It’s a crucial question that every Australian should have their say on. But some people are afraid we’re « too stupid » to do it right.
Indigenous Affairs Secretary Ken Wyatt has renewed hopes that an Indigenous vote will be incorporated into the constitution through a referendum in the next term. He told…
Indigenous Affairs Secretary Ken Wyatt has renewed hopes that an Indigenous vote will be incorporated into the constitution through a referendum in the next legislature. He told Sky News presenter Chris Kenny last night that there was real interest in the union. « Community feedback is strong, especially a national voice has been emphasized as an important part of this process, » he said. « Australia is changing dramatically and people are increasingly talking about the oldest living culture, but they are much more receptive than I’ve ever seen in my life. » Mr Wyatt endorsed the pursuit, despite it being rejected by the Prime Minister earlier this year.
There’s a well-known old saying that New York City will be a great place when it’s done.
The same can be said of today’s Australia and we now have a historic opportunity to deliver on that promise.
In this current time of crisis, it is clearer than ever that Australia is undoubtedly the best place in the world to be. But it’s not ready yet.
We are a beautiful country with a warm, sociable people who have an instinct to laugh at indignation. We have a generous and egalitarian spirit that has spawned world-class universal health and education systems, as well as an extensive welfare network that provides for students, the unemployed, single parents and the elderly.
We have a legal system that is almost completely free of corruption and a stable and peaceful liberal democracy in which every adult citizen can participate.
But we’re not quite done yet.
At the heart of our nation is a constitution that, like our nation, is laconic and haughty.
In fact, it just provides a practical framework for governing ourselves and leaves the rest to us. But one simple thing is missing.
And that is acknowledgment that the people who drafted that document and made the laws to govern our country were not the first people here and that those early Australians were not given any say in our formation and functioning as a nation.
Today, of course, we all know that.
But our nation’s founding declaration—the cornerstone of the law that defines everything from the function of our parliament to who is counted in the census—doesn’t.
Part of the beauty of Australian democracy – and indeed the Constitution itself – is that in many ways it has not stopped progress in trying to rectify or rectify historical mistakes. We are more ruled by « convention » – an unwritten code, an established but ever-evolving way of doing things that responds to the needs and insights of the time.
This is where Dennis Denuto comes from The castle rightly referred to as « the atmosphere » of the constitution. It gives future generations of lawmakers and voters the freedom to do what they think is right.
And what feels now is that we are finally recognizing and entrenching the place of First Australians in our national framework.
This is felt across the political spectrum – it was supported by John Howard in 2007, Tony Abbott in 2013, and NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian added her voice to the chorus this week.
And that’s just the conservatives: needless to say, it has near-universal support among the progressive side of politics.
The form agreed upon in the famous Uluru Statement from the Heart was that this would be a constitutionally enshrined « vote to parliament » – essentially a process by which a body of indigenous peoples would be consulted on laws pertaining to indigenous peoples.
The proposals now being worked out are simple and sensible.
Such a body would have no veto power over legislation, nor would it have the executive power to run programs itself.
It would not be a « third chamber of parliament » as Malcolm Turnbull erroneously described it, nor would it be an additional government agency or a layer of bureaucracy.
But there is a fear among many Indigenous Indigenous campaigners that the academic and political elites tasked with establishing The Voice will simply try to push it through parliament without going to a referendum and having it enshrined in the constitution.
The push for a purely parliamentary vote seems to be based on the assumption that the Vote is too important to be left to the whims of the Australian people.
In other words, a fear of those at the top that if it turned into a referendum Australians would be too stupid, mean or racist to answer the question correctly.
This is, frankly, horse**t. Similar concerns have been expressed by those who oppose a plebiscite on same-sex marriage and yet Australians have shown massive support for it.
In addition, 94 percent of the adult population went to the polls when the last referendum was held on indigenous issues, the historic 1967 vote to include Aborigines in the census and allow the federal parliament to make laws for them. cent voted yes.
Similarly, recent polls conducted by referendum supporters last year show strong support among the general public.
But despite all this, there seems to be a cynical image among political insiders that Australians are racist bogans who cannot be trusted with a vote. Why else wouldn’t they want one?
And if a vote is given to parliament by a simple act of parliament, it can of course also be undone by a simple act of parliament, should a future government see any benefit in it.
If the vote is too important to be voted by the Australian people, then it is too important not to be voted by the Australian people.
Indeed, if there is no faith in the Australian people, the whole purpose is lost.
But don’t take my word for it, take the always stubborn and astute Noel Pearson, who says a referendum is literally vital to our country.
“Australia is useless without recognition. Australia is not complete without recognition. How could there be an Australia without the Aboriginal peoples of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait? As long as the indigenous peoples are not recognized, Australia is an absurdity. A nation that lacks its most vital heart.”
Australia is a beautiful place, a friendly place and a decent place. And it will be a great place – once it’s done.
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