My last blog was about the Voice… so as the debate on the proposed referendum gains momentum, and while both sides begin to frame their campaigns, it felt like a good time to revisit some earlier posts on this topic.
First, the thorny issue of Australia Day continues to cause discomfort, for the Indigenous population, professional cricketers and politicians alike. But as evidenced during last week’s Invasion Day gatherings, the Voice has even managed to cause division within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, some of whom have indicated their intention either to boycott the referendum process or to vote “no”. The “no” campaign itself will likely be split between those holding more radical views, and those representing more conservative values.
Second, a large component of the Indigenous community calling for a “no” vote is predicated on the question of Sovereignty and the need for Treaty and/or Republic before anything else. The apparent discord again reveals some weaknesses in the structure of Australia’s Constitutional Monarchy, and even the model of Federation itself. The disconnect between the foundation of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the marking of Australia Day suggest that there are perhaps bigger constitutional matters that need to be resolved first.
Third, the Voice is again forcing Australia as a country to reflect on its own identity, to reassess its place in the world, to re-connect with its core values, and even to find its purpose. It’s a topic, like Treaty and Republic, that continues to challenge our politicians and thought leaders. Can Australia continue its claim to be a democratic, socially progressive, pluralistic, secular and technology advanced country if the Head of State continues to be the British Monarch (who also happens to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England), if we still practice all sorts of segregation and discrimination in the name of faith-based institutions, if we are unable/unwilling to address the issue of Sovereignty, and if our economic success is still over-dependent upon outdated industries and business practices? The Voice referendum may not be designed to address these specific questions, but the result will have tremendous consequences on the future of our political, social and economic institutions.
Finally, my own current thinking is generally in support of the referendum for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. However, I would like to see more certainty about how the Voice will work in practical terms, if not more detail on the Parliamentary processes themselves. I also think there should be more clarity on where the Voice sits on the path towards a Treaty, and the formation of a Republic, and what comes next, since these issues are all inextricably linked. But if it transpires that a large component of the Indigenous community is against the referendum, it will probably cause me to rethink my own position.
Next week: Kick-start