Jun 14, 2018

Rundle: the Voice to Parliament sounds like a very bad deal

The Voice to Parliament, part three of the Uluru deal, seems like it can only end with the Senate and House throwing Indigenous people under the bus.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


indigenous flag in canberra

There comes a time when someone can be silent no longer, when despite the difficulties, the hesitancies, one must do that difficult thing, and speak.

Not to disagree with something -- that’s easy -- but to utter those fearful words: I Don’t Get It.

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39 thoughts on “Rundle: the Voice to Parliament sounds like a very bad deal

  1. Arky

    IDGI either Guy. I’m aware that I’m white with no background in Indigenous culture, so it isn’t necessarily mine to “get”, and the problems you have outlined seem obvious to me as well but it might be worth co-writing this with someone in a better position to talk about those criticisms and whether there is an answer from the point of view of Indigenous Australians or whether the average Indigenous Australian in the street is as non-plussed about it as you or I.

  2. Jim Egan

    There is only one solution for Indigenous people in Australia. …..abandon racial identity politics and join the modern world. We have been watching 40 years of white guilt throw money at the ‘problem’ with little or no result.

    We have seen Indigenous ‘self’management’ of taxpayers money through ATSIC; an entity mired in graft and corruption and dissolved by the agreement of both sides of politics.

    The hard truth is that Indigenous people need real jobs, and self sufficiency which cannot be had in the outback communities and the only solution is to get the able bodied off the communities to work in the real economy elsewhere.

    If Tongan workers can be imported to pick fruit and trim plantations in Australia, why cannot Indigenous people on Communities do likewise?

    1. Bob the builder

      Here’s your proof of point 6, Guy.

      1. pjp

        Thanks Bob for calling out Jim. He simply doesn’t get it, does he? We’ve had 230 years of this bullshit – so I guess Australia simply doesn’t get it.

  3. graybul

    IDGI either Guy. Where are the legal minds able and willing to interpret, advise? “There comes a time when “someone” can be silent no longer . . . . and speak”. Where the (expletive) are the leaders hiding? Thanks Guy / Bernard who have both come out today because so many Australians DGI; but more importantly, don’t care.

  4. AR

    As an analogy “A treaty constituted first peoples and settlers/arrivals, as equals, ..” that worked so well for Palestinians.
    The land was stolen, there can never be an equitable arrangement with the conquerors.
    Rob a bank of a mill, give back a couple of grand – yeah, that’s fair.
    And this is before we consider the intrinsic racism of saying genes rool, KO.

  5. Hunt Ian

    I do get it, Guy. The proposal is for a VOICE to parliament, in circumstances where most aboriginal peoples Australia have been treated as outcasts in their own land. All the legislative stuff is beside the point.

    It is true that most Australians have little voice. The loudest, most far reaching voice in Australia is that of the US citizen, Rupert Murdoch. Somehow, the legislation against foreign influence will ignore him. Some Australian citizens have a little say through Fairfax, local papers, Crikey and the Guardian and also on broadcast media. Many with a voice on broadcast media say little on anything of importance. On the other hand, the ABC and SBS give some voice to Australians on matters of importance (eg. “The Drum”, “Q&A”) and also give some voice to descendants of our first peoples.

    While Australian democracy is pretty hollow for most Australians, it has until recently been completely hollow for our first peoples. The voice to parliament will give them a significant voice for the first time. In the distant future, when all Australians have an equal say in our laws and policies, there will be no need for an aboriginal voice to parliament and people like that US citizen, Rupert Murdoch, will not have a disproportionate influence over what we think.

    In the meantime, I do get it

    1. Guy Rundle

      But the points i’m suggesting – that it will be a voice with no power, no budget, nothing to implement….doesn’t that set it up to be nothing other than a target? Does it not structure dependency and subjection into the arrangement. You havent really responded to any of my suggestions about how this might go.

