‘The Voice’ has to be ready for the referendum process. It’s not

The right’s strategising is irrelevant. The Voice has to convince millions, and those millions will have questions.

(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

Someone tweeted on Twitter on the weekend about the Voice, something to the effect that while they will be happy to hear opinions from First Nations peoples about the future of the proposal, much less so from professional columnists and opinionistas. Yeah, uh, sorry, too late. The Voice is out of the box now, on the road to referendum, and the plain fact is that it is now a question for everyone.

The very act of taking this to a referendum makes it a general transformation of the way we are constituted as a state and a people. Autonomous political action, from starting a party to a tent embassy to unilateral declarations of sovereignty — yep, sure. No one else should give views or helpful advice unless invited. But if this thing is going to get up, then about 96% of the votes it needs are going to be non-First Nations (NFN hereafter). This is one of the many paradoxes of this push — the moment it was committed to referendum, by sheer weight of numbers, it instantly becomes an NFN thing, and a state object to boot.

This has started to become apparent to increasing numbers of people, as the machinery of referendum becomes visible — and we remember just how awful it is. As a country we basically gave up on referendums after the Hawke government’s disastrous run, when Labor lost heavily in 1984 on a grand plan to allow federal and state governments to exchange powers by agreement, and in 1988 when it presented a four-bill referendum that looked administrative but which was also overreach (four-year matched House-Senate terms, local government recognition, religious freedom and codified rights), and that was it — apart from John Howard’s 1999 republic trap, which took down the preamble question with it.

Read more about the Voice’s rocky road to referendum…

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