Why the Voice Referendum Will Fail—A Thread in Seven Tweets
Posted on January 24, 2023
Labor prime minister Anthony Albanese ran great guns for his party in 2022’s Australian federal election. He campaigned on Covid-19 promising a focal change from the incumbent government’s mismanagement putting the safety of Australians first.
Eight months later, with a further 10,000 Australians dead under his watch—the highest national death toll recorded this pandemic—he’d instead declared “Covid-19 exceptionalism” over, let the nation’s vaccine immunity wane and caught Covid-19 twice.
It’s no wonder then that a Guardian Essential Poll today, showed his popularity had dropped a massive 5% despite a paucity of effective parliamentary opposition and a Liberal opposition leader running a US MAGA Republican line. For Albanese, there is no clawing this mojo back.
That, however, won’t stop him trying and the political Hail Mary he’s chosen is a concept called the “Voice”.
Thing is, most Australians don’t understand—let alone know—what the Voice is. And again today, a Resolve poll commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald put Albanese behind in its public support.
The collective significance is this:
Albanese’s Voice posits its enshrinement in the Australian Constitution. That takes a referendum and for a referendum to pass it requires:
A national majority of voters in the states and territories (and) a majority of voters in a majority of the states (i.e. at least four out of six states).
Referendums in Australia, then, are rare. Of nineteen since 1901, only eight have passed.
This one, the “Indigenous Voice to Parliament” will ask Australians to vote on the following draft question:
Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?
If successful, it will add the following language to the Constitution which in its present draft includes three points. To quote:
There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
And it will fail. Here’s why in a series of seven Tweets I prepared because blessedly for a writer, Twitter (at this stage) still considers brevity a virtue:
- Why is it any surprise that most Australians don’t know what the Voice is nor care in a time of rising interest rates, Long Covid, a housing crisis, pork barrelling, grifting and natural disasters?
- The Voice, as described in official circles, is nothing more than an indigenous parliamentary lobby required by the Australian Constitution, yet, born by statute and thereby subject to future parliamentary whim.
- The Voice holds no parliamentary vote, it holds no legislative power. It’s an advisory body with an enshrined right to lobby government alongside the special interests of the mining lobby, the property lobby, the health lobby, and even Qantas.
- Given that governments today blatantly ignore the advice of their CHOs and non-partisan health advisers leading to today’s 4-year pandemic Covid-19 disaster, why would we expect any govt to better action a Voice?
- That the voice requires a national referendum costing hundreds of millions at a time when food banks are overstretched and hospitals are overwhelmed—is not merely politics at its most obscene, but it imperils the very people the Voice is posing to represent.
- And that’s why the Voice referendum will fail. People don’t care, people know it’s a sham and people have more pressing needs—like keeping their families housed, healthy, fed and alive.
- There are better ways to address the centuries of Australian indigenous neglect. Like giving it an actual parliamentary vote. But Labor, Liberal or Greens—there’s no guts for that. #Auspol
© 2023 Adam Parker.