      1. Hunt Ian

        Depends Guy on what is needed, which is to give public prominence to Aboriginal views and to give them the ability to make representations to parliament. If it is set up, it will have to have a budget to do that, just as Rupert’s resources give him his unfairly influential role. Still, if their role is not to provide daily propaganda and diversions in favour of the interests of the wealthy, they will not need the resources that Murdoch has for his role, exerting foreign influence on our government.
        So, of course it will have a budget for that role but not for other roles that flow from parliamentary legislation.
        And, of course, Murdoch will attack any voice that challenges his interests. So yes, to improve the position of aboriginal people will involve struggle and there may be set-backs as well as victories. But why would we suppose that a voice to parliament will be useless? Why should we suppose inevitable victory for those vested interests that seek to have aborigines continue as outcasts in their own land?
        I don’t get why you don’t get that I disagree with your defeatist assumptions about a first people’s voice to parliament, although I don’t have a pollyanna optimism about it either.

        1. Guy Rundle

          But it’s not funding a newspaper or a TV channel. It’s an assembly. Assemblies usually have power. This will have none.
          So it will look like the sort of things that will have power, but be subject to the whims of the actual parliament.
          It’s not ‘defeatist’ to suggest that a particular strategy is a bad idea. If all you’ve got in response to my criticisms is that, then it seems to be part of the problem i’m highlighting

          1. Hunt Ian

            Dear Guy,
            You’re right that it is not defeatist to say that something is a bad idea. I don’t think that an assembly that promotes aboriginal viewpoints on legislation and policies is a bad idea. It would be a bad idea if it had no means to publicise its views but I see no reason why it would not have the budget required to publicise its ideas. I agree also that publicity does not guarantee a good response from government but I do think it is defeatist to assume that such publicity would never put the government under pressure and would always be successfully countered by MSM, such as Murdoch media. Perhaps we are on different wavelengths and do not understand each other’s points. That would be a pity but it can happen

          2. Hunt Ian

            I should add that one does not need a newspaper or TV channel to get the public to listen to one’s view. You just need the capacity to make announcements that some newspapers or TV channels will respond to because the announcements come from a body that commands attention. I can express all the views I like in Crikey about human rights but I will not get the attention that Gillian Triggs got. And, of course, the government and Murdoch tried to suppress her views but they were not completely successful. They will get more successful if they privatise all media outlets, as in New Zealand, which probably has the world’s most boring TV programming courtesy of the neo-liberal fetishes pursued there for so many years. I hope Jacinta Sdern means that stuff is at an end.

          3. Andrea

            Having a voice in itself is a form of power.

  6. susan winstanley

    Between 1990 and 2005 ATSIC was a representative body for Aboriginal people only, with elections held every three years (conducted by the AEC) covering the entire continent, using cross-border family/tribe constituencies that were based in Aboriginal historical linkages not white colonial history (look up the map of ATSIC Regions and Zones, its a beautiful thing). This enabled them to build and experience democratic norms that we all take for granted. The process of enrolling Aboriginal people in very remote communities also got them onto the Commonwealth Electoral Roll (for federal elections) and kept them on the rolls and voting; the process of learning how to vote was undertaken by Aboriginal teachers and local elders and nurtured the leaders we see now; these activities united communities on lands recognised by Aboriginal people and often obscure to us. It was a growing thing that both major parties disliked because they could not control it. ATSIC was managed by Aboriginal people themselves and, given time and patience, provided a representative “voice” to relay their message to the rest of us, in a manner we could understand. Then a couple of “bad eggs”, blown up by the Murdoch press into a national scandal, gave Howard the opportunity to repeal the legislation and destroy the entire democratic project, with the help of the ALP, which shamefully backed Howard and killed ATSIC dead. The entire construct is still there in the repealed legislation, including the Regions and Zones established by the Aboriginal people after a huge amount of cooperative effort over the early years of preparation, and could be revived in a newly conceived format fit for the times. Think about it as a journey not a destination, it was about empowerment and it worked, as a continuous process of democratic education and engagement. A decade later, Aboriginal people are falling off the Electoral Roll at an alarming rate, and their involvement in federal/state/territory elections is diminishing fast, especially in the Northern Territory. Think about why this is happening, and who likes it that way.

