You are here

Voting "Yes" and the Nay-Sayers

Between work and study this week I scooted down to the Port Melbourne town hall yesterday to cast a "Yes" vote in the Voice referendum. I recognise ATSI people as the original inhabitants of the land. My respect for this means that I think it is right that they, like other indigenous people throughout the world, should have an advisory body to the government on matters that affect them. And that's the entirety of the constitutional change. To say the least, the experience of indigenous Australians and the country's international reputation alone are sufficient justifications for this change, let alone the genuine need on the basis of closing the gap on socioeconomic status. Apparently, there are better outcomes when one consults with the very people who are going to be affected by a decision.

Despite this opinion polls are suggesting a defeat for the referendum which will mean not just more of the same but worse. It is telling that the "No" campaign has appealed to ignorance in its material ("Risky Voice", "If you don't know, vote no"), even though the information is readily available via the AEC. The Conversation has a very good collection of answers to common questions. Annotations and fact-checking has been carried out on both the Yes and the No cases in the AEC's referendum booklet (keeping in mind that in Australian politics, lying is legal)

Outside of those who do not know, those who haven't bothered to check, and those who have chosen some pretty wild conspiracies instead, the nay-sayers also consist of the political partisans. The "no" first jump in opinion polls was when the National Party announced they would oppose the referendum in December 2022, and really gained in April 2022 when Dutton announced the Liberal Party would oppose it. In both cases people left the respective parties, and with various Liberal Party leaders quite annoyed at the divisive games being played by Dutton. Further to the extreme right, of course, there are Hansonites and assorted racists, whose claim of the superiority of their race over others is a projective mask of their own inferiority complex. Finally, there is the "progressive no", the people who think the Voice is not enough and is too tokenistic. For them I have the sympathy, but despair at their political naivety and their inability to "read the room". A successful "yes" vote will give moral authority towards truth-telling and a Treaty; a successful "no" vote will set such initiatives back another generation at least.

Simply put, there is not a single compelling rational case for a "no" vote. Whilst it is the barest minimum change to the Constitution, it does incorporate recognition and respect. Is a tried and tested approach among other countries throughout the world that has indigenous and colonial populations. It will definitely lead to better outcomes, as health outcomes during the pandemic and the consultative response to violence in Alice Springs have already shown. "No" means that nothing changes, no hope, no future, no progress. I would like to hope that Australia has the courage to progress to a future with hope and change. Vote "Yes".