Politics Analysis

IA's last word on the Voice

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

A couple of days ago, we received an email from an IA subscriber, conveying that person's reasons for voting "No" in the Voice Referendum. 

It gave us pause because it has become abundantly clear that although it is absolutely true to say the Voice was derailed by a well-coordinated campaign backed by a range of vested interests (the details of which are still coming to light) and propelled by the media cabal, it is also true to say that many people just didn't get it.

The point of the Voice and how it would work was clearly not adequately communicated. Many assumptions were also made about the people who chose to vote No, and why, which, if they didn't understand what it was, did not help to heal the divide and only served to galvanise their uncertainty and distrust.

For this, independent media outlets, like IA, must share the blame for the failure of the Voice Referendum.


Since the Referendum, I have been trying to understand why no one is mentioning that there is an existing minister for Indigenous Australians.


She used her platform, some would say voice, to parliament, to push for a yes vote. Why is no one holding her accountable for not being the voice to parliament for making change?


I voted "No" because this is so illogical to me, I would love for something better to be done. Why are we not holding the people currently in power accountable? Why listen to someone in power preach about how the people they are representing have no representation?


I have scoured through the articles available here and not one person speaks about anything other than racism or stupidity. They keep saying that there is no representation to parliament. I would love to hear where I am going wrong. 


Thank you.


Thank you for your email.


We appreciate the issues behind the Voice could have been better communicated and that this, as well as a well-coordinated and funded No campaign, contributed to its downfall. 


It is, of course, a complex issue but we will attempt to answer your specific points. 


There has been a minister for Indigenous Australians since the 1970s. However, while they can prioritise the issues to be addressed by Parliament, as with all ministers, they cannot legislate or change anything without agreement and approval from Parliament, where Indigenous MPs – let alone members who are sympathetic to the plight of First Nations people – are thin on the ground.


As well, many of the positive steps taken by past holders of this portfolio (most of whom were not themselves Indigenous) were subsequently quickly reversed along with each new government.

In one particularly retrograde step, Tony Abbott appointed himself as minister for Aboriginal Affairs. 


That aside, Australian parliaments make policies specifically about Indigenous people, which directly impact only Indigenous Australians – often disregarding from the decision process the ideas put forward by the responsible ministers or Indigenous lobby groups – and which have traditionally failed.


We know this because there is no progress on Closing the Gap. Because, even today in remote communities, First Nations children have no access to fresh water, have to live alongside mining activity (which their communities did not approve and were not consulted about), are not properly educated or have access to adequate health services and are malnourished. They are still dying at a far higher rate than their White counterparts and if they make it to adulthood, will die much younger. 


Something is clearly amiss with the way we have been doing things so far.


Linda Burney currently holds that portfolio and she tried to implement a Voice to Parliament. This is because – contrary to what the mainstream media and the No campaign would have you believe – the vast majority (80 per cent) of First Nations people got together and asked for one.


They could have asked for a Treaty since we are the only democracy that does not already have one in place with its Indigenous population. However, the consensus among First Australians was that with our record of ignoring their requests, a simple Voice would be the best first step towards Reconciliation. Of course, not all Indigenous Australians agreed — just like not all Australians agree on who should govern, what the voting age should be, or anything else. 


The simple idea, which became distorted beyond logic in the establishment media, was to have an independent panel of Indigenous people to provide advice to parliament, which parliament would consider as with everything else. But at least they would get to make direct representations to parliament – hitherto ignored – on Indigenous issues only. 


The fact that this simple thing was denied them, shows how little First Nations voices matter and how difficult a Treaty would be to attain. 


With regard to Linda Burney, her role as Indigenous Affairs Minister hasn’t stopped because the Voice failed. Nor has her ability to influence change within Parliament. But as before, the issues affecting First Australians will likely be voted down, in favour of the interests of far more important lobby groups, like mining companies and wealthy land owners. (Let’s not even get started on how these landowners got their vast landholdings or what happened to the traditional owners.) 


I hope this explains our reasons for supporting the Voice and why Linda Burney can hardly be held responsible for 200-odd years of oppression, neglect and wilful disinterest.


We have published extensively in favour of the Voice. Most recently, the words, studies and investigations of Ranald Macdonald, Dr Victoria Fielding and Anthony Klan have shed light on this shameful chapter in our history. 

Independent Australia will continue to use our voice to publish in favour of First Nations people being actively involved in the decision-making process over their own lives and the future of their children.

We will reject arrogant attempts at solutions to problems of which non-Indigenous Australians have no real understanding.

And we will advocate for the rights of First Peoples, who cared for this land for 60,000 years before our pale-by-comparison, yet destructive, 200-year blip in time.

This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter – usually only available to subscribers – and may be read online in the IA members-only area.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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