    1. Guy Rundle

      But that’s my point. ATSIC had power on the ground, by having a budget to implement, and areas of responsibility. The VTP has none of these, and all of the problems that made ATSIC such an easy target: corruption, bureaucracy, inexperience etc. Worth taking that risk if there’s some power attached. This seems to have all the risks and none of the power.

      1. susan winstanley

        yes, but looks to me like Aboriginal people are quite deliberately treading softly with VTP, not to frighten the horses (money! power!). The road is the same, at some stage ATSIC style organisation will be needed, but until then they are asking for acceptance in principle. Are we capable of taking this leap of the imagination, without the ground being paved in concrete in advance? maybe not, at least not now, but there is movement at the state level on treaties, and this will open new prospects. We cannot give up

        1. Guy Rundle

          But if you are dealing with a state that is identified as a ‘white settler’ state, and acts against aboriginal interests whichever party is in power, what is a powerless assembly, but a target? What resources does one have for resistance? Your response to my criticisms is to accuse me of not taking a ‘leap of the imagination’ – which seems like contentless optimism, rather like Ian’s criticisms above. It’s not ‘giving up’ vs VTP – it’s VTP versus some other way forward. It’s the concundrum of seeking something that has no power, as a path to power

          1. Bob the builder

            “contentless optimism” is right on the money.
            This is one with the “awareness” campaigns that are seen as the end, not the start, of doing something about a problem.

          2. susan winstanley

            dear guy, I did not “accuse” you of anything .. but if you want to get personal, why don’t you directly address the Aboriginal people on how they have got it all wrong and what they should be doing, no point debating me in some backroom

      2. Jim Egan

        Wake up to yourself Guy…..these are clan and tribal people….give them power to disperse taxpayer resources and they will favour their own….corruption in our liberal democratic terms but entirely ‘cultural’ in Indigenous terms…..that’s what really happened with ATSIC…… period.

        A ‘cultural’ revolution is what is needed……abandoning the clan and the tribe for the broader aim of betterment of all. Guy, you can start this revolution instead of theorizing about structures which will always tend to corruption as long as clan and tribal obligations hold sway.

        1. Bob the builder

          Brilliant and original theory Jim.

          Just wondering where AMP and the other banksters fit into this? Is their clan rich white people? Is their clan’s “culture” what we would call corruption? Should we take all their power away?
          I suppose a similar thing could be said of the rorting of parliamentary allowances – for the most part it’s rich white people involved.

          You’ve really hit on something deeply insightful.

          1. Jim Egan

            The AMP and other Banksters don’t fit into it at all. You might read my condemnations of their shite in other threads. I have advocated jail time for the worst of the spivs and even more.

    2. Jim Egan

      Got the same message for you as Guy, Susan:::

      “Wake up to yourself …..these are clan and tribal people….give them power to disperse taxpayer resources and they will favour their own….corruption in our liberal democratic terms but entirely ‘cultural’ in Indigenous terms…..that’s what really happened with ATSIC…… period.

      A ‘cultural’ revolution is what is needed……abandoning the clan and the tribe for the broader aim of betterment of all. Guy, you can start this revolution instead of theorizing about structures which will always tend to corruption as long as clan and tribal obligations hold sway.”

      A few bad eggs my arse…the romantic image of ATSIC Indigenous power in play was fouled out by egregious displays of tribal and clan nepotism and corruption.

      You would not have 2 year olds with STD’s if the ‘Elders’ had any power over the perpetrators of such vile crimes. The ‘Elders’ story is just one of the myths white gullible lefties love to embrace. The ‘Elders’ are mostly morally powerless, if not complicit in the degradation of the innocent children condemned to another generational life of misery and early death on welfare dependent ‘communities’.

