Australia’s Misguided Voice

Will Kingston

Guilt can make a man [yes, yes or a woman] do silly things.

Add desperation into the mix and the consequences can be even worse. It’s the difference between a repentant criminal and a criminal on the run.

Australia is proving that mixing guilt and desperation can be disastrous. Like America, the nation struggles with the guilt of past racial injustices. Unlike African Americans and white Americans, the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains vast.

Life expectancy for Indigenous men in remote areas is more than 15 years below the national average. Indigenous women are 45 times more likely to experience domestic violence than white women.

Saturday nights in the central Australian town of Alice Springs resemble a war zone, with cars ablaze and drunken Indigenous youths running riot.

This situation is a national tragedy and an embarrassment for a country which rightly prides itself as being a model of Western democracy. However, the solution proposed by the new center-left Labor government is a medicine that will do more damage than the disease.

And we don’t need another one of those.

The leader of the Labor party and Prime Minister of Australia is Anthony Albanese, an affable-enough career politician who no one has ever confused with a rocket scientist. He went to the last election promising, if elected, he would deliver a referendum for an Indigenous ‘Voice’ to parliament in his first term.

What’s a ‘Voice?’ Wait, what’s a ‘referendum?’ Glad you asked.

A referendum, dear American readers, in the Australian context, is a vote to change the Constitution. Whilst we don’t love our Constitution as much as you love yours (assuming you live at least 50 miles inland from an ocean), we’ve made ours harder to change.

Any amendment to the Constitution must be made via a nationwide compulsory vote (yes, voting in Australia is compulsory) and it only passes if it is approved by a majority of voters in a majority of states.

In Aussie parlance, referendums are bloody hard to win, but if they get up, they become bloody hard to change. They are also expensive, divisive, and inevitably suck up every ounce of political oxygen over their interminably long build up.

What could justify that hassle in the eyes of ‘Albo’ (as Albanese is affectionately and derisively called in equal measure). Enter the Voice.

Sometime between October and December, Australians will vote on the following question:

“A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

Still don’t get it? You’re not alone. Whilst details from the Government have been in short supply, this much is clear. A Voice would be a body chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the power to make representations to the Parliament and the Government on matters relating to those groups.

I’ll leave it to smarter cookies than myself to explain the legal can of worms that this would open. Suffice to say, it’s a very big can with some very pesky worms. My two concerns are of practicality and principle.

Practically, there is no evidence that the Voice will improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

I am yet to hear a single ‘Yes’ campaigner walk through the links in a chain that would connect a Voice with less Indigenous women being raped, or more Indigenous kids finishing school. Not a single one.

There is however plenty of evidence that it will create a lot of high-paying bureaucratic jobs for activists in the nation’s capital of Canberra. And every dollar that goes to a Canberra bureaucrat is one less dollar going towards Indigenous schools, hospitals, and housing.

We should be abhorred by the principle of a race-based sub-parliament of activists claiming to speak for an entire race of people.

Indigenous Australians, like any racial group, lead different lives and have different beliefs. A body that claims to speak for all of them perversely implies that they think with the same brain and feel with the same heart. The lack of logic would be funny if it wasn’t so insulting.

I say the Voice should abhor us in principle, and yet the Yes vote is leading in the polls.

Why are so many people not abhorred? This is where the story takes on a universal dimension. It matters not if you’re reading this in Alice Springs, or New York, or London, or Brussels, you have seen the same story play out with different actors.

The corrosive impact of identity politics has conditioned too many people into thinking that it’s OK to segregate people based off their immutable characteristics.

There are people in Australia who somehow think it’s acceptable in a 21st century Western democracy that we are now speaking about racial tests to determine inclusion in a representative body.

There are people who think it’s more logical to use skin color over location to isolate social problems. There are people who think that the best way to bring Australia together is to constitutionally enshrine the things about us that are different but that we cannot change.

That’s not the country that I grew up in, and it’s not the country that I want to grow old in. That’s why I will be voting No.


Will Kingston is the host of Australiana, the flagship podcast from The Spectator Australia. Follow Australiana here.

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