‘I confirm that if the VOICE referendum is successful, a resolution will be passed in Parliament requiring every Member of the House of Representatives to hold at least one public meeting in their Electorate to review and comment on the proposed legislation to establish VOICE and convey the views of those meetings to Parliament before it votes on the matter.’
I am voting YES to VOICE.
More importantly, after the Referendum is successful, I intend to campaign aggressively and persistently to ensure that Voice does not ever have power to do anything other than advise our Parliament and is denied access to the Courts of Australia for any endeavour it may subsequently make to achieve an upgrade to its advisory role.
If Albo makes this commitment to Parliament, I am of the view that he will turn the tide of voters who are currently moving into the NO camp with steadily increasing numbers..
To be certain it does win, the YES campaign must stop declaring publicly that their opponents are racist, stupid and irresponsible. Right now, they alienate undecided voters every day.
The blunt truth is that YES is running the most amateur campaign of insults I have ever witnessed in my life of 9 decades, thereby lowering themselves to the same dark depths of fear and lies to which the NO campaign has woefully descended.
May I beg the current leaders of both the YES and NO campaigns to please resign, shut up and allow sensible people to debate the crucial issues of this vital Referendum which simply corrects an omission that occurred in 1901 when Australia became a nation and failed to acknowledge our indigenous heritage in our Constitution.
With a commitment to correcting a mistake of history.
Six years ago, eminent leaders of Indigenous Australians met at Uluru to draft and agree upon a Statement from the Heart. This led them to make a courteous request for a Referendum to be held to approve the establishment of a Voice that would enable them to make proposals to Parliament without having any legislative power.
Some delegates walked out in protest as they wanted to negotiate a Treaty similar in spirit to the one New Zealand Maoris signed at Waitangi 180 years ago. However, the support for Voice was substantial and the debate on Voice versus Treaty is evidence of democracy at work.
The expectation at Uluru that day was one of hope that participation in a vote for Voice would unite our country in a way that Australians have not experienced in the 235 years since the British invasion of the continent.
Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison rejected Voice, but Anthony Albanese committed to it in his 2022 election campaign and has honoured that mandate as Prime Minister. Referendum legislation has now passed the Parliament and we all have the right to vote on it in October this year.
However, the YES and No campaigns are now locked in a bitter and nasty battle that is tearing Australia apart in a way that was never intended by the initial advocates of Voice. Both sides must share the blame for this.
YES is ultra sensitive to questions of how Voice will work, insisting that all will be revealed after the Referendum. Their responses are too often unnecessarily abusive declaring any questioner to be either racist or stupid or both. Quite extraordinarily, they are oblivious to the obvious fact that if people vote No because they don’t get the information they request, there wont be any Voice legislation to reveal to us as the Referendum will have been lost.
NO gives the clear impression that their opposition to Voice is based solely on the fact that, because of their small numbers in Parliament, they see this Referendum as the only opportunity they have to enjoy a political victory over Anthony Albanese before Election 2025 and they will not waste the opportunity. Their campaign is based on the crude political art of spreading false information that sounds like truth, causing many people who intend to vote NO for legitimate reasons to publicly disassociate themselves with Dutton, Littleproud, Hansen, Price and Mundine, meaning that there will be little political gain for them.
The sad fact is that both sides are hugely fostering deep divisions that are destroying the social fabric of Australia.
I have stated publicly on many occasions that I am a YES voter and a Yes advocate as is proven by the speeches I have made over the past year to older Australians of my era and I can tell you that I have not yet been in a room where Yes voters have been in the majority.
In question time after my speeches, or during the coffee break when people can speak in confidence, I find that these are the most persistent questions for which answers are sought and I don’t have sufficient information to answer their concerns.
*How many members will be elected to Voice?
*What will be the annual cost to the Budget for the operation of Voice?
*As there are twice as many Indigenous Members of Parliament as Indigenous people should be entitled to have as a percentage of the population, why can’t those Parliamentarians be asked to do the work of Voice as a specially appointed committee within the Parliament where they can wield influence?
*Will Voice be able to significantly help solve the social and financial and justice issues that have beset Indigenous Australians for a long time and can Voice create genuine value for the expenditure of billions of dollars this is spent by governments in continually failing to solve these problems?
*How can we trust politicians not to give Voice greater powers after the referendum when we know that the disgrace and deceit of Robodebt is a vivid reminder of the long list of the ways in which politics has consistently failed us in years past?
*Can we be guaranteed that Voice is the only constitutional change that Indigenous Australians will request? Will there be more after this one?
I could list other legitimate questions that are regularly asked by decent people, but these are the prime ones.
