Pauline Hanson has delivered a blistering attack on the Voice to Parliament and one of the architects who says politicians should be ‘punished’ if they ignore the advice put forward by the advisory body.
The One Nation leader slammed the Voice as ‘divisive’ and claimed it would not remedy issues prevalent in remote Indigenous communities during a speech she delivered in federal parliament on Monday.
She also lambasted prominent ‘Yes’ campaigner Thomas Mayo after comments he made in a video published by Search Foundation, a left-wing foundation that markets itself as the successor group to the Communist Party of Australia.
The 2021 YouTube video, which was unearthed by ‘No’ campaigners and came to light for the first time on Monday, sees Mr Mayo attempt to debunk misinformation and arguments made against the Voice.
At one point, Mr Mayo tries to shut down criticism that an advisory body to the government would be ‘weak’.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson (pictured) has slammed the Voice referendum and prominent ‘Yes’ campaigner Thomas Mayo over comments he made
Mr Mayo said: ‘The power in the Voice is that it creates the ability for First Nations to come together through representatives that they choose, representatives that they can hold accountable.
‘And then go forth with coherent positions on how things should be – what legislation needs to be created, what legislation needs to be amended, what funding is needed and where.
‘And then be able to campaign for that, and punish politicians that ignore our advice. That is where the power comes from.’
Mayo said the Voice would also be protected from ‘hostile governments’ because of its ‘constitutional underpinning.’ A previous Voice-like organisation, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), was set up by Parliament in 1990 but was abolished by the Howard Government in 2005.
Senator Hanson turned to the parliament after reading his comment about ‘punishing’ politicians who ignored advice.
‘Is this your truth-telling? Is this what you mean?’ she said.
‘So someone who’s been caught on video tape saying this?’
Mr Mayo (pictured), said politicians should be ‘punished’ if they ignore advice from the advisory body in an unearthed video from 2021
In another video published that same year, Mr Mayo spoke about making compensation for Indigenous people a reality.
‘Pay the Rent’ for example, how do we do that in a way that is transparent and that actually sees reparations and compensation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people beyond what we say and do at a rally?’ he said.
The ‘Pay the Rent’ campaign wants homeowners to voluntarily pay a percentage of their income to Aboriginal elders without any government oversight or intervention.
Mayo has fronted Invasion Day, Black Lives Matters and May Day rallies in recent years, where he has delivered speeches advocating for the Voice and consitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
In a May Day rally in Port Kembla last month he reportedly said: ‘Every time, comrades, that we have established a voice as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the bastards have taken it away from us.’
The national Indigenous officer of the Maritime Union of Australia said past policies had negatively affected the lives of First Nations people and widened the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Mayo has delivered speeches at Invasion Day, Black Lives Matters and May Day rallies in recent years where he has advocated for the Voice (pictured, people at an Invasion Day rally in Sydney)
In March, Mayo stood shoulder to shoulder with a tearful Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as the official wording of the referendum question was announced
Mr Mayo explained that the referendum would be the best chance to close the gap and bring the country together.
‘As I’ve travelled around the country over the past six years, speaking to all kinds of interest groups, including people from all political persuasions, I have sought to bridge the gap by helping them to see it from their perspective,’ he told The Australian .
‘I stand by this referendum being a unifying proposal, it is about peace and love and that is purely my interest for this country.’
His advocacy has sparked criticism from prominent ‘No’ campaigners including Aboriginal Senator and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
She described Mayo’s comments as ‘divisive statements’ that were made ‘publicly and proudly’.
‘These shocking revelations speak to the aggressive and radical agenda behind the Voice and destroy once and for all the myth that this massive change to our Constitution is ‘a modest request’,’ she said.
‘He is very clear that the intention, the goal, the ambition of the Voice and this referendum is to divide Australians.
His comments have sparked backlash from ‘No’ campaigners such as Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price (pictured)
Speaking at the Sydney Writers Festival to promote his new handbook to the Voice to Parliament, Mayo said he’s throwing ‘everything he has’ at this referendum
Who is Thomas Mayo? The humble ‘wharfie’ at the centre of the Yes campaign
Mayo has become one of the most prominent campaigners in the Voice after contributing to the creation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017.
His career started as a humble ‘wharfie’, first as a maritime trainee at the Darwin Port Authority, followed by 14 years as a crane operator.
He eventually landed a job at the maritime union, propelled forward by his strong sense of justice.
He worked as a branch secretary and now, 19 years after arriving as a bright-eyed teen on the wharf, he’s the union’s National Indigenous Officer.
In March, Mayo stood shoulder to shoulder with a tearful Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as the official wording of the referendum question was announced.
For the first four decades of his life – including for the publication of his first books – Mayo went by Thomas Mayor. In 2022, he changed his surname to Mayo.
