‘The Voice’ must be ready for the referendum process. It is not

The right’s strategy is irrelevant. The Voice has to convince millions of people and those millions will have questions.

(Image: Mitchell Squire / Private Media)
(Image: Mitchell Squire / Private Media)

Someone tweeted on Twitter over the weekend about the Voice, something in such a way that while they’ll be happy to hear First Nations peoples’ views on the future of the proposal, they’re far less interesting to hear from professional columnists and commentators. Yeah, uh, sorry, too late. The voice is now out of the box, on the road to the referendum, and the obvious fact is that it is now a question for everyone.

The very act of bringing this to a referendum makes a general transformation of the way we are constituted as a state and a people. Autonomous political action, from starting a party to an embassy tends to unilateral declarations of sovereignty – yes, of course. No one else should provide helpful opinions or advice unless invited. But if this thing gets up, about 96% of the votes it needs will be non-First Nations (NFN below). This is one of the many paradoxes of this push: the moment it was engaged in the referendum, by the sheer weight of the numbers, it immediately becomes an NFN thing and a state object to start.

This has started to become evident to a growing number of people as the referendum machine becomes visible – and we remember how terrible it is. As a country we basically gave up referendums after the disastrous run of the Hawke government, when Labor lost heavily in 1984 on a grand plan to allow federal and state governments to exchange powers by mutual agreement, and in 1988 when it presented a referendum to four laws that seemed administrative but was also excessive (four-year conditions between House and Senate, recognition of the local government, religious freedom and codified rights), and that’s it, apart from the republican trap of John Howard of 1999, which eliminated the question of the preamble with it.

Read more about The Voice’s rocky road to referendum …

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