But I also reveal with sadness that when I seek answers to those questions so I can use them at meetings I address, the YES campaign hits me with criticism for committing the mortal sin of asking, even though we live and vote in a democracy which entitles us to ask.
Right now, Voice is on a pathway to defeat.
This will be an horrendous tragedy as enormous social divisions will be created. It will ensure that Australia becomes a pariah nation on the world scene while racial hatred steadily consumes our country.
It can be avoided if both the YES and No campaigns make long overdue decisions to act responsibly so people can vote in confidence without fear of the future.
I will continue to advocate for YES to Older Australians who currently hold many negatives in their minds about Voice despite having one hand tied behind my back by leaders who refuse to answer questions.
No matter what happens, I will always believe that the magnificent mountain we proudly call Uluru is the spiritual heart of our nation and I will never ignore its cry for justice and peace to be embedded in our souls.
If current circumstances prevail, NO will win the Voice Referendum decisively, and this will be a tragedy for Australia.
As a YES voter & YES advocate who campaigns every day for YES to VOICE, I can assure you with certainty that a NO victory will occur for one reason only.
VOTERS DO NOT TRUST POLITICIANS.
Let me give you a factual example of what will happen if the debate on the Voice Referendum continues its current course, especially given the fact that only 18% of Australian referendums have ever produced a YES vote and none have won with the Opposition arguing the NO case.
Back in 1967, I went to my local polling station to vote in 2 referendums on the same day. One enabled indigenous people to have basic democratic rights that were long overdue. The other tried to alter the Constitution to have more electorates created in the House of Representatives without increasing the size of the Senate.
I voted YES to both. 90% of Australians voted YES to indigenous rights but 60% voted NO to having more MP’s in Parliament.
The ‘More MP’s’ referendum was strongly backed by ALP Liberals Nationals in a rare act of unity. The sole opponent was the small Democratic Labor Party led by Senator Vince Gair who had previously been sacked as Premier of Queensland during the great Labor Split and was yearning to take his revenge on everyone for that humiliation.
Gair lacked substantial funding so he campaigned aggressively on one simple slogan –
NO MORE POLITICIANS
and said it over and over again in every speech he made & every media release he issued.
He crushed the well financed campaigns of the three major parties who wanted to create more MP’s.
Right now in 2023, most Australian voters distrust and disrespect politicians far more than was the case in 1967 and they see Voice as creating another lot of politicians who will generate more distrust.
Much more significantly they reckon that, after the Referendum, politicians will fail to deliver on their promise that Voice will have no power to legislate, given that Clause 3 of the Referendum wording clearly gives Parliament the right to determine the powers of Voice. So it is that a majority will vote NO in huge distrust of politicians unless Parliament takes urgent action to fix this significant roadblock.
A ‘YES’ LOSS CAN BE CHANGED TO A LANDSLIDE VICTORY IF THE YES CAMPAIGN TOTALLY REFORMS ITS FAILED STRATEGY OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS AND REQUESTS PARLIAMENT TO IMPLEMENT VITALLLY ESSENTIAL LEGLISLATIVE COMMONSENSE RIGHT NOW.
The very simple formula for a YES victory is this.
Introduce to Parliament and pass without delay, immediately it returns from the winter break at the end of July, a concise Bill that will, automatically and indisputably, become law when VOICE wins the Referendum in October.
The Voice Governance Bill must cover, in the clearest and briefest terms, the basics of these crucial issues,
*Who is eligible to vote in Voice Election.
*How many members will be elected to Voice, how long will their terms be and what will be their annual salaries and expenses .
*How many staff will each Voice member have.
*What Voice will cost to operate in Year One, including the cost of the building from which it will operate.
*By what means will Voice convey its proposed policies to Parliament, Government and the people of Australia and what is the time limit that Parliament will have to respond to each policy proposal.
This quite concise and practical legislation will enable voters to choose YES with confidence.
It will also open the door for Parliament to establish the administrative details of how all of the above basic elements will work in practice after the referendum is passed.
The debate in Parliament in passing this urgent Bill, in both the House and Senate, will be to provide a high profile platform for educating millions of voters on the absolute commonsense of Voice before they have to vote.
Once this Bill is passed, no voter will be able to say that he or she is unaware of how Voice will work. It will be enshrined in law before they vote, ready to be implemented without change after they vote.
Dutton Littleproud Hansen will oppose the Bill in panic as they are very aware that it will completely invalidate their campaigns of false information and fear.
Let me again restate an undeniable fact,
THE VOICE REFERENDUM WILL BE DEFEATED UNLESS THE ABOVEMENTIONED BILL IS PASSED BEFORE WE VOTE.
It will be clearly irresponsible not to pass it,
Also, it will be totally false and insulting for advocates of Voice to say, after the defeat that will occur if they continue their current strategy, that it was caused because most Australian voters are racist.
