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Tag Archives: The Voice

The Voice: Remember When The Liberals Were Still Deciding Whether To Invade Iraq?

At the moment we’re witnessing the Liberal Party at their absurd best. Julian Leeser asked if the Reserve Bank would need to consult the Voice before it altered interest rates.

Now, Leeser is allegedly one of the Liberals who supports the Voice but that didn’t stop him asking the sort of question that is clearly designed to make people a little nervous about the scope of the Voice. Either Mr Leeser is clearly going along with Peter Dutton’s wrecking game or he’s a complete idiot… Of course, the two things aren’t mutually exclusive and it could even be suggested that the latter is merely a subset of the former.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that people don’t have the right to question the Voice or even to oppose it. I’m just suggesting that when you ask if a body like the Reserve Bank – who doesn’t even have to consult government before making a decision – would suddenly need to consult a body that’s no more than a… well, it’s no more than a Voice, after all, isn’t it? The Reserve Bank doesn’t need to listen to the government, the government doesn’t need to listen to the Voice and nobody needs to listen to Julian Leeser if he’s just going to ask questions like that.

I remember when good ole Johnny Boy Howard was contemplating whether he should invade Iraq along with his other two amigos, George and Tony. No decision had been made. Ok, ok, our troops were gathering in the Middle East but no decision had been made. And ok, our special forces had popped across the border but just to see what it was like as a tourist destination. Then, a couple of days later, they discovered that it wasn’t a very good one because the Coalition of the Swilling was on its way.

I do remember at the time wondering why our troops weren’t being prepared for the mass casualties after Saddam released his Weapons of Mass Destruction. I remember wondering why weren’t being warned that it was more likely that we’d be the subject of some terrible attack here at home from those WMDs, how while we all needed to take extra care, the government was on the case and there were extra resources on standby in the case of biological or chemical attacks. And, I remember being a bit of a cynic, and wondering if that was because the leaders were well aware that there were none.

Of course, when none were found, some bright commentator explained that we’d given Iraq too much warning and that they were able to hide their weapons. Yeah, right, because that’s what you do when you’re about to be attacked: you hide your weapons so that the other guys win in a few days.

Anyway, I can’t help but think Peter Dutton’s calls for details on the Voice and the questions about whether the Voice will have the power to tell you that you can only have Pizza on Saturdays and that you can’t switch on the television on January 26th without an acknowledgment of it being Invasion Day, are nothing more than a way of leading up to a declaration that the Liberals tried to be bipartisan but Albanese kept answering their questions with answers that meant that if Indigenous people were given a voice it might lead to them actually expressing an opinion.


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Murdoch’s Zero Sum games: divisive propaganda meant to break us

The Murdoch media drives resentment with propaganda as constant as drums of war. The pounding message for its audience is that every development is a zero-sum game, one that only defrauds this “conservative” base.

The unspoken subtext for all these battles is the idea that everyone comes from a place of roughly equal opportunity. The concept that anyone might be disadvantaged (or advantaged) by decisions that we make as a society is anathema. The knowledge that history can trap people is inadmissible. Any attempt to mitigate harm so that we can all benefit is dismissed as social engineering, a slippery slope to socialism.

The poor, the welfare dependent, women, non-white people: any action to diminish barriers to their achievement is portrayed as theft. The idea that a society where most can flourish is a flourishing society is poison to this narrative. Equally, the benefits of upper/middle class birth are obscured: the successful achieve through grit and determination. Anyone can replicate this if they try, the story declaims. The default identity is middle-class, white man. Any other status is an “identity” to be deplored as divisive.[1]

Sometimes News Corp targets refugees, who are rarely depicted as the fellow builders of this nation that they have been. Instead, they are deplored as taking from us, either our wealth or our safety. The recent announcement that “boat” people can apply for family reunion in the years ahead (replacing the painfully destructive decade’s separation from vulnerable family) is presented as inviting people smugglers. Actually that “business model” is prevented by the boat turnback policy: the last decade of human rights abuse by the Coalition government was wanton cruelty.

The Voice to Parliament is now the primary front of the war. The Voice is in actuality little more than a token. The Discussion Paper outlines the intent: it will allow “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people [to] have more of a say on the laws, policies and services that impact their lives.” There is no power to compel government or ensure that advice is incorporated into the ways Indigenous lives are impacted by Canberra. It is incorporated into the constitution in order to recognise the weight of the fact that this land was theirs for over 65,000 years before we took it, unceded, over the last 200 years.

The Northern Territory intervention showed the worst ways that outside interference could impact groups traumatised by history: “any possible benefits to physical health [were] largely outweighed by negative impacts on psychological health, social health and well-being, and cultural integrity.” The idea is not that the Voice should replace concrete strategies, but that it should help tailor them to be more effective. The hope is that the damage done by the colonial project can be better mitigated by a more thoughtful and appropriate series of strategies achieved through consultation.

