Peta Credlin in The Sunday Telegraph, 7 October 2023, where the title runs thus “Voice’s Yes campaign full of deceit and double standards”
The unauthorised protesters who marched through Sydney this week spewing anti-Semitic bile and screaming “Gas the Jews” are a sign of what can happen when people make everything about race.
After being poisoned for decades with hatred against “the Jews who stole their land”, it’s hardly surprising Palestinians (and their supporters here) don’t want peaceful co-existence with the people of Israel. Instead they want to wipe Israel off the map and drive the Jewish people into the sea, quite literally.
Anthony Albanese and Ray Martin on stage at the Factory Theatre. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Max Mason-Hubers
This, even though Israel is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, a country with a free press, an independent judiciary, rights for women and LGB citizens, free elections that often change the government and a parliament where every minority is represented.
It’s extraordinary how many people (and media types) accept at face value Hamas’s claim that the Palestinians are somehow the victims of Israeli oppression.
In truth, they’re the victims of Hamas itself, a terrorist regime that perpetuates and exploits their poverty to maintain the rage against Israel that fuels the atrocities we’ve just seen and the rapturous response to them (even here) from people fed a diet of race hate.
So far, the vast majority of Australians largely have left former animosities behind them on coming to this country. Often enough, indeed, it was precisely to escape the enmities of their homelands that motivated people to come to a country free of ancient feuds, where people’s character counted far more than their skin colour or ethnic background.
And while the gravitational pull of the Australian way of life has been enough for us largely to avoid what has occurred in parts of Europe and Britain, where large immigrant communities have been substantially unintegrated, we can never be complacent.
Because history shows the price of peace is eternal vigilance. As the ugly scenes in Sydney this week highlighted, some Australians can’t help wanting to prosecute the battles of their original home, especially if there’s no expectation on them to adopt the more genial and more inclusive attitudes that so far have characterised a country where race normally doesn’t matter – in Bob Hawke’s words, a country with “no hierarchy of descent” and “no privilege of origin”.
But for how long? My instinct is that the vision of people screaming anti-Semitic and racist slurs on the streets of Sydney will further reinforce Australians’ apparent reluctance to entrench ancestry or race-based distinctions into our Constitution.
Why would voters make such a change when our national ethos so far has been to celebrate as first-class citizens all those who are prepared to join “Team Australia” and to “have a go”, regardless of how recently they’ve arrived?
My issue with Anthony Albanese’s voice project has not just been the deliberate lack of detail but my strong objection on principle against any measure that would divide Australians by race.
And it has been the leadership of senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine, who are just as proud of their Australian citizenship as they are of their Indigenous heritage, and who reject the voice because of the damage it would do to our national unity, that has helped expose the flawed thinking at the heart of this referendum.
The voice is not about unity; it is about division. And what has become more obvious the longer the voice debate has gone on is the magnitude of the Prime Minister’s misjudgment. He obviously thought Australia was ready for the institutionalisation of identity politics, even though support for it has always been more pronounced among elites than mass opinion.
He has made the fundamental mistake of thinking the same-sex marriage plebiscite signified a society shifting to the “progressive left” (as his campaign team crowed)and concluded the same vibe would drive support for the voice, even though the SSM vote was about establishing legal equality while the voice is about the complete opposite.
All along, it seems, Albanese has been trying to exploit the goodwill that just about every Australian has towards Aboriginal people, and our commendable instinct to want to end Indigenous disadvantage, to drive a profound change to our system of government, based on the notion that the settlement of Australia was fundamentally unjust. That’s why it needs to fail, and why the bigger its failure the better in the long run – because that will drive the substantial reset needed, not only in Indigenous policy but also in the contempt or indifference that vast swathes of officialdom have towards the attitudes and instincts of everyday Australians.
Consider all the recent changes that have almost never been subject to formal government consideration, let alone a considered decision of the Australian people. Such as the now almost universal acknowledgments of country (as if it belongs more to some people than to all of us); the creeping use of Indigenous placenames alongside standard ones, such as Gadigal for Sydney, Naarm for Melbourne and Meanjin for Brisbane, by entities such as Qantas and the ABC; the routine flying of the Aboriginal flag co-equally with the national one (as if the flag of some of us is as important as the flag of all of us); and the heavy indoctrination of “settlement shame” into our educational institutions.
Then there are recent judicial decisions on resource use that have turned a perfectly reasonable legislated duty to consult with Aboriginal people into a virtual right of veto. Plus the money (at least $7bn a year on Indigenous-specific programs that seem hardly to make a difference, let alone the further $30bn or so flowing that way because Indigenous people have double the call on social spending, on average, than other Australians).
By proposing a constitutional change that goes so much beyond merely acknowledging that Aboriginal people were here first, the Prime Minister (probably unwittingly) has given voters a belated chance to express a view on so much that has been forced down their throats as a result of the left’s long march through the institutions. With just two days to go before the voice referendum is decided one way or another, but likely to be an emphatic No, it’s worth looking at what it means for our country, beyond the likelihood that there will be no institutionalised additional Indigenous voice any time soon.
Rejecting a separate race-based body that inevitably would become parasitic on some Aboriginal people’s misery to justify further grievance won’t mean we’re a racist country, given the leading opponents of the voice have been two proud Indigenous Australians, in Price and Mundine. It won’t mean Indigenous people will not be listened to, given there are already hundreds of Indigenous bodies jostling to be heard, including 11 individual Indigenous voices in the federal parliament. And it won’t mean nothing different should be tried to resolve the longstanding deprivations of remote Indigenous people especially.
Those voting No on Saturday are not voting against Aboriginal people; they are just voting in favour of unity and equality, and voting Yes to keeping our Constitution colourblind. Hence the consequence of a verdict against the voice should be a thorough reconsideration of all government policies that aren’t designed to produce a more integrated Australian community.