It would also be true at that time to say once more as we pondered the ashes of defeat that we ignored the underlying view of voters that
to buy a signed copy of my book DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS.
Read my account of how New Zealand walked out of the Federation Conference of 1892 when it had been hoped that it would become the 7th State of the new nation, They rightly refused to have the citizenship status of Maoris reduced to the non status of Aborigines. You will cheer New Zealand.)
On 1 January this year, as I do every year, I poured a wee dram of my finest scotch whisky (Lagavulin from Isle of Islay) and quietly proposed a proud toast to Australia and the Founding Fathers who brought our nation into being on I January, 1901.
I do this in acknowledgement of the undeniable fact that until the first day of 1901 there was no nation of Australia. That’s the day that 6 independent colonies came together to create our nation. It is the only day on which we can celebrate Australia Day. All other possible days that are suggested from time to time are cosmetic attempts to pretend to celebrate our nationhood.
26 January is quite clearly the wrong day for several valid reasons.
It is the day when the British created a jail for several shiploads of their convicts, plus the many shiploads that followed. They treated all of them brutally. I am descended from a convict (and proud of it). Why should I celebrate anything to do with the British inflicting agony upon him?
May I also ask why I should celebrate a day in which the British invaded a continent and began to steal it from its indigenous owners who had been here for 65000 years?
This totally unjustifiable invasion led to a war of occupation that lasted 100 years during which 30000 aborigines were shot defending the land that was theirs and another 100,000 died from diseases of civilisation brought by the invaders.
Do we really want to celebrate theft, murder and brutality? Fact is we have done so by accident. We simply started celebrating 26 January without giving any real thought as to what the day actually represents.
I cannot understand why we have any need to celebrate on 26 January when we all know that the rightful and only day to celebrate Australia Day is 1 January. It is a fact of history we have chosen to deny.
People who love public holidays say to me that if we celebrate on 1 January it will deprive them of the public holiday we are used to having on 26 January. They oppose any change because of that gross deprivation alone. Aborigines and convicts and the nation building of the Founding Fathers pale into insignificance for them compared with the loss of a public holiday.
However, we should all note that it will be no problem at all for our federal government to declare a replacement public holiday later in the year, hopefully to celebrate ENVIRONMENT DAY when we can plant trees and commit ourselves to stop polluting Australia.
Celebrating Australia Day correctly on New Years Day will also highlight positively our need to sadly note that our Founding Fathers did not acknowledge our Indigenous Heritage in our Constitution. Actually, they had no option as our State Governments insisted on retaining control of Aborigines and threatened to call off the Federation Movement had Aborigines been mentioned. Indeed, New Zealand withdrew from the proposed Federation because they wanted the status of Maoris recorded in the Constitution and their request was bluntly rejected by all 6 States.
However, we can do something positive towards correcting this huge error later this year by voting YES in the Voice Referendum.
May I say in closing that the dumbest thing about 26 January is that it occurs just at the time when our schools begin their year. We give students another holiday when they have just completed 6 weeks of holidays. Unbelievable really.
My regular readers will note that I hammer away about the disaster of 26 January every year. May I say that I will continue to do so until I take my last breath.
It is simply wrong (and stupid).
Which reminds me of another fact. 26 January is only New South Wales Day. The other five States were founded on different dates and treasure their first settlement just as proudly as NSW.
Your fair dinkum Aussie Mate
PS. You will note that I have featured below a great book by a fine Australian author Thomas Keneally. It is called A BLOODY GOOD RANT. This is a splendid description of my words above. It is also a great read that stimulates the mind. You will come across a number of chapters in which he makes very thought provoking comments about our image of Australia and our unintentional denial of our history.
As a committed YES voter and positive campaigner in the Referendum on VOICE, I request that a Bill containing this wording be passed by the Parliament of Australia immediately so that it will become law automatically when the Referendum is passed and cannot be altered without another referendum being held.
‘An ABORIGINAL and TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER VOICE will be established by adding these words to the Constitution of Australia.
Voice will have 35 Members who are Indigenous Citizens elected by Indigenous Voters for a five year term.
Each State shall elect 5 members, Northern Territory 4 and Australian Capital Territory 1.
Their election will be arranged and implemented by the Australian Electoral Commission.
The Rules and Procedures for the work of VOICE will be determined by Act of Parliament as will its annual operating Budget.
Voice will meet 4 times annually for one week on each occasion.
Its Members will debate and submit policies applicable to the livelihood of Indigenous Australians, especially a preamble to the Constitution and the wording of a Treaty that sets out their sovereign rights.
