Why is public debate on the ‘Indigenous Voice’ proposal being blocked by its supporters? NIGEL JACKSON
On February 1st Quadrant published two interesting articles online on Aboriginal affairs. The first was by its editor, Keith Windschuttle, already the author of the magisterial book The Break-up of Australia, and is entitled ‘How the Voice would mark Invasion Day’.
Windschuttle notes: ‘In recent months The Australian has been running a fairly sustained campaign in favour of the demand for a “voice” to the Commonwealth parliament on policy issues that affect Aboriginal people….. However, The Australian has not published any serious views that dissent from the proposal or point out the political and constitutional problems inherent in it.’
This matched my own experience. In mid-January the paper published several approving reports and articles on the interim proposals by the relevant committee. I submitted some letters and an article against the proposal, but none were accepted for publication; nor did I see published responses from any other dissenters. I thus sent a letter to the Letters Editor querying the paper’s apparent change of policy from the more even-handed approach of the past; but, like my offered article to opinion editor Jennifer Campbell, this was totally ignored.
Windschuttle also included the following information in his piece. ‘On January 25, The Australian reported a very different story on Aboriginal affairs. It was about the endorsement by the ABC of the term “Invasion Day” in reference to Australia Day on January 26 and the political activities planned for it. This quickly became the most discussed topic ever recorded on The Australian’s website, receiving more than 3300 reader comments. The ABC initially dismissed all criticisms and defended the report concerned. However, by 3pm, recognising how the numbers in this and other news media were so strongly against it, the ABC capitulated and deleted the term from the offending item. Anyone who reads even a part of the readers’ comments in The Australian will see that they were running about 99 per cent against both the ABC and the Aboriginal political activists planning massive street demonstrations to denounce Australia Day celebrations.’
The second article published by Quadrant online on 1 February was by a prominent critic of Bruce Pascoe, whose claim to be Aboriginal looks to be most dubious, and his publications, Peter O’Brien, author of Bitter Harvest. It is entitled ‘How I came to be Wiki-whacked’. This article tells how O’Brien sought to amend a wiki article on Pascoe by adding a note drawing attention to a paper by ANU academic Dr Ian Keen entitled ‘Foragers or Farmers? Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture’ and published online on 5 January in Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology.
O’Brien found his attempt frustrated and thus has placed on record the remarks of Wiki editors whom he sees as ‘activist’ and ‘partisan hacks and hypocrites’ and who ‘not only gag bearers of unwelcome truths, but erase any record of a debate having taken place.’ He quotes one editor as writing of: ‘Blatant irrational attacks by racists, bigots and haters being the main criticism of the book (Dark Emu).’ The same editor characterised critiques of the book as being ‘extreme opinions’ from ‘the hateful racist right’ and said that ‘Andrew Bolt has said an awful lot about the book. We include nothing of what he has said, and won’t.’ He added that ‘the Andrew Bolt approach’ is in effect ‘racist and bigoted nonsense.’
Next day O’Brien found that he had been blocked as a Wikipedia editor and that the discussion from which quotations have been given above had been expunged from the Dark Emu page. Luckily he had saved it before going to bed, which is why Quadrant could publish it. O’Brien concludes: ‘It seems to me that Wikipedia is just another cog in a vast ideological racket dedicated to making sure that Bruce Pascoe is never held to account for his manifest deceptions.’
Considering all this, I have a question for all the sincere idealists around Australia who are supporting the ‘Voice’ proposal: ‘If this is so good, why do its prominent supporters so thoroughly discourage open and fair debate, especially when it appears that the majority of Australians are against it? Can we also please have some genuine investigative journalism into this peculiar state of affairs?
I believe that such an investigation would uncover the facts that the ‘Voice’ campaign is being masterminded by powerful international interests which are making use of self-interested and self-appointed ‘Indigenous spokespeople’ (the term can be challenged)
to further their own acquisition of wealth and power.
Wake up, Australia!