Waleed Aly reveals the ‘biggest mistake’ about the Voice to Parliament referendum
Waleed Aly has revealed what he thinks is the biggest mistake from the Yes campaign of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
The Logie-winning Project co-host weighed into the debate three weeks out from the October 14 referendum as the Yes campaign tries to recover from the dwindling support lost in recent months and remains on track for defeat.
He claims the campaign’s ‘biggest mistake is selling itself as an antidote to history, not the future’.
Aly believes the Voice debate is now at a point where the specifics aren’t particularly relevant and has little to do with the merits of a constitutional advisory body.
‘That debate, once preoccupied with dry questions of remit and legal consequences, seems to have given way to a contest over grander narratives of national history and identity,’ he wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday.
The Project co-host Waleed Aly (pictured with his wife) claims that the Voice’s ‘biggest mistake is selling itself as an antidote to history, not the future’.
Australians are split into three broad camps defined by conflicting approaches to our history, according to Aly.
There’s the No voters who wanted to move on from or escape the country’s history.
It was deceptively broad public appeal attracting not only white Australians but also first-generation migrants who arrive here seeking a fresh start and new possibilities.
The second group are the Yes voters who wanted to feel better about the past.
‘It proceeds from a sense of national guilt, but one that sits alongside a patriotism of sorts,’ Aly writes.
‘The aim is therefore reconciliation, so a less guilty version of the settler state can emerge. The Voice helps erode the tension between white guilt and patriotism, while leaving things broadly intact. This is the way educated people — mostly but not exclusively white — tend to think. Hence, we’re seeing the Yes vote being slowly reduced to that cohort.’
Anthony Albanese and Yes campaigners are on track to face defeat at the Voice referendum
He fears the dangers of pitching the Voice as a ‘grand historic moment is that ‘you’re asking people to see it as something deeper — a kind of ritual of national absolution’.
The final group are No voters such as Senator Lidia Thorpe who reject the legitimacy of the ‘settler state’ altogether.
Aly says there’s no knowing how many instinctive Yes voters the third camp has convinced to jump ship.
‘The Voice’s generosity is that it deliberately chooses reconciliation over antagonism. It buys in, rather than resists. That’s an attractive idea to most people, which is probably why initial support for the Voice was so high,’ he wrote.
‘To make the Voice an answer to both the past and the present is to add the full burden of history as well. And that, I fear, is too much for it to bear.’
Waleed Aly (left) says The Voice has given way to contest over grander narratives of national history
Aly’s comments follow a recent fiery on-air exchange with Senator Penny Wong on The Project when he asked whether the Voice could be the ‘first step’ to fresh demands, such as reparations or a treaty
‘No, of course it is not. You know that Waleed, and I appreciate you have to put that to me,’ she said.
‘But those who have been around in politics for a while might remember the apology debate, the apology was opposed by Peter Dutton and John Howard and many in the Coalition at the time and on that basis, on the basis of some of the misinformation or the things that you’ve just put to me.’
National support for the Voice has dropped below 45 per cent and could achieve worse result than the 1999 republic referendum if current decline rates continue.