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Search is your Friend

If you had put money on the claim that ’sensitive new age’ Opposition Leader Peter Dutton would genuinely work co-operatively with others to actually improve Australia and the life of Australians until the next election, you would have lost your cash early in January. That’s when Dutton reverted to type as the feeder of red meat to his base constituency of right-wing conservatives by issuing a letter to the Prime Minister asking 15 questions about the proposed ‘Voice to Parliament’ referendum.

Like everyone else, Dutton has a right to ask questions about the proposed ‘Voice’, however he should also be looking for available information prior to making himself look silly. While he might claim he is making a valuable contribution to the debate, all he is really doing is spreading fear, uncertainty and deception; especially when he supplies a copy of his letter to selected (friendly) media outlets prior to the media announcement and sends the email to a generic email address in the Prime Minister’s Office afterwards, despite Dutton (you would imagine) having access to the Prime Minister’s official contact details.

It should be noted that the Federal Liberal Party Room has yet to formally commit to supporting or opposing the proposed referendum. The Federal Nationals have announced they oppose it, as a result Andrew Gee has decided to renounce his Nationals membership and sit as an Independent MP in federal parliament. No doubt the Liberal Party MP’s have a variety of views. Party ‘elders’ John Howard and Tony Abbott are publicly supporting the ‘no’ case. In Abbott’s case, he is an adviser to the conservative lobby group Advance who are promoting a ‘no’ vote using advertising material that has been banned from a social media provider’s products because it is false.

The fact is that Dutton and everyone else has access to the From the Heart website where there is a lot of discussion on how the voice is planned to operate. Unlike us, Dutton also has access to Ministers in both the current and former government who would be able to clarify and explain anything Dutton was unsure of. If Dutton hasn’t taken this step prior to releasing his letter of demands, it demonstrates that he is clueless despite having an array of party hacks and political staffers around him to ‘help’ him search out what he wants to know. If Dutton does already know how the process would work and still released his ‘questions’ – he is duplicitous at best. The information isn’t hard to find using your preferred search engine.

Dutton’s claim that the questions were relevant is frankly rubbish. The only certainty in life is change and uncertainty. Five years ago, Scott Morrison was publicly praising Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, saying that no one could do a better job a Prime Minister and Dutton was in charge of concentration camps (amongst other things) as Home Affairs Minister. If Dutton had told people in 2018 that in 2023 he would be Opposition Leader, Albanese would be Prime Minister and would take nearly a year between ordering some Toyota vehicles and ‘enjoying’ the new car smell they would have thought him mad. Dutton has no better idea of the future than anyone else – yet he is asking for specific detail of how the future looks from others. Of course there will have to be legislation and administrative arrangements that will need to be made for the ‘Voice’ once there is a direction from the Australian public that the Constitution should be altered. Parliament is the correct place to discuss the specifics of how the organisation operates once the time comes. It is pointless asking at this stage the name of the person who will answer the phone at 9.56am on the first Tuesday of May in 2028 at the ‘Voice’ office (assuming there is one) because no one, including the ultimate phone answerer themselves knows the correct answer. If Dutton is as good at predicting with accuracy specific details in the future as he expects others to be – he is wasted as a politician.

This isn’t to say that the Government has handled this well either. Fear, uncertainty and desperation only thrives in a vacuum. As discussed in The Saturday Paper, Dutton’s letter is effectively 15 ‘gotcha’ questions and Albanese should have been in a position to demonstrate the ridiculousness of Dutton’s attack,

Dutton had not one but 15 gotcha questions for Labor on the Voice this week. In response, Albanese waved garlic in the miraculously resurrected opposition leader’s general direction and volunteered his version of [Green’s Leader Adam] Bandt’s [at the National Press Club during the 2022 election campaign] “Google it, mate!”, except it was 41 words long rather than three.

“People can log on now,” Albanese told the ABC’s 7.30 on Monday night, “and look at the report of Tom Calma and Marcia Langton, and they can look at the interim report that the committee, co-chaired by Julian Leeser, who is now responsible for Indigenous Affairs in the Coalition.”

Some ABC viewers would, in fact, have done just that. They’d be a tiny sliver of the population willing to do so in these peak swimming, swilling and snoozing weeks of the January holidays.

