Mundine talks No, walks Yes

by PAUL COLLITS – AS OWN goals go, Warren Mundine’s appearance on The Insiders rates as pretty impressive. 

With the Yes case well and truly on the run, following Marcia Langton’s massively revealing deplorables spray and Jacinta Price’s magnificence at the National Press Club, it seems that Mundine has caught the suicidal bug

Mundine’s claims that colonisation harmed Aborigines, that a No vote on the Voice in October will likely lead to treaties and that we should move Australia Day has set enormous cats among the pigeons.

There are a number of possible explanations for Mundine’s blunder. Or was it a blunder?

His claims that colonisation harmed Aborigines, contra Price, that a No vote on the Voice in October will likely lead to treaties, and that we should move Australia Day has set enormous cats among the pigeons, and neutralised (at best) Price’s stella performance and emergence as a national leader.


Worryingly, he is using the word “sovereignty”. For many, this is code for two nations.

I listened some months back to Mundine talking eminent sense at a Samuel Griffith Society event in Brisbane. He raised none of these issues then.

Why now, just as the Yes mob were, at last, getting some positive media attention because of the rallies? Perhaps it was deliberate.

Is Jacinta getting too much attention? Too big for her female boots? Or, maybe Warren is another Manchurian candidate, believing all along in a radical re-possessionist agenda.

Is Warren dog-whistling? Does he want to be part of the radical Aboriginal activist in-crowd? Maybe he is suffering from the disease to which white conservatives often succumb.

The desire, every so often, to confound those who have typecast you by positing a non-conservative position. See under Miranda Devine, Chris Kenny and Angela Shanahan. And very occasionally, alas, Greg Sheridan.

Oh, and finally, there is the NSW Liberal casual vacancy selection for the Senate. The old Leftie war-horse, Marise Payne, is finally going, after 26 very, very long years.

Mundine has been said to be a candidate for the position. With the Liberal Lefties controlling the numbers and Andrew Constance – God help us all – the front-runner, perhaps Warren thinks a little Indigenous Leftism will do his chances no harm.

The evidence is, in the aftermath of his weekend interview, that such a ploy has born little fruit, since “Liberal Party insiders” are now backing away from Mundine’s possible candidacy.

These are all plausible theories.

Or was it not strategic at all, just a mistake, a giant-sized bungle? I don’t think so.

Of course, he may have bungled his potential political career, but that is another matter.


What did emerge from Mundine’s Brisbane speech was his (free marketeer) abhorrence of bureaucracy, his referencing the many failed attempts at a Voice-like structure in the past, and his conviction that the Voice would simply be repeating those mistakes.

Perhaps that is his only real objection to the Voice. That it reeks of big government.

As reported by the ABC: “Mr Mundine’s position puts him at odds with much of the conservative No campaign, which has warned against the Voice, saying it would open the door to establishing a treaty.

“Mr Mundine said treaties are needed to resolve issues around sovereignty and give protections to Aboriginal culture and heritage.

“ ‘We’re moving very strongly in that position with the land rights acts and the native title acts where Aboriginal people have a major say in what happens on their lands’, he said.

“ ‘Through that process, 55 per cent of Australia now is in Aboriginal ownership. We’ll probably get up to 70 or 80 per cent I predict in the next 10 to 20 years’.”

This all sounds like something that a Yes-man would say.

Being a treaty man puts Mundine slap bang in the Lidia Thorpe camp, and much closer to Noel Pearson, who Mundine recently called “bizarre” following Pearson’s own attack on Jacinta Price.

As former federal Liberal MP Amanda Stoker said: “Faced with a formidable opponent in the debate about whether there should be a constitutionally entrenched Indigenous Voice to parliament, Pearson resorted to name-calling and scathing attacks against Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.


“There was little engagement with the substance of the proposal, nor the risk it presents by dividing the rights of Australian citizens so that some races have more rights than others.

“There was no attempt to comfort those Australians concerned that it would empower judicial activism, nor any explanation of how it might be expected to practically improve the living standards or life outcomes of Indigenous Australians.

