutes Indigenous status and how will they do so? Will it be enough to simply “identify” as Indigenous? How will it be funded? Who will oversee its finances?
For how long will its members be elected? Who will be eligible to nominate to sit on the voice? What will it cost? Can it be dissolved if it is found to be ineffective or corrupt or is it to be beyond the reach of parliament and exist in perpetuity?
Cut back to 2005 when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, an elected Indigenous body, was scrapped for nepotism and corruption.
Former Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt is among those who don’t want to bother the public with any detail.
He said the referendum question might be a set of words as simple as “the commonwealth shall establish and maintain an Indigenous national body”. Simple? Certainly. Disingenuous? Absolutely.
The issue is far too important for Australians to leave it to politicians and pressure groups, for we will be asked whether we want a body separate to parliament enshrined in the Constitution on which only Indigenous people can sit and whose members can only be elected by Indigenous people.
In a world in which inclusiveness has become the Holy Grail, we will have a body advising parliament, the members of which will be elected by a process based purely on race, which excludes about 95 per cent of the population, which surely is racism by another name.
Malcolm Turnbull may not be everyone’s cup of chai latte, but he was on the money when he wrote: “Our democracy is built on the foundation of all Australian citizens having equal civic rights – all being able to vote for, stand for and serve in either of two chambers in our national parliament.
“A constitutionally enshrined additional representative assembly for which only Indigenous Australians could vote for or serve in is inconsistent with this fundamental principle.”
As is the nature of such things, enough is never enough and already Aboriginal leader Michael Mansell, chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, has said that the proposed voice would be too limited in its reach and wants six seats in the Senate reserved for Indigenous people only, dismissing the voice as a “second grade” option that didn’t give Indigenous people enough power.
When the campaign gathers strength, it will be interesting to see if those people who oppose the move and who voice this opinion are subjected to social media vilification and denounced as racists.
It’s an easy smear to make and designed to intimidate and frighten people into silence. It may well, however, have the opposite effect and make people more determined to have their say come referendum day.
In the end, the people will decide which it is – as it should be.