by PAUL COLLITS – IT HAS been said, on more than one occasion, that most Aborigines have never even heard of the Voice proposal.
This might be considered alarming but, on reflection, it is not remotely unexpected.
This is all anecdotal, because, as far as I am aware, no one has formally asked the Indigenous peoples of Australia – everyday Aborigines, as opposed to activists – what they think of the Voice, or of our existing democratic institutions to which they have unbridled access and equal rights of influence.
What of other Australians? What do they think of the Voice?
Well, with 49 per cent of Australians having at least one parent born overseas, this debate must seem very strange, and utterly irrelevant to their lives in their adopted nation.
The Voice proposition sets up a false binary between “black” and “white” amidst a melting pot population.
We are a nation of immigrants, and each new wave has arrived without the permission of existing citizens and has changed the country thoroughly and permanently.
Every single migrant has been welcomed, certainly by the political class, if not by the whole population. Every migrant, that is, except the first migrants, Captain Arthur Phillip, his convicts and his officials. The one cohort of migrants that the elites continue to despise.
Paul Keating famously (if erroneously, in these days of The UniParty) once said that “change the government, and you change the country”.
Well, how about changing the population? That certainly changes the country. Far more, I would have thought, than changing the government.
As Christopher Caldwell put it in his 2009 book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, “can Europe be the same with different people in it?” Can Australia, under the weight of the mass immigration already experienced and that forecast over the next few years?
If the Voice isn’t built on the back of popular Indigenous desire, let alone demand, what is it built on?
The key drivers of the push for the Voice turn out to be guilt, ignorance, ideology, policy-by-emoting, power and narrative.
And for at least some, sadly, it is also driven by pure resentment, even revenge – the stated position of Federal Senator Lidia Thorpe comes to mind.
It is about what might be termed “reverse colonialism”, or taking back what was rightly “ours”. Remembering, all the while, that the Voice isn’t just voice. It is also “treaty” and “truth”.
Nigel Biggar, masterful scholar and author of Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning, 2023, has referred to the political power of guilt and to “the canker of imaginary guilt”. [see video below]
Let us look at some of these drivers in turn.
Guilt follows real crimes by real oppressors. Think of the sheepish Germans after WW2. Imaginary guilt is felt by those who simply accept black armband versions of history rather than the more complex realities of what actually occurred.
They feel guilt over things they did not do, indeed, over things that may not have even happened, at least not in the ways and for the reasons often suggested in prevailing narratives.
The debate over the Voice is, indeed, driven by guilt. And as Biggar has noted, guilt is a powerful political force and can easily be harnessed by the political class.
The Voice is also driven by power. Many radical Aboriginal activists and their acolytes in the media and other institutions see beyond the Voice and treaty to, ultimately, reparations for past sins, especially what Gary Johns has called “the original sin of settlement”.
It is the trump card of a divisive push for irreversible, harmful change to our core values, culture and institutions. And in the case of the push for the Voice, it is decidedly a matter of imagined guilt.
The so-called British “invasion” of terra Australis was, if nothing else, benign.
The push for the Voice is powered by ignorance and ideology.
Recently, British journalist-scholar Theodore Dalrymple (aka Anthony Daniels) spoke of the current generation’s ignorance of history.
Only three people in fifteen years of his studying young people’s education and knowledge knew when WW2 was. They can hardly read or write.
They believe and assume that the present is disconnected from any past. The current generation is taught not just to ignore the past, but to hate it.
There is a pridelessness infecting our current generation. They do not connect with any shared tradition, with anything worth defending. One response to one of Dalrymple’s questions, about naming past prime ministers, was “I don’t know; I wasn’t born then”.
The Voice yes case and the easy cliches of its acolytes are riddled with both ignorance of our own past, and worse, hatred of it.
Dalrymple says that all the hatred of the past “can’t be a coincidence”. It has been engineered.
George Orwell, in 1984, famously stated: “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.”
Wherein lies a desire by the elites to control the past? The reason is that the Voice is essentially ideological.
It is a core tenet of the belief system of what we might term the Woke class – progressive, globalist, green and COVID radicals.
Call it the grand, progressive narrative.
That the push for the Voice is ideological is patently clear in its disregard for the condition of those indigenous Australians suffering hardship and how they might best be assisted.
