The Voice – a portent of more to come?

The No case won a huge victory with 61% of voters rejecting the proposal to insert an Aboriginal and Islander consultative body into the constitution. We’ve had consultative bodies before, but trying to insert it into the constitution, and then trying to pass this off as merely recognition of indigenous Australians, was unprecedented, unwise, and would have destroyed our colour-blind society.

Congratulations must go first to Senator Jacinta Nampajinpa Price and Warren Mundine. Without their inspired advocacy things might have been much different. We should also probably thank the Yes campaign for their arrogant and vicious campaign accusing their opponents of being racist and “dickheads and dinosaurs”.

I wrote in an article just prior to referendum day “It might sound a strange thing to say, but it could be that the constitutional referendum that would divide us may actually bring us together and give new hope to Aboriginal Australians.” This was conditional on there being a decisive result.

With 61% voting No we have our decisive result and there are some indications of change. Certainly a number of states are withdrawing from the idea of making treaties with “first nations”. There is also talk of new directions, with Senator Price unsuccessfully calling for a royal commission into child abuse in Aboriginal communities, as well as an audit of spending on indigenous organisations.

The government refuses to move on them, but an alternative way forward is gathering shape.

And there are new organisations setting up to work with the now-revealed national mood, such as Gary Johns’ new Close the Gap Research think tank, launched today.

But on the other side there are negative signs, such as the “open letter” which some of the Yes campaign leadership anonymously sent to the Prime Minister and every elected member of the parliament. It’s hard to know how much support it has but media hasn’t been full of Yes campaign leaders distancing themselves.

It promises continued struggle as though we have just been through just the first quarter of the match, and there will be as many “quarters” and extra time followed by penalty shoot-outs and golden points as they need to get their way. It also rehearses factually incorrect claims like:

Australia is our country. … We do not for one moment accept that this country is not ours. Always was. Always will be. It is the legitimacy of the non-Indigenous occupation in this country that requires recognition, not the other way around. Our sovereignty has never been ceded.

This is a claim for primacy in sovereignty which refuses to accept they no longer own the lands they once did and that others do. That assertion of separateness and superiority is the major reason the referendum failed.

The Prime Minister has promised to concentrate on bread and butter issues, but the Voice will haunt him here, not because of the loss, but because the elements in the Voice that led to the loss are design features of so much that Labor is proposing.

As I said in another Epoch Times article

Labor has a drawer full of such policies.

They are collectivist, top-down, and often give special privileges to particular groups. And they have been produced without consultation with the wider community by people whose practical experience and understanding are limited.

It’s not enough for Labor to name the problems that people are suffering from—interest rate increases; housing affordability and rental crises; stuttering electricity systems and escalating power prices; low economic productivity; lack of childcare and aged care places; and massive debt and the threat of higher taxes.

There was no positive connection between a constitutionally enshrined bureaucracy full of well-known activists who already had the ear of the government, and improving outcomes for Aborigines.

Likewise, there is no positive connection between a small increase in government housing expenditure and housing affordability; ever-higher penetrations of wind and solar, and lower power prices; higher nominal wages but an inflexible workforce to higher economic productivity; unrealistic staffing demands to available increased child and aged care availability; or all of the above to lowering debt and keeping taxes under control.

One of our academic advisory board members Judith Sloan writes today in The Australian about other similar legislation, the Closing the Loopholes Bill, which seeks to create a workforce where the union movement will have increased power, but workers who choose to work as casuals or contractors will have much less earning power.

If they keep going like this 60 per cent plus majorities might become more frequent in federal politics in the near future.