by JOHN MIKKELSEN – AFTER 18 long months of dominating the airwaves, TV screens and opinion columns, Australians have finally been able to have their say on the Voice referendum.
And collectively we didn’t just say No – we shouted No Bloody Way, Hell No, Bugger Off Albo, Tell Him He’s Dreamin…
Figuratively of course, otherwise our votes would have been counted as informal – just like an “X” on the ballot – but that’s the clear message the count displayed in Aussie vernacular.
No prevailed in all six States, with only a very small proportion of mainly inner-city Green/ Teal electorates actually voting Yes along with the ACT Canberra bubble – including bureaucrats and Press Gallery media.
South Australia, touted as a possible crucial State in gaining a necessary four-State winning majority, voted No in every electorate, as did the Northern Territory with its high indigenous population.
Other Yes hopefuls, Tasmania and Victoria, also returned clear No majorities and even Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney’s seat of Barton voted 55 per cent against her proposal.
How did Prime Minister Anthony Albanese get it so wrong reading the vibe of the Australian people?
It’s not only that he attempted to sell us an undefined Voice permanently etched in our Constitution to divide us on the basis of race?
Even in the closing stages, while sitting in the red dust at the foot of Ayers Rock swatting flies and swallowing a few, he refused to swallow the latest poll figures showing the Referendum was doomed to fail even in a majority of Labor electorates.
He mockingly suggested the pollsters hadn’t actually contacted anyone in their claimed analysis.
Perhaps his obstinance was backed by the knowledge his pet project was backed by a $100m war chest of corporate dollars including big banks, retailers and mining companies.
Even Qantas painted huge Yes logos on its planes and provided free flights to Yes campaigners.
Now heads should roll (figuratively) at board rooms facing angry shareholders around the country.
Almost all major churches (with the exception of the Presbyterian), along with leading sporting codes and an assortment of famous Australians from all walks of life including former Australians of the Year, also pushed the Voice as “the right thing to do”.
With Johnny Farnham’s The Voice featuring in TV ads, what could possibly go wrong?
The all-up cost of the referendum – now stated at $450m – plus the massive advertising splurge would have to be well over half a billion dollars – now money down the drain.
It could have helped the plight not just of indigenous people but all Australians struggling to survive in a rapidly escalating cost of living crisis, including the homeless and marginalised of all races and skin colour.
Here in our coastal enclave on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, our free local paper Noosa Today arrived on the eve of the poll with a repeat of a full-page Yes ad featuring prominent local residents including tennis great Evonne Goolagong Cawley, famous playwright David Williamson and a former Noosa Mayor Bob Abbott, who was the hero of a successful shire de-amalgamation push about a decade ago.
Each explained why they were voting Yes and urged others to do the same, but in our electorate of Wide Bay, No is running at 75 per cent.
Nationally, the current margin of about 60/40 in favour of No is likely to increase as more postal votes are counted.
In his downcast speech following the inevitable result on Saturday night, the PM said he accepted the will of the people but didn’t admit he had made a huge mistake, blaming the result on “mis-information and dis-information”.
You don’t think that refusing to provide any details on how the Voice would be established, administered, where it would be based, and what its real powers would be, had something to do with its resounding defeat?
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says he had asked you 14 questions months ago regarding the Voice but never received an answer.
At one stage you said it would be a brave government that ignored the Voice (which could make representations on anything affecting indigenous people) and then you have claimed that it wouldn’t affect 97 per cent of Australians but would really help the other three per cent.
Apparently it would have had powers similar to Harry Potter’s magic wand as it listened to communities most in need and solved their problems.
Whether it would have properly directed the copious billions of dollars funnelled into indigenous agencies over many years to actually make a difference, is now academic.
The Voice is dead and buried but as I write this, the Prime Minister is using his usual style of obfuscation in fending off questions from the Opposition about the failed Referendum in the current Parliamentary sittings.
But it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders already have 11 voices in Federal Parliament, including brilliant No campaigner Senator Jacinta Price and her colleague Senator Kerrynne Liddle who have real experience living among Aboriginal people and have renewed calls for an inquiry into the massive funding discrepancies.
Senator Price, who is the equivalent of Xena Warrior Princess when compared to her Labor opponents, made an impassioned speech on poll night, where she emphasised Australia is not a racist country and called for a “new era” in Indigenous politics.
She advocated an end to “academics and activists” thinking they knew better than people on the ground in remote communities, and explained that a new way of thinking was required.
“We should not maintain the racism of low expectations in this country,” she said. “We are all part of the fabric of this nation.”
Senator Price said she wanted to thank the Australian people for “believing in our nation”.
“The Australian people have overwhelmingly voted No. They have said No to division in our Constitution along the lines of race.
“They have said No to the gas-lighting, bullying, to the manipulation. They have said No to grievance and the push from activists to suggest that we are a racist country when we are absolutely not a racist country…”
It’s time to heal the division and move on pro-actively, just as she suggests.PC