There are two questions in this referendum:
1) about constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, which is due;
and 2) about a new national Voice mechanism.
Part 1) already has bipartisan support. “As a party, we seek to unite the country by constitutionally recognising Indigenous Australians.” says Peter Dutton, (Weekend Australian 15 Apr 2023, p21 right.)
[On the next page Peter Craven (ibid p22) gives a false premise by claiming, “the state of Australian politics now means you are for constitutional recognition or you’re against it.” That's clearly false. It's the divisive narrative, falsely casting opponents of the Voice mechanism as anti-recognition, even racist.]
It's only part 2) that does not have broad support (Mundine makes that case ibid p15 below). If The Voice mechanism truly does supersede existing processes, then it can worthily gain support on its merits - this mechanism does not need to be shoehorned into the constitution upon threat of defeating constitutional recognition.
But what words will be changed in the constitution?
Here is the constitutional wording change as initially proposed in March '23:
Currently a committee is working to ensure the wording can't be manipulated.
One concern is about how submitted Australia would become to this "body," the Voice. Part 3 indicates the mechanism can be changed by parliament to suit the needs of the times. But still, how much political pressure would Voice representations have? Who could ignore them without being labelled racist?
"While the Voice could be done without a referendum, Indigenous people asked in the Uluru Statement from the Heart for it to be enshrined into the nation's founding document as recognition for First Nations people." Another concern is that The Uluru Statement which asked for the Voice clearly submits to a polytheistic worldview with which I disagree. I'm ok with the constitution's current, "Under Almighty God," which belongs absolutely and because all religions, even Aboriginal, have a concept of a supreme Creator behind it all (although they diverge from there into polytheism and pantheism), and even atheists can agree that societies do better in reference to God, even if it's only a unifying concept in their thinking. So is the Voice to be in reference to ancestral polytheism, and is Australia to submit to this worldview?
A third problem to consider is that building in this extra mechanism separates out first peoples from the rest of Australians. Are we sure we want this? We can never be one people whilst this separation remains specifically perpetuated. As a Christian I know that all nations ultimately can be united in Christ, as Christianity is the only truly multicultural worldview, (and it even has the foundation for allowing people to not choose Christianity.) Australia could be that kind of unified country, but would this constitutional change be a wedge against such ultimate unity? It is one thing to recognise that Aboriginal people were here first and we need to correct the lies and fallout from tera nullus, but it's another to enshrine a mechanism that will require & maintain two voices, never to become truly one.
So as for constitutional recognition, yes, something in the constitution is due. As for a Voice mechanism, it must remain subject to "Under Almighty God," and maybe it does not belong in the constitution after all. Can we separate these two questions at the referendum?
It's not racist to want the first without the second. And it may even be divisive to demand the second.
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