Australians are being ‘morally shamed’ into voting for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, a conservative columnist argues.
Peta Credlin, the former chief-of-staff for Liberal prime minster Tony Abbott, said the proposed Voice will be a race-based body that is more about ‘power than recognition’ but this is not how it is being sold.
‘It will be pitched to voters in oversimplified terms: as being for or against Aboriginal people,’ Ms Credlin wrote in The Australian.
Peta Credlin argues that Voice to Parliament advocates are trying to ‘morally shame’ Australians into voting yes
The Voice is a proposed body of representatives from First Nations peoples across Australia that will advise federal parliament on matters concerning Indigenous people.
Its creation will require a change to the Australian Constitution that will have to be brought in by a successful referendum vote.
As an example of ‘oversimplification’ Ms Credlin pointed to the launch this week of what she called the ‘big business’ campaign for a ‘yes’ vote, which is backed by the Uluru Statement Group.
The ad features Indigenous playwright and actor Trevor Jamieson telling rapt children the hopeful story of how First People are allowed a ‘say’ in matters affecting them, which they haven’t had.
‘The “feel-good” yarning to children around a campfire, is a sign of things to come,’ Ms Credlin wrote of the minute-long commercial, which will be mainly targeted at online audiences.
She noted that for previous referendums the federal government had funded campaigns both for a yes and no vote, but Ms Credlin doubted that would be done this time by the Albanese government.
‘Labor will rely on big corporations to deluge us with the Yes message and hope, without the millions to match them, that no one picks up the arguments of the No side,’ she said.
Ms Credlin accused those pushing for a Voice of being deliberately vague about what the body will do.
Ms Credlin argues that the Albanese government is relying on big business to fund the yes campaign, as in this image from the online ad launched last week, while hoping the no arguments get drowned out
‘The voice has to make a difference or what’s the point of having it?’ she wrote.
‘Yet that difference can’t be spelled out without almost certainly dooming it to defeat, hence the lack of detail.’
Ms Credlin believed Indigenous people already have a substantial say in the nation’s affairs, pointing to the number of MPs who identify as Indigenous.
‘Why establish a separate Indigenous voice to the parliament when it already includes 11 individual Indigenous voices that were elected in the usual way, without any affirmative action or race-based selection criteria?’ she wrote.
‘Why give one group of people, based on race, a special say over the actions of our parliament and our government that’s denied to everyone else?’
She argued the Voice was really a grab for power.
‘There’s abundant reason to be cautious about entrenching in our Constitution a race-based body that even Malcolm Turnbull once described as a third chamber of the parliament,’ she wrote.
‘It’s easy to see where this could end up going – down the path of co-governance.’
Mr Albanese has indicated the model pictured would form the basis of the Voice’s design and be refined as the debate evolved
Ms Credlin said the Voice had not really been ‘thought through’ and the danger is that Australians would be morally shamed into voting a ‘race-based’ Voice ‘based on a vibe’.
‘A couple of decades ago, we would have marched in the streets about a race-based body in our Constitution,’ she wrote.
‘Now we’re told we’re all but racist if we don’t support it.’
Will Australians vote for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament?
A poll by the Australia Institute in July found strong support for the Voice to be added to the Constitution.
The poll found 65 per cent would vote yes, up from 58 per cent when the same poll was run in June.
Some 14 per cent said they would vote no, with the other 21 per cent undecided.
Support was highest among Greens voters, but even 58 per cent of those Coalition aligned would vote yes.
Some 59 per cent of One Nation voters would cast a yes ballot, despite its leader Pauline Hanson leading the charge against it. This was up from 35 per cent in June.
For a referendum to succeed, a majority of the states must also vote yes, but the poll showed that was also easily covered.
All of the four biggest states had comfortable majorities with Victoria on 71 per cent, Queensland 66 per cent, WA 63 per cent and NSW 62 per cent.
Support was highest at 85 per cent for Australians aged 18-29 but those over 50 were still above 50 per cent yes.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has indicated the Voice referendum question is likely to be: ‘Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?’
Three lines would be added to the Constitution to create the advisory body; one stating it may ‘make representations to parliament’ on issues concerning Indigenous Australians; and that Parliament may legislate how it works.
To succeed a referendum must both get an overall majority of votes and a majority of voters in the majority of states.
Polls conducted in July indicated Australians strongly support the Voice to parliament with 65 per cent of respondents saying they would vote yes.