Why we must reject the proposed “Indigenous voice” in any form. We are being presented with a Trojan horse and invited to put our heads in a noose. NIGEL JACKSON
Aboriginal issues are being misleadingly used to fatally divide our nation and lessen its ability to stand up to protect its own interests in an increasingly dangerous-looking world. Australians need to call stop! Saying an emphatic no to the proposed ‘Indigenous voice’ can be a first vital step.
Why should this be so? Is the interim council’s proposal not an ethically correct attempt to right past wrongs and be fair to an unjustly under-privileged minority? No it is not; and here are some of the answers to that position and its current agitators.
Didn’t the 1992 High Court Mabo decision rightly establish that the terra nullius doctrine was a legal fiction by asserting the reality that Australia was not a land free of human occupation at the time of European settlement?
No, because that decision itself involved unethical judicial adventurism that deprived all Australians of a say in the matter through Parliament. The majority judges imposed their own opinions on the nation, not realities. The terra nullius doctrine, which had accepted legal validity at the time, correctly asserted that there was no Aboriginal government with which the British government could effectively negotiate. There was simply a mass of individual tribes, often at war with each other, whose members often lived in deplorable conditions of poverty and brutal behaviour, especially to women and children. Not surprisingly, the incoming settlers believed they were bringing the benefits of a superior culture and civilisation to the Aboriginals.
In any case, has not the Mabo decision been made and are not it and the legal results that have flowed from it irrevocable?
Not at all. If the national consciousness can be re-routed, a halt to a false road of political change can be first called and that route then, at least to some extent, reversed.
However, is it not clear that the land of this continent was taken from its Aboriginal inhabitants without their agreement, thus being a theft for which reparation needs to be made, perhaps by a treaty, by a makarrata, by reconciliation and by giving part of the continent to their descendants?
No one disputes that the Aboriginal tribes living here before 1788 had their native lands effectively removed from their control during the 19th Century. What this means is that they failed to defend their possession. If we look at the world of living Nature on this planet, of which mankind is part, it seems that one innate law is that to maintain possession of whatever you have, you must earn it, if necessary by fighting. It also seems that it is natural for living creatures to seek to extend their power and that this is not to be disparaged but commended as part of what keeps Life itself flourishing. It is currently being assumed that because Aboriginal tribes lived here in the past, and for a long period of time, that they had and have permanent right of ownership and occupation. That is not so. This continent in the past passed into the hands of Britain and then Australia and is now the possession of what has long been a de iure nation under international law.
Even so, have not our Aboriginals suffered terribly and should not some kind of recompense be arranged?
Australia has already done much, perhaps too much, to recompense the descendants of the Aboriginal tribes. It can be argued that the British, by creating largely on their own initiative the foundations for the infrastructure of a modern First World nation, have now given the present-day Aboriginals far more than they have taken from them.
But surely it is important for today’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say in matters that affect them? What political issues for Australia do not affect them? Such a claim, as applied in the form of an ‘Indigenous voice’, is much more far-reaching than might appear. Anyway, these people have the same resources as do other Australians for being heard: the state and national parliaments; and they are indeed being heard – and very profitably too! There is also the question of ethnic and legal status of some of those who call themselves Aboriginal, such as Bruce Pascoe. The very validity of the term ‘Aboriginal voice’ can be challenged as in insufficient contact with reality. A further point is that, when considering Aboriginal rights, the rights of all other Australians must be fairly considered at the same time.
Are the dangers of this proposal not being exaggerated?
Not at all. There is a long history of Aboriginal leaders and activists talking in terms of the establishment of a future Aboriginal nation, taking part or all of the continent. The ‘Indigenous voice’ is clearly seen as ‘a first step’. Even our prime minister has not ruled out eventual enshrining of the voice in our constitution. Division of this continent into two nations is obviously against the interests of the great majority of Australians.
Then what should be done instead of the institution of the ‘Indigenous voice’?
We need to honour the history and past and present achievements of our Aboriginals. We also need to find ways of improving the life conditions of those living in poverty or subject to brutal treatment; but this applies to non-indigenous Australians too. However, these measures must not be taken at the cost of national unity. We owe it to our pioneers, our ancestors and our fighting men in past wars not to carelessly let our birthright be taken from us in a campaign that has many dubious aspects, currently insufficiently investigated and reported upon.
Nigel Jackson is a Melbourne writer and commentator on public affairs.