The policies will be transmitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives who will make appropriate arrangements for both Houses of Parliament to consider them.
Parliament will be under no obligation to accept them but the Speaker will convey a response to VOICE within reasonable time on each occasion.
This legislation automatically becomes law on the passing of the Referendum.’
Sometime during the second half of 2023, we will be given the opportunity to vote YES or NO in what will be known as the VOICE REFERENDUM that arises from the ULURU STATEMENT FROM THE HEART.
As announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year, a YES vote in the Referendum will create an amendment to the Australian Constitution that will enable Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to participate in a democratic election to establish a VOICE which will meet regularly to recommend policies to the Australian Parliament which will have the total authority to accept or reject them.
After the Referendum, Parliament will debate and enact a Bill that creates the rules that will apply to the way in which the VOICE is elected and operates.
In reality it is quite simply a positive step forward in integrating 65000 years of heritage into our Constitution and our life as a nation.
I will vote YES and actively campaign for a Yes vote.
In doing this, I am well aware that a significant number of my friends intend to vote NO and have carefully considered reasons for doing so. I respect their right to vote according to their conscience.
Here are some of their reasons for voting NO.
*Australia is a nation that already has a voice – our Federal Parliament – to which we have elected a significant number of indigenous parliamentarians.
*The Voice will create apartheid.
*Australia provides billions of dollars to Indigenous people every year and this has been wasted. No matter what is done for them, they are ungrateful and will always want more.
*The establishment of a Voice will not solve the problems that are ingrained in indigenous society such as crime, unemployment, alcohol, drugs, health, housing, domestic violence, poor education and lack of skills.
*It is only city aborigines who want a Voice. Country aborigines have no interest in it.
*A Treaty, based on the Waitangi Treaty of New Zealand, would achieve more.
In response to these concerns and beliefs, I tell my friends the reasons why I will vote YES.
*Indigenous people were excluded from the Australian Constitution in 1901. This was an insult and a mistake which must be rectified now.
*When Britain, in 1788, invaded the continent we now call Australia, they stole land which had been occupied by indigenous people for 65000 years. The welfare that is now given to them is a tiny fraction of the value of their land that they have never ceded.
*100 tribes of Indigenous people have never been able to speak to the Australian Parliament with one democratically elected Voice. Previous institutions have been comprised of political appointees who did the will of the governments that appointed them.
*White people have always decided what is best for aborigines, never the reverse.
*Defeating the referendum will achieve nothing. This issue will never go away. We will just irresponsibly kick the can down the road so our children and grandchildren will eventually have to do what we failed to do.
*It is quite simply the right and decent thing to do.
I am certain there are other important reasons why people will vote YES or NO and these will emerge during the referendum campaign. However, the ones I have outlined give an indication of the general scope of the forthcoming debate.
The Albanese Government will not provide funding for either the YES or NO campaigns. Both sides are required to set up there own organising teams and raise their own funds. This is a good thing as it would be wrong for the government to be seen to be promoting YES even though it is a clear policy of the Labor Party. So, it must promote neither.
I have joined, as a volunteer, a significant group called FROM THE HEART and my role is to help organise a strong YES vote from the Senior Australians. My plan is to enlist as many older Aussies as possible to visit everyone in the streets around their own home to chat about the absolute common sense of having a VOICE. We won’t waste money on advertising. Face to face talking is the powerful way to sell this historic strengthening of our national life.
My gut feeling is that there is a significant task ahead.
Right now, my private polling of public opinion tells me that Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania are likely to vote NO and this will create a national defeat of VOICE as our Constitution says that a referendum cannot pass unless a majority of States vote YES.
I also suspect that Senior Australians will vote NO by a margin of 60/40 because of ingrained negativity about all indigenous issues generated over many decades, but I think that a positive campaign could make it 50/50. Young voters will then take it over the victory line.
Overall, I reckon that with sincere and courteous campaigning the cause for YES can achieve a positive victory and I intend do my best to make it happen. My experience is that most older Australians are responsible people who will try to do the right thing for the good of Australia once they understand the issues at stake.
Creating a VOICE is clearly a nation building exercise that will benefit us all.
Nevertheless, I have an open mind to debate any better alternatives that sincere advocates put forward as this issue will never go away. Defeating it will achieve nil.
Grace and Peace in the spirit of ULURU. It is a symbol of unity.
These friendly words of welcome were made last Wednesday by Hon. Milton Dick MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Australian Parliament.
I was visiting Parliament, negotiating on behalf of community projects in which I am personally involved, for the 121st time since my first visit there 66 years ago, covering an era in which 14 Prime Ministers have held office.
Milton had invited me to be his guest in the front row of the Speakers Gallery at Question Time, so I relaxed there as I took in the spectacle of Parliamentarians tearing one another apart – verbally – as usual.