We have shown ourselves to have the capacity to continue hurting First Nations people more than any other population, from the beginning when we eliminated an estimated 90% of their population to this moment where we continue to attempt ham-fisted “solutions” to the problems born of poverty, intergenerational trauma and marginalisation. We owe them more thoughtful, consultative solutions.

Instead of the truth about this feather duster of a body, Murdoch’s audiences are told that it is “third” chamber in parliament and poses a dire threat to white Australia’s autonomy. Andrew Bolt described it as a “new apartheid” with just one “race” benefitting from the racism, equating it to the White Australia Policy.[2] He also labelled it an “undemocratic farce.”[3] He depicts many of the Indigenous Australians it will represent as “Fakes, frauds and rent-seekers,” in his repeated efforts to discredit the Aboriginality of claimants.[4] Henry Ergas describes the prospect as entrenching “racial separatism” and denying “political equality” to white Australia, akin to disenfranchisement of French Jews before 1789.[5] Albrechtson depicted it as “preferential privileges”[6] and “a radical shift in power.”[7] A typical letter-writer describes the Voice as singling out one group for “special treatment” and scuttling equality by putting them above the rest of the population.[8] Peta Credlin depicted it as a “trojan horse” to usher in “Aboriginal states.”[9]

Chris Kenny of all people warned Dutton in November, buried deep in a long column, not to risk being seen as a “a political anachronism, a flint-hearted curio” by pursing the smear campaign on the Voice, a body that can do “no significant harm to the nation but could provide considerable benefits.”[10] The Australian published the account of the nitpicking stress testing of the wording of the amendment by a mixed panel of constitutional heavy-weights from one of its members. George Williams makes clear that there is no veto power over parliament. There is no requirement that government listens to the Voice. There are no special rights conferred.[11] This is why some First Nations’ activists are dismissing the body as a sop.

Any other claim for inclusion is treated as a threat to the mainstream’s ownership too. Marriage equality took nothing from traditional” marriages and yet this was the framing that throbbed through News Corp. Janet Albrechtson recently expressed that JK Rowling ought to be woman of the year for her attacks on trans existence. Albrechtson performed horror that the word woman “is being erased.”

This distortion of the facts is not freshly concocted by the columnist. It is a standard trope of the women’s right-wing space (even though not all declaring it realise the provenance). It emerges from the idea that various groups in the LGBTQI+ community have asked that language includes them. When a lesbian couple have a baby, one of them is the “birthing parent” since both will be mothers. Nobody is eliminating the term mother;” it is just that our language is able to open out to include other experience where relevant.

Leaving language open for professionals to address people as required is not an erasure of women’s existence. The controversial term “chestfeeding” has been devised purely to speak to people for whom breasts aren’t relevant. It is not a replacement for the term breastfeeding. The lesson is merely asking midwives to be thoughtful about the needs of the individual recipients of their instruction. Change is complicated and messy. We make mistakes. Solving the inherent problems is our task.

The result of this campaign is deadly violence.

The only recent battle where News Corp’s audience arguably does stand to lose something, rather than cowering in fear of manufactured monsters under the bed, is the tantrum over Jim Chalmers’ The Monthly essay. The opinion and letters page of The Australian[12] was filled with outrage over his “socialism” expressed in a work that asks, as Katherine Murphy puts it, “in conciliatory terms that capitalism should (brace yourselves readers) be tethered by values.” He continued the focus on economic growth as the solution to our ills, despite concern that this is a dangerous path.

In fact, the idea that these readers stand to lose in capitalism balanced with regulation and government programs is a myth created by the plutocrats who believe life truly is a zero sum game.

Robert Reich detailed in a February essay that the “free market” is a poisonous lie that has created massive inequality, dysfunction and disaster. There is no such thing as a free market, he points out: markets are designed by judges, legislators and government agencies for a party, either “to advance public purposes or monied interests.” As servants of the monied interests, our right-wing political parties have become circuses filled with clowns and jerks, or zombie parties, gutted by deceptive free market ideology. Nativist populist creeps and campaigns are winning and damaging countries in predictable ways. Britain is paralysed with rolling strikes after years of neoliberals starving infrastructure of funds. The “antiwork” movement represents workers’ growing disgust at the exploitation laid bare by the pandemic.

Murdoch’s Dog Line treats a request to be included in our societies as though the target is digging up the graves of our ancestors and stealing our inheritance. Politics based on this resentment and rage can only damage us. It is crucial that those who continue to follow Murdoch’s “news” do so in the full knowledge that his zero sum games are a dangerous distortion intended to distract us while the monied interests take everything.