“Instead, he suggested Senator Price was being manipulated to ‘punch down on other blacks. Comparing her to Pauline Hanson and suggesting she is in a “tragic redneck celebrity vortex” undermines the significance of her bravery.

“It’s proof of the courage it takes to speak up against the power of those at the top of the lobby for the Indigenous industry.

“I can hardly think of a more insulting way to describe this smart, capable, Aboriginal woman, who has spoken and acted with consistency and sincerity on this important issue (and many others) since well before she became a senator.”

Mundine didn’t attack Price in this way. Perhaps his own intervention, equally unsubtle though less personal, was no less pointed.

And re-opening the febrile yet futile debate over the impacts of colonisation on Aborigines – a topic that will keep all sides going for as long as there remains one Australian nation (which actually might not be too long) – invites the opposing sides simply to dig in and not to find a reasonable, evidence-based middle position.

Such as, yes, colonisation involved a land take-over, as colonialism, by definition, always did, that the British invasion was largely benign, that colonialism had pluses and minuses, that the minuses are routinely exaggerated and the abundant pluses either played down or simply expunged from history, and, finally, that there is nothing anyone can do now about 1788.


Instead, Mundine went for the simplistic one liner during his “coming out”. To massively understate the situation, it was not helpful.

And, I am guessing, in doing so he lost a hell of a lot of friends.

Sovereignty? Treaties? Australia Day? (On which I believe he is right, but for absolutely the wrong reasons).

Aboriginal ownership as a race, not as individuals claiming Western property rights, of 80 per cent of Australian land? While they still get the unaccounted billions and all the perks too?

All very, very confusing, Warren.

The other Mundine, for once, seems far more on the money.PC

Paul Collits

MAIN PHOTOGRAPH:  Warren Mundine. (courtesy

8 thoughts on “Mundine talks No, walks Yes

  1. Warren Mundine was on the left before he was on the right. So it’s not too surprising that there’s still a bit of lefty coming through now and then.

  2. Let’s just be little careful before jumping at shadows orchestrated by the ‘left’. Spears is manipulative, Warren Mundine is decent and honest.
    Jacinta Price is excellent at rebuffing divisive gotcha questions (such as those thrown by David Crowe at the ‘press club address in the broom cupboard’)…Mundine needs to be careful…but he is one of the best advocates for the ‘no’ case.
    Plesse don’t let’s start shooting down our own team. That’s just what the left wsnts. And the left don’t want Mundine in the Senate, either….
    Stay focussed.

  3. Mundines waffle in general has set my spider sense tingling quite a bit recently often times i get the feeling that he is purposely not doing a very good job articulating the no position at all and why on earth he would talk about treaty in the current environment like this it is impossible to believe it is a mistake especially with the timing.

    Not the person i would be choosing to push the no argument that’s for sure.

  4. Celebrating the arrival of another country’s navy is pitiful.

    No other nation does likewise.

  5. “[…] the Voice […] wreaks of big government.”

    I personally think that it reeks of big government, and that it would wreak mayhem in our country.

    Of course, I’m neither journalist nor editor : -)

  6. You are maligning Warren for an inarticulate comment. He clearly was referring to the native title claim process where thousands upon thousands of claims have been stalled for years, in some cases decades. What he called a treaty was the agreements that come out the determination on each of those claims. I live in an area where several of these have been decided and each language group has signed agreements with individual land holders, local and State governments. In every case that language group was able to secure ILC funding to purchase one property in their traditional area. The most successful example of this is the Delta Downs purchase up in the gulf north of Karumba. It is 1.2 million acres, runs 55,000 head of cattle and supports the entire township of Normanton and pays each indigenous family a dividend in years of good profits. It is an outstanding example of what Warren was referring to. It has pulled that community up by it’s boot straps! In the NT and over in northern WA most of the indigenous owned country has been leased back to grazing families who run cattle businesses on them. This is recognition by the indigenous language groups that they don’t have the skills in many instances to run these businesses like Delta Downs does. They do get employment and upskilling of their young ones out of some of these deals but to be honest most who chose to work do so in the mining industry, not the cattle industry.

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