      1. susan winstanley

        my reference to local elders in my first post was to the old women who, in my experience, are always consulted in traditional communities, quietly afterwards, as in, what does old Jessie think about this .. nowadays these women are trying to save the clinics and schools on their lands .. but I doubt you have ever met any of them Jim, because when a gubba drives up it is the men who step forward to deal as best they can with your ugly racist shit

        1. Jim Egan

          Met plenty of them Susan. Take a ride out to Broken Hill sometime….and experience some of the nightlife of the towns along the way.

          And is it the same step forward ‘men’ who give STD’s to 2 year olds??

          1. Bob the builder

            As the septics would say, ‘haters gonna hate’.

            I’ve lived and worked in remote NT for the past 15 years, with close work and friendship ties with a wide range of people, including many Aboriginal people. Your comments are moronic and offensive, but also incorrect.

  7. Coralien

    @Guy I DO GET IT a voice in parliament means a voice to be listened to. Call it a lobby group without the corrupt donations that come with most lobby groups ATM.

    Maybe a senate seat without state or territory restrictions?
    No matter what you call it, it’ll still be a voice to be listened to. We all have to listen and the Uluru Statement from the Heart, was a major voice from all corners of Australia. ‘Listen’ is the key word here. Nobody is heard if nobody is listening.

    @Susan W, Jim is proving his bias.

    @Jim E. Do you judge all Australian men by the same dip-stick?
    If you do, then you had better reword this comment because it is slanted towards racism. There are many bad men in our society who are pedophiles, some get caught some don’t. It has nothing to do with race, colour, creed or wealth.


    1. Jim Egan

      Coralie, the racism in this discussion is that of those who think its OK to leave children in Indigenous communities who have been abused to the appalling extent of having STDs because it might be ‘culturally insensitive’ to remove them. The squalid proposition is that all efforts would be made to protect (to the extent of removal) of non-indigenous children from such situations, but the reverse is true for Indigenous children.

      1. Josephus

        The Select Committee’s brief for submissions was not clear, and may indeed have been designed to fail. Yet many excellent submissions have been sent, done by lawyers and others. Did you read them Guy ?
        Much will need to be done to work out the Voice idea despite the suspicion that the brief includes a National and several Coalition Senators who probably cynically intend the whole exercise as a sop to ‘lefties’ .
        That said, is there a single national body that is not corrupt and greedy? NGOs and probably the Greens. Apart from the greed and cruelty starting at the top and percolating down to Ministers and some politicians, the fact is that the Constitution is racist ; the First People and their anterior human rights and cultures must be recognised.
        It may be that a revised ASTIC could be part of the step post Recognition. The process will be difficult. Submissions by lawyers et al need to be taken seriously, and the Uluru representatives then consulted. One could look to New Zealand, the Nordic States and Canada and learn from their experiences. Aborigines have attended First Peoples’ Congresses and deserve to be heard. Must be heard.

      2. Coralien

        Sorry Jim E, you’re still doing it. R.C.C. a fine example of people not being listened to. Salvation Army another one. These voices were finally listened to, when important white people listened & got on their side.
        The women & some men had been asking for help for ages, 8 yrs in fact, but they got very little attention.
        Now the NT gov has asked the Fed gov to come to the territory and talk to the people.
        What happened?
        Meeting arranged with white person, not one person representing indigenous community was invited.

        So tell me again how these indigenous people didn’t speak out.

      3. Dog's Breakfast

        Jaysus Jim, get your hand off it. Nobody thinks it is ok to leave children in vulnerable situations in communities that have no services, no police, no health clinics. Who do you think is arguing the opposite?

        1. Jim Egan

          Coralie, zDogs B

          Help with what? Help with not sexually abusing toddlers? Are the ‘missing police’ going to watch the miscreants 24/7 inside their houses?