Problems like Aboriginal joblessness in remote areas and the ugly and violent patriarchy of some Indigenous communities are tough issues, and though difficult, are not impossible to tackle.
Just because we haven’t enabled the communities concerned to solve them to date doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep trying, through on-the-ground collaborations.
Warren Mundine, Jacinta Price, Nigel Scullion and Tony Abbott, to name but four practical, outcomes-focused public figures of good will, have long believed that we should try.
These are things we can try to do something about. But we studiously avoid these, while we instead seek the creation of meaningless voices. And it is not as if immense gains have not been made, including in the Aboriginal economy.
The Voice debate is occurring during what Nigel Biggar has called a “decolonising epidemic”. Such an environment provides fertile opportunities for those who would wish the British-inherited Australian system of constitutional governance overthrown, and its British-inspired culture driven out of existence.
Despite the redemptive efforts of scholars like Biggar, colonialism has a shockingly bad reputation among those with little understanding of history and who harbour a victim-driven ideology.
The drive is to emote our way to public policy, in an age of historical ignorance, shallow thinking, celebrity-driven debate and ideology.
It is a perfect storm for attempting radical, feel-good change to our core governance structure. Far too tempting an opportunity for the purveyors of the grand progressive narrative to let pass, particularly with the added bonuses of virtue signalling and the opportunity to accuse your opponents of racism.
The “Aboriginal question” will never be settled. Let us face this now. It is one of those wicked problems. History is what it is. We cannot go back.
But if we could, and we could have had a “voice to parliament” in 1787, I wonder what the chosen Aboriginal “representatives” of the day would have come up with, way back then.
Perhaps they would have opted for the continuation of primitive, tribal society, with all of its familiar comforts and extraordinary challenges; perhaps not.
I remain unconvinced that the Voice to parliament, and the executive, and the truth telling, and the treaty – only one of which is actually ever mentioned – will enrich our Australian society or, indeed, that of either the 80 per cent of (largely) urban Aborigines that are doing well or of the 20 per cent of (largely) remote Aborigines who continue to struggle.
Saying that the “yes” campaign for the Voice doesn’t address the “real” Aboriginal problems is true enough.
But in this debate between two sides endlessly talking past one another, this isn’t the only problem.
The larger question is whether Aborigines actually want or need this top-down gift from the elites, and what it will mean for a society that, given everything, is doing pretty well on the race relations front.
The “no” case faces an uphill battle. Given the vested Aboriginal interests, the corporate power of major companies and their willingness to politicise commerce and shopping, the interventions of clueless sportsmen, the broad ignorance of the electorate, the fiddling of due process by our sneaky and deceitful Prime Minister, the fifth column activities of Kean-Liberals, and the policy-by-emoting approach to politics of just about everyone under forty, it won’t be easy.
The “no” committee – John Anderson, Yodie Batzke, Ian Conway, Gary Johns and Bob Liddle – continue to muster logic, history, rational common sense, a focus on real issues and a commitment to pragmatic Aboriginal problem solving.
Their efforts, and those of key supporters such as Jacinta Price, Warren Mundine and Tony Abbott, not to mention the Dutton-led Liberals and the Nationals who have rediscovered their mojo in a timely fashion, should be given the fullest opportunity to tell us all why this is a bad idea.
And not just a bad idea – just like the COVID vaccine, it is unnecessary, dangerous, useless, experimental and undemanded.
There is no doubt that the proposal for the Voice is divisive. It is re-racialising a nation that successfully stepped away from ugly apartheid in 1967, on the watch of Harold Holt’s Coalition Government and with near universal support across the political divide.
Whatever this current proposal is, it is not progressive. It is putting us into reverse and creating a monster in the process.
Let us leave the final word to Warren Mundine: “The Australia I live in today is completely different to the one I grew up in.
“Indigenous Australians now have the same rights and opportunities as every other Australian and the benefit of generous programs and opportunities to help redress the impact of past disadvantage.
“We have land rights and native title. Our history and cultures are recognised and taught in schools.
“Yet many Indigenous Australians continue to live in poverty, disadvantage and sometimes outright despair. And the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is not closing.
“No one wants this to continue. Many Australians have been told the Voice will somehow solve all of these problems.
Unfortunately, it won’t.”
No, it won’t.PC