EXCLUSIVE: Ray Martin’s foul-mouthed spray about how Australia will be tainted in the eyes of the world if No wins – as he’s told to apologise over insulting comments about ‘millions of Australians’

So, let me try and read the room for a moment, if I can. How many have decided to vote Yes? Be honest, who’s voting No? Really? Any undecideds? Well, we’re coming for you. 

So, what am I doing here? The Prime Minister asked me. And you can’t say no to Albo, especially as he is the number one Souths man. He asked me to speak tonight for the first time in this Yes campaign. 

But I worry that I’m going to die and nothing will have changed in Aboriginal Australia in my lifetime. I think this Yes campaign has kickstarted something really good. And I thank you for that and the promise no matter what happens, the promises and all the stuff.

As a journalist, I’ve covered politics for almost 60 years now. I started in Canberra interviewing Bob Menzies and Arthur Calwell back in the 1960s. I was only a baby, of course, at that time. 

But let me tell you, this referendum is not really about politics, despite what you hear and what you read and what Peter Dutton and the other mob claim. Doing the right thing is not political. It’s just doing the right thing.

It’s like being in favour of women’s rights or LGBTQ rights, and now black fella rights. No politics in that, nothing at all. It’s just the right thing. Don’t let them muddy the waters in our conversation. It is just the decent thing to do, as Albo said a number of times. There’s nothing tricky or complicated either. Don’t let them tell you it is. There’s nothing hidden. In the words of the referendum. No ulterior motives. No conspiracy. Nothing that has to be explained.

‘If you don’t know, vote No’. What a stupid, nonsensical slogan that is. If you don’t know, find out what you don’t know. What that asinine slogan is saying is if you’re a dinosaur or a d**khead who can’t be bothered reading, then vote No. The words of the referendum could not be simpler than they are. The No vote organisers also keep asking Albo for the details. What about the details? 

At this stage of the game, the details simply don’t matter. They never did matter. Honestly, they’re irrelevant. Over the next 10 or 20 or 30 years, no matter who’s in government, the details will change inevitably, as will the members of the Voice delegation from around Australia according to the needs and the priorities and the policies that are meant to close that bloody gap. You can’t write all that in the Constitution in 2023. Maybe your priority will be running water in the western desert communities, or education in the Territory, or ending rheumatic fever in the Gulf, or something else in Tasmania or Tenterfield, Marrickville and Mildura and Menindee will need help with their special problems. It’s a big country with lots of different demands and needs. 

How do you give the details of all that in the Australian Constitution? Of course, you don’t. A Voice written in the Australian Constitution locked in will mean that Australian governments of every persuasion in the future can’t sweep the problems under the carpet, or put them in the too hard basket, as they always seem to do. They will have to at least listen because it’s in the Constitution.

Because every Prime Minister I can remember when he or she, in Julia Gillard’s case, write their memoirs, they always seem to say that their greatest failing, their greatest regrets, greatest frustration was in Aboriginal Affairs, their failure to close the gap. They say it every time. It’s no good talking about what you didn’t do after you leave office. Do something while you’re in the Lodge. Something that makes a difference. And that’s what Albo is trying to do now.

Again, don’t be scared of these scare tactics. That’s the oldest cheapest political trick in the book. The Henny Penny syndrome. Yes, vote Yes and the sky will fall in. They will take your backyard. They will take your farm. They will take over. Well, take all that talk as bullshit. Like walking across the bridge that gloriest Sunday in 2000. Be afraid, don’t walk. You never know what will happen if you do. Or when Kevin Rudd said Sorry. Be afraid of what that’s going to bring. Guaranteed there’ll be calls for multi-billion dollar reparations. All the gloom and doom predictions and warnings and threats to Australia as we know it. Guess what? Nothing happened. Life and honour, we all felt a little better, in fact, a whole lot better about ourselves and about Australia. This referendum is the same. 

There’s nothing to be afraid of. A lot to celebrate. A lot to embrace and feel proud about. That’s if we vote Yes. This referendum is not about paying compensation as Albo keeps saying. It’s about recognising the first Australians who have been here for 65,000 years, probably longer. The oldest continuous culture on earth. How good does that sound? Sounds great, doesn’t it? All it is simply asking you for is recognition. Nothing more. Just recognising the first Australians in the Australian Constitution, our Constitution. 

It’s only taken, as Darcy said, about 235 years. But better late than never. As for the Voice, well, if it’s broke, let’s fix the bastard. And it is broke. It’s time, as Gough said, to do something different. Because what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked up until now.

What we’ve done for 235 years, often with the best of intentions and spending billions of your taxpayer dollars, is leave Indigenous Australians as the poorest, sickest, most suicidal, most imprisoned, jobless homeless people in our rich society. With poverty and third-world diseases like scabies, for God’s sake, that rubs their skin raw and trachoma that sends them blind five times the rate of white Australians, and rheumatic heart disease that kills so many Aboriginal children, guesstimate of two kids a week. And an overall life expectancy which is 20 years less than the rest of Australians. 

This referendum is clearly not about dividing Australia. It’s about caring. It’s about bringing us together. Fixing what our former, I think probably greatest Governor General, Sir William Deane, once called the festering sore of Australian society. 

The Voice isn’t going to fix poverty or disease overnight. That’s obviously going to take time. But it’s a small step in the right direction. And symbolically, like Sorry, it’s a major leap forward. But listening, just listening, no powers, no veto rights, just listening to Indigenous Australians may begin to help us find some of the solutions. It’s surely where it starts. Listening, rather than always telling the First Peoples what to do and what to think and how to do it. Failing year after year, and decade after decade. 

So, what do we got to lose? What are we going to lose if we vote Yes? Not a bloody thing. When you wake on the Sunday morning after the vote, your lives will not have changed one iota. Nothing. But the 350,000 or so, three per cent, First Australians it will mean just about everything. Or it will mean nothing.

I was telling Albo, two people saw our cameras and stopped to talk, as Americans like to do. One was a businessman from Salt Lake City, a Mormon. The other was an African American from Canada, an ex-professional gridiron player, he told me. Hearing we were from Australia, they both asked us separately, ‘How is the referendum going?’ Two of them. And I told them, quite frankly, it doesn’t look too promising at the moment if you listen to the polls. On the way flying home, it made me think, ‘What’s it going to be like?’ Just think. 

If we wake up on Sunday, October 15 and Australia has voted No, what will the New York Times and The Times of London and the best media in Europe and Asia and South America, what will the world say about us? We were asked, in a vote, if we wish to one, recognise the First Australians and two, give them a Voice. No powers, just a Voice so that they can be listened to. And Australia voted No. Ladies and gentlemen, as a proud Australian, that doesn’t bear thinking about it, does it? The way that the world sees us really does matter. You can’t say, ‘Well, f**k them’. It matters. Even more important is the way we see ourselves. 

Noel Pearson this week called the referendum the largest mirror we will ever look into as a nation. That’s a pretty powerful analogy. When we vote on October 14, what are we going to see reflected in that mirror? What are we going to see? A caring, decent united Australia moving forward with our First Nations people or something else? Looking at that Aussie mirror and please vote Yes on October 14. Thank you for listening to me.

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