          Face up to the really ugly reality that these crimes are committed by individuals who were not forced by anybody, no matter how poor or disadvantaged their living conditions.

      4. Hunt, Ian

        This is extraordinary. Children are removed from unsafe aboriginal households in such large numbers that people complain now of the possibility of a second lost generation. The pressure is not to ignore issues of child safety but to find safe aboriginal households in which children can be placed instead of allowing too many placements in non-aboriginal households. Why are your views racist? Well, clearly you think aboriginal households are far more likely to involve sexual abuse than other households. You cite only the aboriginally of the people involved to explain this. If your views were not racist, you would recognise that the racism that followed settlement has made our first peoples outcasts in their own land and that this inevitably has a number of demoralising effects, the most common of which is getting drunk. Race comes in only in the vulnerability of aborigines to alcohol. This is not to excuse the crimes that despair leads to but to recognise that you do not cite race but only the racism that our first peoples have suffered for over two hundred years.

        1. Jim Egan

          Ian, why would removing children from unsafe households create a ‘lost generation’? Maybe it would give them a chance at life in a modern world.

          Why would ‘White’ households be inferior to Indigenous households in protecting and nurturing removed children? Is your argument simply racism against Whites?

        2. graybul

          “Children are removed from unsafe aboriginal households in such large numbers that people complain . . . . of a second lost generation.” Ian, referencing in NT recent cases of child abuse exposed complete opposite to your opening sentence. Specifically, Child Welfare pilloried because it was alleged their workers failed to intervene ie remove aboriginal children, despite risk profile, because of fear of public condemnation. Too many opinion voices ignore facts in favour of biased, undeclared outcomes. Aboriginal families generally do it tough in today’s Australia; but they are not alone. Western Sydney is not North Shore nor Tennant Creek, Darwin. Equally, welfare departments in Victoria may not hold to or experience same challenges as NT child welfare?

  8. Desmond Graham

    Everyones voices are heard look at Crikey
    but our system is 1 person 1 vote

    1. Josephus

      Whoever is saying the contrary? That is not relevant to the discussion. The Aborigines have the vote nowadays; they can also walk into a pharmacy to buy medicines, which privilege dates also from around that time. What is under discussion is recognition, respect and consultation not an extra vote.

  9. Dan

    Hi Guy,
    I think you are missing a few points.
    This is best described as a sequenced reform:
    First, comes the Voice, enshrined in the constitution through a referendum.
    Second, comes the Makarrata Commission, which will supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling.
    Third, comes the Makarrata / Treaty.
    The reason for sequencing is that there is currently no representative body that could act on behalf of Aboriginal people in this process. I think you underestimate the complete lack of power and representation ATSI people face since the demise of ATSIC. The establishment of the Voice would rectify this and provide a legitimate body to conduct negotiations. Also, while you point out its powerlessness, it is superior to the simple “recognition” previously proposed, and would act as a constant moral force on the Parliament. Its status would be raised on the basis that it is constitutionally enshrined.
    Obviously this is imperfect, but it is the first step in a sequence. I also find your assumption that it would inevitably collapse into corruption to be rather insulting, and based entirely on an imagined scenario that ignores the further reforms proposed.
    I also think you undersell the concept of Treaty as something rather simple and solely symbolic. This is incorrect. A Treaty properly negotiated should result in the transfer of power and resources to Aboriginal people, as well as the ability for some form of self-government and shared sovereignty.
    This will be a major reform if ever undertaken, and it is unfortunate much of the media has only engaged with it superficially. In my view, its principal weakness is that is somewhat complex, and its ideas not easily digestible. For this reason it does not seem to have engaged the general public, who as always, will only give Aboriginal affairs momentary attention.
    I’d encourage you to look again, and get behind this reform.

    1. Simon

      Thanks Dan. IGI now.

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