During the proceedings, he announced my presence and the Members greeted me with warm applause. I was not expecting this, so I instantly decided that I better stand up and nod my thanks. This caused a bit more applause. I was quite moved by the honour, especially as the response came from all Parties in the Parliament, something that does not often happen in a Parliament that is constantly becoming more divided.
That same evening, Milton invited me to share an upmarket whisky with him and other MP’s in the Speakers Office as we chatted about political people and events over my six and a half decades as a visitor to Parliament. As we enjoyed our drinks, he asked me to express an opinion as to who were the best and worst Prime Ministers in my era. I responded that I have no doubt that Julia Gillard was the best and Scott Morrison the worst.
The visit to Parliament in this past week enabled me to have private meetings with 29 politicians and bureaucrats. I made sure that I covered Labor, Liberals, Nationals, Greens. Independents. This is a practice I have followed over all the years as I learned long ago that, to achieve anything significant at Parliament, it is vital to get as many people and parties onside as is possible.
On this occasion, at the conclusion of my three days there, I can say with confidence that I am pleased with the progress made with my projects, but am always aware that I should have done better,
I must mention that I found this Parliament, led by Anthony Albanese, to be a much more progressive place on sound government than those run by Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. They were consumed by the exercise of power whereas this one shows clear evidence of genuinely trying to achieve results in an ever changing and challenging world of huge social, economic and religious divisions. A totally different attitude prevails at this moment and I found it to be refreshing. My hope is that it will continue to be so.
Right now, the major political battlegrounds are in the fields of industrial relations, anti-corruption, robodebt, voluntary assisted dying, child care, climate, environment, voice referendum, aged care and skills shortage, with many other initiatives in the pipeline. It will be good for Australia if most are successful
A few matters are obvious headline gatherers that are worthy of special comment right now.
*The Voice Referendum is currently in trouble. I found only a few MP’s who are confident that it will pass as most of them feel that Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania will vote No. The Australian Constitution clearly states that a majority of States must vote Yes for any Referendum to pass on the issue of constitutional change. I will vote Yes and will campaign strongly to secure an overall Yes vote as it is fundamentally wrong for Australia to have a Constitution that does recognise 65000 years of indigenous heritage. However, it will require a a well planned and very positive campaign to secure a Voice to that heritage.
*Along with the political demise of Scott Morrison, the power of the Christian Right has faded considerably in the current Parliament. I doubt that it will ever regain its influence as most Christians are in the centre ground of politics, not out on the extremes of the right.
*Many veteran Nationals and Liberals in Parliament intend to retire at the 2025 Election. They are resigned to the inevitability that Anthony Albanese will enjoy two terms as Prime Minister and Jim Chalmers will follow him for at least another 2 terms. They do not want to be in the political wilderness for so many long years. I can understand their feelings on this matter but the key issue is this. Can they find replacements who are Prime Minister material? This task is of great importance as they do not have anyone in their ranks at this moment who is electable as Leader of our nation. As matters stand at present, they are obviously very weak as the official Opposition. This is shown by their consistently poor performances at Question Time. Too many of their questions are embarrassingly ridiculous.
*The TEALS and other Independents are not political amateurs. They are preforming with positive credibility and getting results. One example of this is the humble but powerful performance of David Pocock in gaining amendments to Industrial Relations legislation.
So there it is for now.
Many things can change in a hurry in politics, so nothing is certain. But, for now, the new Labor government is doing better than most people expected.
I will be back there in Canberra in February. It may be a different world by then. Who knows.
But let me close by saying that I will never ever forget my first meeting with Sir Robert Menzies way back in 1956. He had a commanding presence and looked and acted like a Prime Minister of huge distinction. The key issue to remember is that he clearly occupied the centre ground of politics. It was obvious that he was a genuine Liberal. He was not a Conservative. The future of Australian politics will always be in the Centre. The LNP must get back there in a hurry or remain in the lonely wilderness for decades.
Yours with an open mind.
My book DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS is enjoying increasing sales. Many Australians are realising that to vote in the voice referendum, they must have some knowledge of what our Founding Fathers put into the Constitution. My book is written as a thriller in which Barton, Deakin, Griffith, Kingston, Forrest etc are the very credible heroes.
Go to my books website, EveraldBooks.com, to place an order for it (and my other books).
Three weeks ago, a young Indigenous Aussie, just 15 years old, was peacefully walking home with his friends from the school they attended at Middle Swan in Western Australia.
His name was CASSIUS TURVEY.
They were attacked by a 21 year old man who hit him, and some of his friends, with an iron pole. He died two weeks later and his attacker has been charged with murder.
