Noel Pearson is a powerful orator.
“Only love can move us now,” he said at his National Press Club of Australia address on Wednesday.
“It’s the love of home. Our Australian home is the source of this love.
“Why would we the Australian people bequeath to our great children the irresponsible rhetoric of war and disunity when we could give them reconciliation and justice instead?”
This question was in response to another indigenous man, Nyunggai Warren Mundine, the No campaigner who in his press club talk on Tuesday labelled the Uluru Statement from the Heart a "symbolic declaration of war against modern Australia”.
“I don't judge a nation by the worst of its history but by how it seeks to become its better self and by that measure I judge Australia well.
“I can't think of any Nation that has overcome the conflicts and injustice of its past better than Australia.
“We have taken the best of our history and built a nation where everyone is equal where any person regardless of their origin can aspire to and achieve the highest.”
Two indigenous men. Two fine thinkers who love Australia and care for their people. Two opposing views on the referendum to change the constitution to insert a voice to parliament and executive government.
They can’t both be right and they are not.
The last national plebiscite on a policy issue Australia had was to change the definition of marriage in 2017.
Like now, the rhetoric of “love” was used to garner votes and effect radical change.
Australians fell for it but the result was not love. It has been an escalating war on the innocence of children, the truth about gender and an all-out assault on freedom of speech and religion.
Like the same-sex marriage activists, Pearson’s rhetoric of “love” is a mask for what will be continuing conflict.
This will be in the form of reparations, a treaty that imposes sanctions and re-writing Australia’s history as one of shame.
But we’re not allowed to ask for the detail, according to the Yes campaign. We are patronisingly told to “do the right thing” and not be on the side of racists by voting No.
But as constitutional law expert Professor Nicholas Aroney from the University of Queensland has pointed out, this is no “modest proposal” or mere “advisory group”.
The insertion of a new chapter in the constitution creating a body called the Voice with powers adjudicated by the High Court is the most radical change ever contemplated to how Australia is governed.
The Voice will have the same constitutional status as the parliament and the judiciary. You don’t give that to a mere “advisory committee”.
Mundine rightly says the entire Yes campaign is based on lies.
“One lie Is that indigenous people don't currently have a voice that indigenous people aren't listened to in making laws and policies.
“It's the opposite. Indigenous Australians have many voices. Hundreds of indigenous organizations are immersed in policy making affecting indigenous Australians.”
One of those organisations few had heard of before the referendum campaign is the National Indigenous Australians Agency which has a $4.5 billion budget. That’s billion with a B.
A total of close to $40 billion a year of taxpayers’ money is spent on indigenous programs, thanks to the numerous indigenous voices to Parliament already operating.
Yet indigenous people in remote communities continue to live in poverty marked by violence against women and children.
Noosa-based Noel Pearson’s Cape York initiatives have received in the order of $500 million and yet communities there remain deeply dysfunctional.
What effect has the money had? No one can tell and calls for an inquiry are resisted.
Another voice backed up by yet more expensive bureaucracy is not going to produce better outcomes for indigenous people who live in remote communities or on the fringes of Alice Springs and Cairns.
Just because the existing indigenous voices to parliament and the billions of dollars we spend on trying to fix indigenous disadvantage are not working doesn’t mean a new voice costing more millions should be locked into the constitution.
Voting because “love” is not rational.
Instead of trying to do more of the same, a way out of the mess that is our failure to “close the gap” could start with listening to Senator Jacinta Nampajinpa Price’s call for an inquiry into how the billions are being spent and why they are not effective.
It’s been deeply offensive of the Yes campaign, as it was of the 2017 Yes campaign, to characterise No voters as lacking “love”.
There has never been more goodwill towards indigenous people. Lack of “love” is not the problem.
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