WILL THE BURNING OF THE FLAG OF AUSTRALIA HELP OR HINDER THE PASSING OF THE VOICE REFERENDUM?

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.

Sincerely,

Everald Compton

A proud Australian who intends to vote YES and campaign strongly for a YES vote. It’s time.

POLITICIANS AT PRAYER

While I was in Canberra attending the Opening of Australia’s newly elected Parliament in the last week of July, I was invited to coffee with the Rationalist Society. They were making calls on MP’s and Senators advocating that Parliament should permanently drop the historic tradition of beginning each day of debate with a prayer.

When they invited me to join them for coffee, my first thought was that the issue was trivia, but I had 30 minutes to spare and decided it could be interesting to find out why they chose to spend time, money & energy making an issue of this.

I found that they are rational people who try to live by exercising rational thoughts and rejecting all aspects of the impact of spirituality in doing so.

They believe that Parliament is a place where legislation is to be debated in a rational manner and must devote its time to doing exactly that. Praying for guidance from a God has nothing to do with it and no Parliamentarian should ever use his or her personal religion to influence the Parliament.

So, they hold the firm view that prayer to a Christian God, or any other God, has no place in any Parliament, especially as the most recent Census shows that less than 50% of Australians identify with any religion and, therefore, would certainly approve the removal of prayers from the daily agenda.

They also believe that the Christian prayer discriminates against Muslim and Jewish Parliamentarians, as well Indigenous ones who have their own heritage of spirituality. There are also several atheist and agnostic MP’s.

Above all, the records show that only a small number of MP’s and Senators ever attend the saying of the prayer which is recited in a boring tone without conviction. Just enough are there to ensure a legal quorum is present. While the prayer is being said, those present can be seen reading and answering their emails and texts.

It really is a farce.

The Rationalists say it should be replaced with 5 minutes of meditation when members reflect on their conscience and personal responsibility to the voters of their electorates in the matters to be debated that day.

I note that the Rationalists have achieved some success. The newly elected President of the Senate has publicly supported them. At another level of government the Wagga Wagga Council, by a vote of 5 to 3, scrapped the prayer at the opening of Council meetings and replaced it with a time of reflection when all Councilors are required to be present.

May I raise another matter which is similar?

We should remove the practice whereby those being sworn into Parliament are asked to ‘take a holy book in your right hand and swear etc’. This usually means a Bible or Quran. What they should be holding is a copy of the Constitution of Australia. However, I was in the Gallery and noted that about a quarter of the Parliamentarians refused to hold anything, but the ceremony went ahead anyway.

(I would have objected on the grounds that I am left-handed).

However, the issue that really aggravated me was the requirement that they swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, not the People of Australia. This is an absolute disgrace.

Be this as it may, my great hope is that one day our Constitution will state that no one can nominate to be elected to Parliament unless they have a proven record of voluntary service to the community, no known violation of gender equality & have successfully completed a course of study that has embraced a full understanding of democracy, the constitution and how government and parliament actually perform their work. This will raise the quality of Parliament by 1000%.

So it was that at the end of a pleasant coffee chat, I wished the Rational Society well, but said that I want, at age 90 & growing in frailty, to concentrate on 3 personal passions – railways, longevity & Uluru.

Plus writing books about physical and social nation building.

You can buy them on my website

https://everaldcompton.com.

It is actually a rational thing to do.

Everald

A long term working partner of Jesus of Nazareth in striving to create a better world.

ONE SMALL STEP

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.

Everald.

PS. Buy my book DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS from my website

EVERALD@LARGE

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.

A WEEK IN THE HALLS OF POWER

A decade of coups has caused the Australian Parliament to be a fragile example of the way that democracy is meant to work.

However, no matter whether you belong to right or left, we can acknowledge the fact that the arrival of the Albanese Government has changed the political atmosphere around the nation and created hope that we can experience a long period of political stability that enables us to achieve positive progress in meeting many significant challenges that face us.

Be this as it may, I have been an annual visitor to the Australian Parliament for 64 years, the first being way back in the days of Robert Menzies, and I continued my pilgrimage in this past week, enjoying the experience. MP’s told me that no one in Australia can beat that record.

I flew into Canberra on Sunday on yet another delayed Qantas flight, just in time to enjoy a splendid dinner at the Kingston home of my friend, Stephen Koukoulas, whom I regard as Australia’s finest economist, as well as being an astute political observer. He gave me a solid briefing on the political scene in our nations capital.

Armed with this, I descended upon Parliament for the next four days, having managed to organise 34 meetings with Members and Senators from the ALP, LNP, Greens & Independents, plus bureaucrats and press gallery. Some meetings lasted only 15 or 30 minutes, but others took an hour or more over breakfast, lunch or dinner.

A range of issues were covered in our conversations, with the key ones being my priorities – railways, longevity, housing, climate & Uluru referendum.

Here are three personal impressions of how Australia is travelling in political terms right now.

*When the Uluru Referendum is held, it will starkly divide Australia as Hanson and Palmer, backed by some high profile ultra conservatives from the LNP, will run one of the greatest scare campaigns of all time in an attempt to convince us that our homes will soon be taken from us by the traditional owners. Nevertheless, I feel confident that the referendum will produce a positive result and I am personally committed to work as a volunteer on the YES campaign to encourage oldies like me to back it solidly.

*The passing of Climate Legislation will be a solid test of the leadership skills of Anthony Albanese. The climate commitment he made during election campaign was better than that of Morrison, but far short of what is needed. To pass his climate bill through the Senate, he needs every Green Senator to vote with him, plus one Independent. This will be near impossible to achieve without expanding the goals of his climate policy as Independent David Pocock is the one most likely to vote with him. He is a deeply committed climate activist who will ask for upgrades.

*Inflation, plus the steep interest rate rises it is creating, is the most formidable hurdle for you and me right now. We will be hit hard, but we will survive. I have significant confidence in the economic knowledge and skills of Treasurer, Jim Chalmers. I first met him 15 years ago and we chat regularly. He knows what he is doing and does it calmly. You can have confidence that we are headed in the right direction.

A couple of matters especially upset me.

*I attended the swearing in of most of the 151 Members of the House of Representatives and was appalled when they were asked to give their allegiance, not to the people of Australia, but to the Queen. This means that they have sworn not to be accountable to you and me. This is a disgusting travesty of democratic justice.

*I had hoped that the behaviour of our leaders at Question time would improve. It has not. They still abuse one another. Don’t watch it. It is an appalling spectacle that represents a bad example to the nation and a total waste of your time and mine.

However, there are some good things happening.

*Seven indigenous people have been elected to the Parliament. This is a record. And its a good one.

*There are more women in Parliament than ever before and most of them are top quality. Cheers.

*My friend Milton Dick was elected Speaker. He will reform the way in which the entire Parliament and its staff go about their business. Discrimination by gender or race or religion will not be tolerated.

Did I enjoy this visit to Parliament? YES.

Is there really a positive attitude of change in the Parliament? YES

We can enjoy life with confident calm so long as we live and work with skill, confidence, determination and persistence, while ensuring there is justice for all.

Grace and Peace.

Everald

Buy my book DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS and absorb the sad details of why indigenous people were left out of the Australian Constitution in 1901. It will encourage you to help fix this injustice.

You can buy it from any online bookseller or my personal websites.

https://dinnerwiththefoundingfathers.com

EVERALD@LARGE