Control of information the name of the game for ‘yes’ Voice campaign
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Voice to parliament

Control of information the name of the game for ‘yes’ Voice campaign

The Voice campaign depends on accurate and unbiased information being given to the public.

The Albanese government is asking Australians to vote in a proposed Voice referendum to amend Australia’s Constitution. It’s a significant proposal that Australians need to be informed about before they can vote.

Given its significance, you might want to believe the government would support all Australians in becoming informed of both sides, for and against the Voice to Parliament, so that each individual can make up their own minds and properly exercise their vote. Yet trying to get the government to present both sides to Australians has been like pulling teeth.

After continued pressure from the Coalition, the government finally agreed only last week to distribute to each Australian household an information pamphlet about the proposed Voice referendum but has still not agreed to provide equal funding to both sides.

Previously, Albanese government representatives have claimed that official pamphlets for each household were unnecessary because Australians could access information digitally. This view clearly favours disseminating information to a mainly younger demographic and is out of touch with the needs and preferences of many Australians, particularly older and non-English speaking Australians.

The views of all eligible voters matter and the government should be readily making every reasonable effort to ensure Australians have an opportunity to be properly informed on both sides in a way that is accessible to them before the proposal is put to a vote.

Australians should be wary when a government asks them to vote on a matter of national significance yet is not forthcoming in disseminating all legitimate views on the matter so people can make up their own mind.

Control of information and the resulting discouragement of critical thinking on the Voice referendum appears to be becoming a trend by ‘Yes’ campaigners in the Labor government.

Not even our classrooms — a place where students should be allowed critical thinking — are exempt. Some states have begun including information in support of the Voice referendum in their school curriculums and in fact students at some schools have been encouraged to memorise the Uluru Statement from the Heart.  It was reported that ‘Yes’ campaigners will be welcomed into classrooms and school assemblies and I am yet to hear of schools extending invitations to anyone with legitimate doubts regarding the efficacy of the Voice to Parliament.

Allowing critical thinking in classrooms is essential. Over the past five years, I’ve listened to traditional owners from across the nation, including in Mutitjulu at the base of Uluru, who’ve told me they do not support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

If students are being encouraged to simply memorise the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and taught to assume that every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person agrees with it, we cannot expect that they are also being taught that five years on from its delivery, there is still no consensus among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about whether the Uluru Statement is the way forward.

Only presenting one side of a campaign in progress and encouraging recitation and blind acceptance of the Uluru Statement limits the ability of students to think critically and is pure indoctrination. If teachers are providing information regarding the Voice referendum in their classrooms, the education needs to be balanced and opposers of the Voice also need to be invited into schools to share their very legitimate concerns.

All Australians need to be given a real opportunity to make up their own minds. The Albanese government needs to allow for this by providing equal funding for each side of the conversation (in-line with the processes in previous referendums and which so far they have refused) and to make reasonable efforts to ensure all Australians are provided with access to information on both sides.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine is Director of the Indigenous Forum at the Centre for Independent Studies.