When he was laid to rest this week in the ancient and splendidly spiritual traditions of his ancestors, there was a genuine outpouring of grief across Australia as people of many cultures and religions met to light candles of remembrance. These gatherings were not organised as a part of any campaign against racists. They just happened. Indeed, the family of Cassius asked that his death not be used in any way as part of a political campaign.
Certainly, most of us do not want a nationwide crusade similar to that which happened when George Floyd was murdered by 4 police in USA. That incident was not a show of grief. It was as close to anarchy as it was possible to get. Simply, it was naked political unrest fostered by extremists who capitalised on the sincere feelings of many peace loving Americans who were appalled at Floyd’s death.
The death of Cassius is a stark reminder to all of us that we live in a violent society that is growing in its incidence of brutality for no valid reason.
This has been fostered by the ever growing use of hostile and insulting words that millions of us use every day in the normal course of our lives.
I cringe when politicians abuse one another in Parliament on every occasion they can. They set a dreadful example to the nation of disrespect and intolerance.
Media stirs divisions among us every minute of every hour of every day by creating controversial headlines that are blatant lies designed to divide society into warring factions that will support whatever sick ideology they are fostering at the time.
Social media is the worst centre of abuse by far. The bitterness, nastiness and lies that are spewed out every day are hugely disgraceful. So much so that I have recently taken up the practice of instantly blocking any follower or reader who is even slightly abusive, vulgar or hypocritical. We do not need them in our society in any shape or form.
We can commence our crusade against abuse by the way in which we participate in the debate during the forthcoming Referendum which will be held in Australia sometime during 2023 on the creation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander VOICE.
This referendum has the capacity to create huge social divisions across the nation, not because there is anything illegal or divisive or dishonorable about it, but simply because it will give racists and bullies a respectable platform to vent their appalling spleen across our society and try their very best to divide us into warring factions.
I intend to campaign strongly for a YES Vote simply because I passionately believe it is time to recognise in the Australian Constitution the 65000 years of Indigenous heritage of our nation. This was deliberately omitted when our Constitution was written and voted on in 1901.
However, I will use no nasty language and I will respect the right of opponents to express their differing views as citizens of a democratic nation. If ever I overstep the mark, I will apologise sincerely.
My profound hope is that Australia will grow as a nation that has a predominantly cohesive society and that, in the years ahead, young Aussies like CASSIUS will be able to live with an expectation of security in a peaceful community, no matter whether they are black or white or of any other ethnic group or religion or culture.
May I say this in closing.
I did not attend a public gathering for CASSIUS. I paused for a few moments at my home to quietly shed a tear for him. He died before he had the opportunity to play the music that was in his soul. There and then, I made a quiet commitment to work relentlessly to foster a nation of peace.
And I now remember the words of the great English poet, John Donne, (amended to remove the word Man).
‘The death of any person diminishes me as I am involved in humankind. Therefore, never ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for you.’
Let me say first of all that I have believed for many decades that Australia needs a new flag.
May I also say that I will never ever burn our flag no matter what its design may be?
My journey towards achieving a new flag for Australia began at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.
At that time, our National Anthem was GOD SAVE THE QUEEN. When an Australian won a Gold Medal, this was played as the Aussie mounted the podium. Exactly the same happened when a Brit or a Kiwi won. There was no distinction.
Even the most conservative monarchists in Australia began to openly say, ‘we must have a national anthem of our own that shows we are no longer a British colony.’ Some were also saying, ‘we must have a new flag too. After all the Canadians are getting a new one.’
It took a long time, but we finally achieved the goal of a new national anthem even though we blundered badly. WALTZING MATILDA, with new words, should have been chosen as this is the tune that the world instinctively identifies as being Australian.
But we have made no progress whatsoever in gaining a genuine Australian Flag.
The Union Jack, that is a predominant part of it, continues to tell the world we are a British Colony. No national movement of power is advocating a new flag and current thinking is that a new flag can naturally follow after Australia becomes a Republic, probably in 2024 or 2025. I fervently hope so.
In the meantime, our Aboriginal Flag has gained prominence and will continue be a permanent presence in the life of Australia even though many people are of the strong belief that Australia can have only one flag. Actually, we have three as Torres Strait Islanders have one too, but most of us have not been aware of it. If we really want to get round to considering the entire realm of our flags, all six States and both Territories have flags, so this makes 11 flags in all.
Now, to come to the current controversy.
During our national remembrance of the death of Queen Elizabeth, an indigenous protester publicly burned the Australian Flag, declaring that it commemorates the British Invasion of Australia that occurred when the First Fleet arrived in 1788. This resulted in the dispossession of land occupied by Indigenous people for 65000 years and the deaths of 30000 of them by gunfire and 100,000 by the diseases of white civilisation. In remembering this, it is important to note that no indigenous tribe ever surrendered or ceded their land to the British. It remains their own to this day.
