By Joe Montero
When the move towards the Voice for first nations peoples began to move in earnest, It seemed like quite a reasonable idea. Australia’s First Nations do have a claim to be heard. If the proposed Voice takes this one step further, there is no question that it should become a reality.
The proposal will be put to a referendum during the second half of this year.
But there is a niggling side to it. Having it written into the constitution is one thing. Limiting it in practice to parliamentary representation, and mandatory consultation with these representatives on matters of special concern to First Nations. isa not enough to provide a genuine voice. If recent developments are a guide, the recruitment of certain high-profile representatives of these communities to both sides of the debate, on campaigns run by the usual political machines, indicates that the representatives emerging might prove to be puppets under the control of these machines, and not be true representatives of the First Nations peoples.
Such a voice will only be tokenistic at best. Whether this still represents a small step forward is open to debate.
First Nations Senator Lydia Thorpe has come out punching, insisting that unless the proposal guaranteed that “First Nations sovereignty is not ceded,” she would go against it. Fair enough. Without this rider, there would be no self-determination and control over First Nation Affairs in the hands of the peoples who are directly affected. There would be no real voice.
It may be true that the Voice proposal came out of the Uluru Statement of the Heart and has been backed by the Indigenous voice Co-Design Group. This gives it considerable weight. But it doesn’t deny the weakness of the proposal. In fact, the Statement from the Heart is about much more than this. Most of all about empowering First Nations peoples.
This is why Thorpe argues that the process towards treaty should take precedence. Her position resonates with many First Nations people.
Treaty means the recognition of sovereignty and the ability of the two parts of Australia to work together for the future as equals.
There is still time to put into writing into law the need to progress towards treaty. This would make support for the Voice far more attractive.
Meanwhile, opponents of progress are manipulating the issue to hold everything back. One group is the fundamental Christian lobby, which falsely brands any progress as dividing Australia and a threat to Christian civilisation. Others take a more secular approach and are even using a few First Nations personalities as their poster pin ups.
Warren Mundine announced the launching of the no campaign on Skye News Australia, while being interviewed by an enthusiastic Andrew Bolt. Mundine has been joined by First Nation Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
They are calling their no campaign group Recognise a Better Way. But the real control is in the hands of Advance Australia, a right-wing lobby group established in 2018, supported by the Coalition government of the time and other groups. They have received millions from some Australian millionaires. Their stated mission is to counter GetUp, which it calls, a left-wing activist group. Left-wing is defined by anyone who opposes their world outlook. They often use the term woke.
Although Advance Australia does not have a stated policy regarding First Nations Affairs, it is ideologically committed to opposing moves towards self-determination.
Their method to create diversions by proposing that the success of the Voice will divide Australia and throwing in the proposal that migrants who have arrived in Australia or descended from arrivals and contributed to building the nation should be included. This is code for insisting that non-Indigenous Australians should be included. This means de facto recognition of a continuing white Australia policy, which would deny the Voice.
Migrant organisations across the country are having nothing to do with this.
That Mundine and Price have joined them says a lot more about themselves and self-centred opportunism than anything else. There is good reason to warn people about them and those who are pulling the strings.