The decision was one to honour his heritage and revert to the name of his forefathers, revealing a priest a generation earlier ‘decided our last name was spelt wrong and changed it to Mayor’.
After demanding an end to ‘all fearmongering’, Mayo warned a ‘no’ outcome from the referendum would ‘give [politicians] a mandate to ignore us, to not listen to us, to continue with the dog whistling’ and to ultimately ‘take our nation further toward Trump-ism’
Speaking at the Sydney Writers Festival last month to promote his new handbook to the Voice to Parliament, which he co-authored with veteran journalist Kerry O’Brien, Mayo said he’s throwing ‘everything he has’ at this referendum.
‘I’m not going to stop working until the referendum,’ he said. ‘We must win.’
Mayo was born on Larrakia country in Darwin, and has previously claimed he learned to hunt foods with his father and island dance from the local Torres Strait Islander community of which he was a member.
Speaking to the Judicial College of Victoria earlier this year, Mayo said he was a ‘really quiet fella’ who ‘never expected to be doing what I’m doing’.
He said he is motivated by a ‘dislike of injustice’, and learned most of what he knows ‘about solidarity and acting collectively’ during his near two decades on the wharf.
‘My mum and dad weren’t engaged in politics in any way,’ he said. ‘My dad is the type that just wants to get on with it and says what’s all the complaining about.’
‘It was from the older wharfies [who inspired me]. I learned a lot from those union elders.’
Mayo was born on Larrakia country in Darwin, and has previously claimed he learned to hunt foods with his father and island dance from the local Torres Strait Islander community of which he was a member
By 2010, he was offered an opportunity to ‘step up’ in his advocacy work. He said: ‘I loved working on the wharfs, driving on the cranes, sweating it out in the heat. But… I thought it was time to start using my brain a bit more.’
Thomas Mayo hits back at criticism of Voice
One of the main arguments against a Voice to Parliament is the notion that there are ‘already Indigenous MPs’ in positions of power who ‘have a Voice.
But Mayo said this is completely irrelevant and, potentially, fleeting.
‘Indigenous members of parliament firstly represent the electorates they’re elected to represent,’ he said.
‘They have to do that to get re-elected… and, their loyalty is to their party.
‘They’re not representing Aboriginal people. We don’t know how many will be elected next time around.’
Mr Mayo said a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament is about ‘consistency’.
‘These are representatives that we get to choose, that we get to hold to account in our own elections. We can see what they’re saying on our behalf.
‘This gives us an enhanced democracy,’ he said.
Mayo argues a Voice to Parliament would enhance the nation’s democracy and boost our social standing among the rest of the world.
Despite criticism from the right, Mayo said Indigenous Australians ‘are not heard right now… not a priority because we have no democratic effect’.
He argued gaps in life expectancy and higher incarceration rates further prove his point.
‘For me, it means justice,’ he said. ‘It means recognising what should have been recognised from the very beginning when Cook arrived.’
He helped to create the Uluru Statement from the Heart, arguing that his people have ‘always put through proposals to have political representation – a voice, essentially’.
‘We did the hard work. All of that consensus building, the debates, the passionate discussions to compromise amongst ourselves. The nature of consensus is never getting everything that everyone wants.’
Back in November 2022, Mayo called journalist Kerry O’Brien, asking if he’d be interested in collaborating on his next book.
The book, recently published, would be a ‘guide’ to the Voice to Parliament, designed to answer the questions of the general public and filter out the unnecessary political infighting.
O’Brien told the crowd at SWF he’d never done anything like it, but that it didn’t take him long to agree.
He said he has no doubt the Australian public largely want to see the referendum succeed.
If it doesn’t, he said, ‘it’ll be a matter of confusion and fear – which is the entire strategy’.
‘How obscene is it that some people stoop to the lowest of the low to claim that Aboriginal people will use the voice to feather their nests,’ he said.
‘Look to the character of the people holding these conversations to determine who is speaking truth and who isn’t… who do you believe?’
The primary argument of the ‘No’ campaign’ is that there is not yet enough information about how the Voice to Parliament would work.
Peter Dutton previously said the referendum could ‘have an Orwellian effect where all Australians are equal, but some Australians are more equal than others’ – a direct reference to George Orwell’s satirical novella from 1945, Animal Farm.
He said he is motivated by a ‘dislike of injustice’, and learned most of what he knows ‘about solidarity and acting collectively’ during his near two decades on the wharf
Mayo has become one of the most prominent campaigners in the Voice after contributing to the creation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017
The bill on the Voice will finalise the wording that would be placed in the constitution should the referendum succeed, and the question that would be put to voters.
The referendum is due to be held between October and December this year.
The vote will need support from the majority of Australians in the majority of states to be successful.
The Voice will establish a body that can ‘make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.
This body – comprised of Indigenous people from a range of ages and demographics – would give advice to the government.