While all this is true, Elizabeth was not personally responsible for it, nor is anyone living on our continent right now. So, the burning of our flag is offensive to most of our people. However, we will become very much to blame if we fail to do something positive about recognising Indigenous heritage and granting them a legislated advisory voice that they are entitled to in the affairs of the nation.
Our first opportunity to do this is via the Voice Referendum, currently scheduled to be held sometime in 2023. If it is passed, it will create a constitutional entity to which Aborigines will elect representatives. Those representatives will have power to debate any issues that relate to their people and present them to our Federal Parliament for consideration, However, Parliament will be under no legal obligation to approve them.
I can see no valid reason why this referendum should not pass. Indigenous people were not consulted when the Australian Constitution was drafted and approved in 1901 and they are not mentioned in it except to say they are the responsibility of the States. They have a fundamental right to be recognised as human beings and this small step will recognise it.
(It is appropriate also that I should mention too that women were not consulted about the Constitution in 1901).
Once this first step is taken, consideration can be given to the signing of a Treaty in the same spirit as was intended in the negotiation of the Waitangi Treaty in New Zealand in 1840.
The blunt fact is that if the Voice Referendum is defeated, the issue will not ever go away. It will remain as a festering sore of our national life forever so nothing will be gained by running away from it. We cannot hide behind the fact that dispossession of indigenous people has happened on every other continent. That fact of history does not make it right.
Nevertheless, having said all of the above, I strongly hold the view that the burning of our National Flag last week was unjustified.
Indeed, it was also very naive politics as it has lost the support of many people who were intending to vote YES. It was quite simply insulting and WRONG.
That lost ground means that much more positive work will have to be done to make sure that the referendum wins.
A proud Australian who intends to vote YES and campaign strongly for a YES vote. It’s time.
For many years, I have been appalled by the attitude of people who say,
‘When the Queen dies, I will be happy to vote in favour of Australia becoming a Republic.’
What they, in reality, have been callously saying is this.
‘I don’t want to offend Elizabeth, but I have no problem with insulting Charles’.
Why are they happy to declare Charles to be a lesser monarch than the Queen? I can assure you from personal experience that he is actually a decent bloke.
Fact is their thinking is totally emotional, has no shred of logic and is offensive to the King.
Most Australians don’t realise it, but right now two thirds of the members of the Commonwealth of Nations are Republics and the Queen had a good relationship with all of them. So will Charles.
The prime example is India, It won its freedom from Britain in 1947 and immediately became a Republic, severing all constitutional connections with the British Crown, but happily joined the Commonwealth of Nations. Since then, they have invited the Queen to visit them on three occasions and she accepted three times, with huge crowds turning out to greet her. Does this indicate she was offended by them becoming a Republic?
Australians who used the ‘Queen Excuse’ to oppose Australia becoming a Republic have shown themselves to be shallow.
So, lets cut out the emotional nonsense and get down to discussing how Australia formally severs its connections with a decadent Downton Abbey society and becomes an independent nation.
What can stop us from becoming a Republic right now?
There will be a temporary delay due to a timing problem. We have no option but to wait until the Indigenous Voice Referendum has been held in mid 2023 as it is already underway and is a matter of some controversy that can’t be avoided. I intend to vote Yes, but the opposition will be significant.
Nevertheless, we can begin to prepare for it.
An initial hurdle is that we must face the fact that the words ‘Republic’ and ‘President’ switch off far too many voters. People identify those titles with nations like USA and Russia and Trump and Putin, They are a huge negative that will cause the referendum to be lost. So I think it makes common sense to stick with the existing words of ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ and ‘Governor General’.
I have sought legal advice and find it is possible to remove all mention of ‘The Crown’ from the Constitution of Australia and still remain a Commonwealth. A referendum will gain approval for this far more easily than one based on a republic.
It is also wise to retain the title of Governor General as this maintains a relationship with State Governors and removes the huge negative of the word President.
The crucial debate will be centered on the method of appointing a Governor General.
Will he or she continue to be chosen by the Prime Minister as happens at present or can the appointment be made by a vote of a Joint Sitting of both Houses of Parliament with a two thirds majority being required.
In achieving such a vote in the Parliament, should the nominees to be voted on be eminent citizens who are proposed by the People of Australia via a Petition to Parliament or do we let the politicians choose the candidates.
Or should the Governor General be appointed by a direct election in which voters make the choice, not Parliament. Does this mean that a politician will be elected who then feels he or she has a political mandate? It will be necessary for the Constitution to be amended to say that no current or former politicians are eligible to run. The Irish have made direct election work well in Eire so it is possible.
