Australians have been warned that if the voice does not receive approval then it will be the end of Welcome to Country, says Marcia Langton. I suspect that for many, many Aussies a future without WtCs is an agreeable thought.
If the voice referendum fails with the result that the WtC recitations permanently became a thing of the past, what would there be not to like? In a post WtC Australia, every sporting code would just have to get on with it, and the same would be true in every office and in every meeting in the land. As business returned to doing something constructive with its time and resources productivity would increase. No more silly virtue signalling from that company that earns its income way above the earth’s surface and well outside the claims of a hunter-gatherer society. To repeat: what’s not to like! To quote the great Rita: “your terms are acceptable, Marcia”.
Perhaps in her desire to encourage the various Aboriginal representatives to get out and actively campaign for the yes vote, Marcia has not sufficiently thought this thing through. Could it be that instead of a warning to her own “mob” that the lucrative WtC will come to an end should the referendum go down, Marcia has encouraged the wider Australian public – a much larger cohort – to vote down the referendum to see an end to this pretend ceremony? If so, this would be one of the classic own goals.
A few days later another voice in the voice debate kicked another own goal. After his colleagues determined that they could not support the Prime Minister’s model for the voice, Julian Lesser, the former shadow Attorney General and spokesman for Indigenous Australians, resigned from the Coalition front bench to campaign instead for the yes vote. Yet despite admitting that he had real concerns over the inclusion of executive representations in the voice, Lesser said he would remain supportive of the referendum even and if the Prime Minister did not heed those concerns. So a lawyer with more than a passing interest in constitutional matters and ten plus years working for Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution, admits to reservations about the direction/power the voice proponents are insisting on, but still declares his support.
A decade leading toward unequal constitutional recognition of citizens while simultaneously maintaining his constitutional conservative moniker looks like a political dead end for Julian. But is this too harsh a judgement of the poor man? Maybe being dudded at the final hurdle with that left field inclusion of executive government by his voice committee colleagues, yet still insisting on supporting that position, is more a case of being hogtied in a “Stockholm Syndrome-like” grasp. As Janet Albrechtsen wrote in The Australian last week, Lesser ‘…appears so emotionally invested in the voice he will vote for it even if it installs co-government’. A particularly unedifying position for a shadow Attorney General to be in and the premature end to a “stunning” political career from a political nonentity, , as Greg Sheridan put it. (Finally, something to agree with Sheridan on). Then own goals started piling up.
Senator Simon Birmingham, the shadow Foreign Affairs spokesperson and Coalition Senate leader, announced that he would not campaign for the Liberal Party no-position. But, unlike Lesser, Birmingham intended to remain on the front bench. Birmingham’s announcement had the effect that some of his colleagues declared his position untenable. On Sky, and in his standard bureaucratese, he endeavoured to hold back the inevitable by expressing an unfounded hope, like Lesser, that the PM would get rid of the reference to the executive. Birmingham must know that he is gone for all money; for having put the knee into a core Westminster principle, this front bencher is now damaged goods.
Then, in The Weekend Australian of last weekend, we had Greg Craven’s U-turn on his previous U-turn, back to backing the referendum. And, like Lesser, he announced that he would maintain that support whether or not the government removes the reference to the executive – which coincidentally was the reason for his original U-turn.
Reasonably it may be asked if Craven has discovered some constitutionally-sound mechanism to maintain his reputation as a constitutional conservative and yet be able to return to the fold of the referendum cheer leaders? Well, no. In fact, his Australian column came down to nothing more than feelz. In this long and boring column of twaddle not once did Craven address any of the constitutional concerns that he – and others – had raised when the Prime Minister finally announced the model. Attempting to propel himself up into the heavenly clouds of vibe purity had only one real consequence, and one which was in the opposite direction. Immediately, he fell back to earth and into the pile of vitriol he had thrown on the Liberal party position for them finally acknowledging that our Constitution is built on the sound democratic principle of one person one vote.
In his final statement, meant, it would seem, to hearken after an earlier generation of brave men who had actually fought and died for freedom, Craven actually declared that ‘…if necessary [he would] bleed for the voice’. But perspiration marks around the collar does not cut it. With these emotionally charged, lawyerly gymnastics, without doubt Craven has undermined his credibility as an actual constitutional lawyer – and an own goal of the most profound.
With still many months until the referendum vote is taken, how many more own goals are out there still?