Don't paint Indigenous opponents of the Voice as race-baiters
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Don’t paint Indigenous opponents of the Voice as race-baiters

It’s not racist for any Australian to vote No at the referendum on an Indigenous Voice to parliament. It’s certainly not racist to vote No to a proposed constitutional amendment that is fundamentally race-based by design.

Australians shouldn’t feel embarrassed or guilty about voting against a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was endorsed by 250 Indigenous delegates, a smaller number than the number of languages spoken on this continent before colonisation. The delegates were selected from 14 community ‘Dialogues’. According to the Referendum Council, “Attendance to the Dialogues was by invitation only. This ensured each Dialogue was deliberative and reached consensus on the relevant issues.”

Meetings were capped at 100 attendees with 60% of places reserved for Indigenous people, 20% for community organisations and 20% for key individuals. Despite being hand-picked, several delegates rejected the Statement and walked out of the Convention.  Don’t tell me that the Uluru Statement of the Heart reflects a consensus view of Indigenous people.

The government could legislate for the Voice now, but won’t. It’s asking Australians for their views first. So Australians are entitled a view. We shouldn’t be asked the question if the only choice is Yes.

I haven’t found anyone who can explain to me what the Voice is and how it will solve the many real issues in Indigenous communities. Not one. Yet its supporters aren’t just asking, but demanding, Australians support it. And abuse, belittle and patronise us if we do not. What utter madness.

The reaction by leading proponents of the Yes campaign has been offensive to Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, the National Party and all Australians who believe in a fair go, free speech and free debate.

Noel Pearson accused Senator Price of being caught up in a “redneck celebrity vortex” and of being a puppet of conservative and classical liberal think tanks (including the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) at which I am the Director of the Indigenous Forum) whom he claimed have cultivated and armed her over many years to now come out and attack other Aboriginal people. This is false and belittling. Far from being anyone’s puppet, Senator Price has for years demonstrated nothing but sheer courage in standing up for Aboriginal women in remote Australia despite unyielding personal and racist attacks from the Left. Pearson has criticised the CIS, but  think tank has no formalposition for or against the Voice. It allows people to prosecute their case through research, panels and papers. Pearson knows this because he’s attended and spoken at CIS functions and is a published author at the CIS, as is Professor Marcia Langton (including co-authoring a major paper with Senator Price). Pearson attended a CIS event only six weeks ago, which I also attended.

Langton has also launched her own attack. In a somewhat rambling interview (where she also claimed to be a member of the University of Melbourne’s faculty of medicine and with that medical authority said the concept of ‘race’ doesn’t even exist) she accused Senator Price of kicking off “a nasty, eugenicist, 19th century-style of debate about the superior race versus the inferior race”. It’s a disgraceful thing to say about Senator Price.

Langton’s claim that Senator Price is promoting racial superiority is also bizarre since it’s Langton who is campaigning for an amendment to the Constitution that will entrench particular rights for people of a particular race.

Chris Kenny  was more measured, describing the National Party’s opposition to the Voice, which Senator Price has spearheaded, as “contradictory and disingenuous” and describing her as not a “constructive figure”. Kenny said “it would be a great pity if the impressive Price, who came to parliament primarily as a voice for grassroots Indigenous Australians, allows her career to be framed forever over opposition to a broader Indigenous voice.”

Why would this be a pity? The Voice will fundamentally alter the character of Australia’s democratic system and the positions of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within it. And not in a good way.

Kenny asserts the Voice is not race-based at all. But in attempting to explaining why it isn’t race-based, he only illustrates why it is … by characterising Indigenous people as a single group and conflating this categorisation with native title. However, I don’t have native title rights as an ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Aboriginal’ person but as member of the Bundjalung and Yuin native title claimant groups.

Native title rights are inherited property rights based on descent. Aboriginality is a racial characterisation, Bundjalung and Yuin are not. The Voice won’t create a Bundjalung voice or a Yuin voice, but an Aboriginal voice. That’s a race-based right.