There lies the problematic circularity in Albanese’s response. If widespread support for an initiative to ensure active listening to the voice of Indigenous Australians rests on voters being good-enough listeners to work out why it’s worth supporting, how likely is that to happen?

The Government has correctly determined that the introduction of a ‘Voice to Parliament’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is a worthwhile objective. The need for a referendum is to ensure that a future government can’t nobble or eliminate the ‘Voice to Parliament’ in the future. To get this done, they have to get a referendum passed by a majority of Australians and a majority in the majority of states of Australia. The government should have been far more prepared for a negative reaction from the conservative spear throwers of the Coalition ably backed and amplified by sections of the media. Adam Bandt’s ‘Google it. mate’ is a far better option that Albanese’s 41-word response to a question on ABC’s 7.30. Bandt’s response shows the questioner hasn’t done their homework and is looking for a cheap shot, Albanese’s doesn’t.

Albanese’s Government does show potential, Chris Bowen’s turning the Abbott era environmental ‘safeguard mechanism’ into something that actually works – gaining praise from industry participants in the process – is brilliance. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has managed to organise a number of discussions with other governments in our region that wouldn’t have been seen dead talking to the Morrison Government’s Ministers and Emergency Services Minister Murray Watt seems very capable in organising assistance in natural disasters in contrast to anyone in the former Coalition Government.

But every time a Government Minister forgets a statistic or fluffs the explanation of how a policy will work, some of the gloss rubs off the entire government. Crikey has published an article suggesting the Government will lose this referendum unless it develops a sentence that represents and explains why we need a ‘Voice to Parliament’ and uses it at every opportunity, which the current practice of rambling explanations and coming across as dodging the question doesn’t do. They should be doing better.


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  1. Geoff Andrews

    The Government still has plenty of time to come up with “the sentence” that’s a killer. They could start (if they haven’t got one already and are keeping it dry) by asking Paul Keating! I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in a small minority in a society that pays lip service to our needs.
    Perhaps paraphrasing the philosophy of “do unto others” would also be a good start.

  2. Michael Taylor

    What’s the old saying?

    “Don’t bother me with facts when my mind is already made up.”

    It’s Dutton to a tee.

  3. Phil Pryor

    Arid, insolent, defective, ill-equpped, sour, revolting, outspokeny intrusive, negative, insulting, anti-intellectual, Peter Dullard Duckwit-Futton just keeps oozing along, “old man sewer”, in chronic gearstuck opposition. Why? Public life requires a commitment to service, duty, action, and not primitive pustularity.

  4. GL

    Da Spud has nothing of value to add to the Voice referendum, or viable policies of any sort come to think of it, just his usual ill-thought-out oafish thuggery and frozen shit wrecking ball tactics.

  5. Canguro

    Ryan Gosling stops traffic but the real fall guy goes to prison.

    Who, you might ask, is Ryan Gosling? An American actor, apparently. It seems that makes him somewhat important, at least in the view of some of the political types here in Australia, those with a keen eye to an unrealised business opportunity and a chance to showcase our country internationally.

    Business is business after all, and I’m certain both the NSW and the Federal governments were comfortable with their generous financial contributions towards…. an American movie, one that in its production process today saw the Sydney Harbour Bridge closed for several hours, as well as the waters beneath.

    Too bad if you were one of the thousands of motorists that may have wanted or expected passage across the iconic coathanger that separates the northern & southern regions of the city, or a boatie expecting to enjoy free passage through the cityside harbour regions, as is the norm aside from NYE celebrations.

    The nub of the concern though, as divulged in the linked article, is that last December a young woman named Violet Maree Coco was sentenced to 15 months’ jail and fined $2500 for temporarily obstructing one lane of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of a climate protest. One lane. Temporarily. 15 months jail. $2,500 fine. These penalties a function of newly-inked NSW laws that criminalise the right to protest, a fundamental of democracies world-wide, and an anathema to autocrats and dictators and their ilk.

    The hypocrisy is gob-smacking, the supercilious capacity of the political class to say one thing and do another, to suck up to a Hollywood actor and his production team for… why? Cui bono?

    The only comfort I take out of all of this is that Perrottet and his gang of conscience-free environmentally insensitive climate-crisis ignoramuses will be turfed out in the coming state election, and not a minute too soon.

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