The Racist Con of ‘Indigenous Recognition’

Recent Australian political history is littered with the corpses of governments who blatantly reneged on election promises. When Julia Gillard promised that there would be “no carbon tax under a government I lead”, but created a carbon tax almost the instant she was elected, it was all over, bar the shouting. The same happened to Tony Abbott when he proceeded to break a number of key promises.

The message should be clear by now: Australian voters will not be played for mugs.

The Coalition government should keep that in mind, now that it appears to be changing its tune on a so-called “indigenous voice to parliament”.

Even worse, the government seems to be threatening to cut the Australian people out of the process entirely, and simply impose this dangerous, racist initiative by fiat.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt will lead a historic push for a referendum in this term of parliament to recognise Aborigines in the Constitution, vowing to put forward a “pragmatic” model that will receive broad public support.

In his speech to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, the West Australian MP, who was given the ministry by Scott Morrison after the May 18 election victory, also revealed the government would create an indigenous voice to parliament, which would advise government on Aboriginal issues.

The body could be created by legislation without being part of the referendum process that would seek to recognise indigenous Australians in the nation’s founding document.

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This would be an even worse mistake than entertaining the idea in the first place. Australians will rightfully resent having such a far-reaching measure foisted on them by a paternalistic state, however well-meaning.

Because the fact is that Aboriginal people are recognised in the Constitution, the same as every other Australian: “people of every State and of every part of the Commonwealth [of Australia]”. What they really want is special recognition based solely on race. This is a dangerous and regressive step.

The principle that all Australians should not be divided on the basis of their race or skin colour is a cornerstone of our freedoms and the rule of law. This clear principle — that race has no place in the Australian Constitution — is being ­undermined by a bipartisan campaign to divide Australians in our nation’s founding document by ­establishing a special body to represent indigenous Australia to be a “voice” to parliament on issues relevant to indigenous Australians.

What this will amount to is that a tiny segment of the Australian people, on no other merit than their race, will have effective veto power over every law and policy in the land. The constitution is the foundational legal document of the nation. A constitutionally-enshrined “voice” to one race will, therefore, oversee everything.

It is inevitable that a representative body for indigenous Australians would effectively practise a veto power over any policy passed by any Australian parliament. Rather than a formal veto power, the power of the body would be to shame parliaments into agreeing with its advice. The alternative is to oppose the indigenous voice. Conversely, an official, constitutionally enshrined voice that repre­sents one view might crowd out other views in the indigenous community.

Comparisons to the 1967 referendum are grotesquely false.

Australians then overwhelmingly voted to remove references to race in the Constitution. Now both parties are asking Australians to put race back into the Constitution. This is not progress in indigenous affairs, it is a significant backwards step.

Instead, however well-meaning the justification, identity-politics-besotted activists are trying to embed racial separatism in the constitution.

Any proposal to establish a ­special voice for some people and not others is illiberal and a violation of all principles of racial equality.

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The entire debate is by itself taking the nation down a very dangerous path. The proposal is founded in ethnocentrism and risks stoking the perilous fires of racial division. Should it pass, the referendum will enshrine racial supremacy for a minority of Australians and subvert representative government. If it fails, it will be yet another sop to the merchants of ressentiment.

Good government should be focussed on uniting Australians, not dividing them – least of all along lines of race.

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