These issues simply remind us that there is a lot of debate to be held before we can decide what is best for Australia.
So, testing times lie ahead.
However, the death of Queen Elizabeth puts it all on the Agenda right now in a far greater limelight and urgency than ever before. Also, the controversial status of the current Governor General over the ‘Morrison Affair’ has highlighted the need for changes to be made as Australia voters had no say whatsoever in the appointment of Hurley.
A step forward will be to create a Constitution Panel to draw up all the changes and additions to the Constitution that are necessary for a Referendum in 2024.
Let’s get this moving but let me say this in closing.
Even though Britain faces dark economic and social challenges at this moment, the Brits have one huge talent they can once more show to the world. They have a magnificent capacity to organise quite breathtaking funerals. The one they did for Diana was an absolute cracker. This one will outclass that one by a huge margin as it is one for the ages.
Elizabeth was as close to a saint as the Brits have had in their royal history. Every republican I know holds her in high regard as a person. They will eventually feel the same way about Charles. In the meantime, they just want Australia to be an independent nation.
Sometime during 2023, a referendum will be held to determine whether constitutional provisions can be approved to create an Indigenous Voice within the process of democracy in Australia.
Its passing will not alone solve the many cultural, social and economic challenges that face Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, but it will constitute a step forward along a pathway to find solutions to some of the more significant divisions in our society.
At the annual Garma Festival held recently in the Northern Territory, Anthony Albanese announced the words that are proposed to be included in the Australian Constitution if the voters of Australia approve them.
They are –
1. There shall be a body to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
2. 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.
3. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have powers to make laws with respect to the composition, function, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Consultations will be held around Australia before the final wording is put to us at the Referendum when we will vote quite simply – YES or NO.
I intend to vote YES and to publicly campaign strongly for a majority of voters to do likewise.
How did we reach this point in our history?
Except to state in the Constitution that Aborigines are a responsibility of State Governments, the Founding Fathers in 1901, ignored them.
There was a widely held belief that they were a dying race and would have no part in the future of the nation. Indeed, the indigenous population was declining at that time, but this is not now the case. The reverse is occurring. 3.5% of the population of Australia now identify as being indigenous.
At that time, New Zealand withdrew from participating in the proposed Federation as they had already signed a treaty with the Maoris at Waitangi in 1840 and made them full citizens, something that the Australian States did not ever attempt to do and were not willing to do.
To our eternal disgrace, indigenous people were not given the right to vote until 1967, when a referendum gave approval with a vote of 97% in favour.
Then, in 1992, the High Court of Australia held that native title existed for all indigenous people.
Far too many Australian Governments have believed that they could achieve peace with aboriginals by buying their goodwill with money. Although billions of dollars have been spent in this way, little has been achieved.
Then, just a few years ago, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was prepared by the most significant gathering of Indigenous people in the history of Australia and presented to the Federal Government. Malcolm Turnbull declared that the voters of Australia would never accept it. Anthony Albanese believes otherwise.
So it is that you and I will now decide.
I wont set out here the case for either YES or N0.
This will be presented to us in the official referendum documents before we vote. I will now just comment on the draft wording that the Prime Minister has presented to us for consideration.
I find it to be acceptable except for two words.
The word ‘powers’ in the second line of paragraph 3, could cause the referendum to be lost. Paragraph 2 gives the Voice power to make representations only. Paragraph 3 gives Parliament power to give more power to the Voice. In my view, this can only be done via another referendum. The word should be removed from the paragraph.
The word VOICE is a strange title to give to a constitutional entity. It would be far better to call it an ASSEMBLY. This gives it the stature it deserves and we can more readily understand what it is.
Let me make an additional comment.
Once this new body is formed, I hope that it will of its own accord reach out to every nationality now living in Australia to mutually agree of ways and means of becoming a more cohesive society. There are now more than 100 nations represented here and each could send one delegate to a gathering of goodwill organised by the Voice once every parliamentary term.
Finally, may I note with dismay that Pauline Hanson has announced that her political party will campaign for a NO vote. I had hoped that political parties would stay out of it so we can enjoy a genuine exercise in democracy that will bring us together as a nation. Sadly it wont be so. Racism will raise its ugly head and divide us.
After all, we are simply acknowledging that people whose ancient heritage of 65000 years, the longest in the history of the entire planet, should be recognised in our national constitution.
Its just a small step to take.
PS. Buy my book DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS from my website
It tells the mighty story of how our Constitution was written and approved back in 1901. Sadly it reminds us that only 20% of referendums to change or add to our Constitution have ever received the approval of voters. I hope that this one adds to the list of winners.