Can anyone objectively look at the last two and a half years and wonder if the government of this nation could get any worse? Objectively speaking, the answer is decided yes!
Within the next three years an attempt will be made to add another constitutional chamber to the Commonwealth Parliament. The single determining characteristic for membership in the new chamber, known colloquially as “vote”, will be a person’s race.
The idea has the full support of the Labor Party. One of the very first things Prime Minister Albanese said in his new role was that he supported a constitutional amendment that would enshrine the indigenous voice and call for a referendum on the issue.
We also know that Australian Church leaders have endorsed the idea of an ethnic advisory chamber enshrined in the Constitution. It is unclear if or from whom Church leaders sought guidance or if they simply relied on the power of prayer, but the introduction of a race-based third chamber into our Colorblind Constitution suggests a complete lack of thought about its likely effects.
This is perhaps an example of how the gods destroy by first sending mad men. Or less theatrically, these extremely pious individuals have demonstrated once again that by trusting their feelings and avoiding any thought about what they stand for, the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.
Other well-meaning people might argue that we should wait to see what the amendment contains before rushing to judgment. This seems to confirm my view that this detail is usually where the devil will be found. By the time that detail arrives, it will probably be too late. There will be no referendum unless the polls tell Mr. Albanese that the chances of success are high.
It is probably impossible to ignore the inherent racism of a distinct and constitutionally protected voice for Indigenous Australians; especially when those same Australians can also vote and participate in national and state parliaments. This would give them, in my opinion, two voices.
Is it possible for a democracy to ignore a proposal that would give one ethnic group a distinct consultative voice that is denied to the rest of the nation?
Maybe someone should ask each state government if they can see the benefit of a separately consecrated state native chamber? My bet is that the suggestion would be greeted with a resounding raspberry. Power is only shared when it has to be. This was the principle of the Commonwealth Constitution, before the High Court in 1920 decided to change it.
So, if we put racism aside, the most obvious reason why such an advisory chamber will not lead to good government is that every state’s Indigenous advisory bodies have failed Indigenous peoples for a century. The reason for this failure is the caliber of people chosen to serve on these boards.
For every worthy soul like Noel Pearson, whose strategies have been the most successful, there are a hundred who are only in it for pay and pride. This will not change with an elected council. It will probably be worse. And the Voice they want will speak over the elected Parliament directly to the media. The advice can go to the government, but the media will amplify any negatives across the country.
This combination of Indigenous Voice and the media bullhorn will ensure government agreement, if only to silence viewers.
There are many good reasons to oppose this proposed change to our Constitution, but the most important must surely be the democratic principle on which it is based, a principle expressed by the equality of representation between our citizens, shared between two houses parliamentarians.
The Declaration of Uluru envisages a third house of Indigenous representatives elected by Indigenous Australians. In its haste to fix the indigenous pandemic issues, the Declaration of Uluru proposes to introduce apartheid into our Constitution and to dilute the equality on which it is based. It is not a louder voice that indigenous peoples need, but simply more effective action.
We cannot say what the position of the Liberal Party is on this question, but many will oppose it, as they did two decades ago with Malcolm Turnbull’s “republican” constitutional reform. . Given the election results in New South Wales, where so many woke Liberal MPs were elected, I hope the new leader, Peter Dutton, will be brave enough to confront this constitutional ignorance.
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