Senator Jacinta Price during her maiden speech (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas/Private Media)

On a Voice to Parliament being ‘elitist’

Garry Gibbon writes: Thank you, Cam Wilson, for your thumbnail analysis on Australian political democracy. I certainly hope our First Nations people will be officially recognised in changes to our constitution.

However, in all the discussion regarding a Voice to Parliament, I’ve yet to hear a cogent reason why there should be a such a body created in this welcome era of dramatically increased Indigenous political representation at state and federal level. And this is occurring against the very same democratic framework that Wilson chooses to criticise. (I hasten to add he also makes some salient points.)

Senator Jacinta Price’s “gravy train” comments are obviously warning about installing yet another superfluous, taxpayer-funded, permanent advisory body whose mission statement many may well think will intersect with that of Indigenous politicians anyway. She may be wrong, but I’d like to see a stronger argument offered from Wilson than him claiming the grass roots wants it and charges of “elitism” (when she wasn’t quoted as even using the word) are tired.

Bill Armstrong writes: Thank you for an excellent article. It is important to recognise that this is not Anthony Albanese’s drive for a Voice for Indigenous Australians. It is, as you have so clearly outlined, the thoughtful and respectful request after a democratic process involving an extremely broad range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our prime minister and his government have taken this request seriously and are committed to asking the Australian people to do likewise.

It is important to understand that until we as a nation accept and respect the real history of this country and recognise the place and role of the First Nations peoples, efforts to close the gap will fail. Recognition and voice will empower First Nations peoples to close the gaps. The gap all Australians need to close is in our understanding of the past and the incredible culture that enabled this land to be nurtured for thousands of years.

As Albanese said at Gama: “It’s not a matter of some symbolism as some people would see it. What it is, is a matter of is empowerment. Giving people respect is a first step to overcoming some of the challenges that are there.”

Joanna Mendelssohn writes: One of the main hurdles in getting people to understand why the constitutional change is just a few short sentences is that the overwhelming majority of the population is unfamiliar with the document that is the Australian constitution. So as well as explaining that “may” does not mean “must”, we really need an education campaign so that people know how a few words define our entire system of government (bearing in mind that those words don’t include any mention of political parties, or indeed “prime minister”). 

If people don’t know the nature of the document they’re being asked to amend, they can hardly be blamed for refusing to alter it.

Phillip Clancy writes: I accept that First Nations peoples have been very badly mistreated by previous generations of British colonists and their subsequent governments. However, I believe that all Australian citizens are Australians. There is no justification for First Nations peoples to claim they are different from other Australians. As such I cannot accept that there should be a change to our constitution to provide a minority group any rights or influence that exclude other minorities or the whole community.

The Voice to Parliament would set up an unequal system that favours one minority group over the rest of the community. As such I would vote no in a referendum.

On media negativity on the Voice

Carmel Brown writes: Thank goodness for Christopher Warren’s piece. I was feeling uneasy when several ABC journos seemed to be at pains to go on about detail because it seemed as if they were brewing an issue. I totally agree that commitment to conflict seems to underpin public media discussion. And what about the illogical commitment to balance whereby an opposing voice, irrespective of numbers or public credibility, “must” be aired?

Jeremy Clarke writes: I think this article says it all about the left viewpoint on this subject. If anyone has the temerity to disagree they are negative and no doubt a racist bigot. But how could that be when those of us on the left know the truth and what’s right for everyone? Apparently there are non-rednecks out there who believe we are one nation and whether you’re antecedents came here 45,000 years ago or you were naturalised recently no one should be treated differently. 

A nasty warning from Warren for any journalist who strays from the accepted mantra.

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