[1] Sheridan, Greg “Identity politics the real risk in voice,” The Australian 7/2/2023

[2] Bolt, Andrew “Architects of new apartheid,” The Herald Sun 31/10/2022

[3] Bolt, Andrew “Giving voice to an undemocratic farce,” The Herald Sun 19/1/23

[4] Bolt, Andrew “Whose voice is being heard,” The Herald Sun 14/11/2022

[5] Ergas, Henry “Voice to entrench racial separatism,” The Australian 27/1/2023

[6] Albrechtson, Janet “Oratory is no substitute for cool, hard-headed analysis” The Australian 5-6/11/2022

[7] Albrechtson, Janet “Conventional approach to real debate in voice” The Australian 8/2/2023

[8] Needham, David “Terrible irony of attempt to right historical wrong,” The Australian 2/2/2023

[9] Credlin, Peta “Voice a Trojan horse,” The Herald Sun 12/2/2023

[10] Kenny, Chris “Sound the alarm, Mr Dutton” The Weekend Australian 26-7/11/2022

[11] Williams, George “Expert stress tests show the voice is not a threat” 23/12/2022

[12] Letters The Australian 1&2/2/23)

This was originally published in Pearls and Irritations as The Voice: News Corps dangerous zero sum games


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Just Wait Till Peter Dutton Hears About Student Voice!

Student voice:

“​Student voice acknowledges that students have unique perspectives on learning, teaching, and schooling, and should have the opportunity to actively shape their own education.

“Student voice involves students actively participating in their schools, communities and the education system, contributing to decision making processes and collectively influencing outcomes by putting forward their views, concerns and ideas.” (Victorian Education Website).

Staff Meeting in a Parallel Universe. Principal Albanese is addressing the staff.

Principal Albanese: Next on the agenda is the strategic plan and, as you may be aware, the Department is big on Student Voice at the moment and we need to develop a strategy to include it in our programs. Yes, Mr Dutton.

Dutton: What do you mean by Student Voice? I’m not sure that I can support something like that when what we should be doing is concentrating on raising the academic standards.

Albanese: Yes, well, of course we want to raise standards but, as part of that, we should be looking at ways to do that and, it’s felt that Student Voice is one way of ensuring that students feel as though they can actively participate in their own education and…

Dutton: Excuse me, but I used to be Uniform Coordinator and if I’d let students have a say, then there’d be no uniform at all. The idea of handing all the decisions over to them…

Albanese: Nobody is suggesting that we hand all decision-making over to the students. We’re simply looking at ways that they can be encouraged to have a greater say in…

Dutton: I think we need more detail before we can support putting this Voice thing into our strategic plan. Exactly how is going to work?

Albanese: Look, at this stage the proposal is to put a statement about encouraging Student Voice and Agency into the Strategic Plan and we’ll work out the details of exactly how that happens…

Dutton: You’re asking us to support something without giving us any detail…

Albanese: All that’s being suggested is that one of our goals is to support the idea of Student Voice in principle. Yes, Mr Littleproud.

Littleproud: But what if we don’t support the idea in principle. Personally, I think that if students want a voice then they should become teachers. Take Jacinta over there, she was a student at this school and she says that she thinks that Student Voice is just silly, trendy nonsense that won’t achieve anything.

Dutton: And that girl in Year 9 who wouldn’t stand up during school assembly. I heard her saying that hers was the only voice worth listening to. That’s the sort of tension that Student Voice creates.

Albanese: I’m sure that there’ll be a range of views across the student body but the students who attended last year’s SRC forum were all supportive of the general idea and were keen that we establish a…

Joyce: Alcohol!

Albanese: What?

Joyce: Alcohol. A lot of our students are drinking alcohol and it’s quite a problem. On the Year 9 camp, I confiscated more alcohol than I could possibly drink. What will Student Voice do about that?

Albanese: Student Voice isn’t going to solve everything overnight, but if we start a process where we listen to students then…

Dutton: So can I have more detail about how this “listening to students” would work in practice. Like would we need to listen to them even when they were wrong? Would we have to listen to them when we didn’t like them? Could they interrupt a lesson to use their voice?

Albanese: At this stage all we’re saying is…

Dutton: There are more pressing problems than Student Voice. A number of our students are homeless and even some of those that have homes have shocking home lives, take Alice.

Albanese: We know about Alice’s problems, and we intend to do something to fix them but that’s got nothing to do with the idea of Student Voice.

Littleproud: Well, I’d just like to go on record as opposing it.

Albanese: How can you oppose it when, according to your mate over there, we don’t have enough detail about what it is?

Littleproud: We’ve seen enough to know that we’re against it.

Dutton: And we haven’t seen enough to know that we’re for it. Look, it’s not that I hate students in spite of what some people are saying. I know that I walked out during the apology for what the previous principal had done, but that wasn’t because I hate students, it was because I didn’t think that saying sorry has ever helped anyone which is why I’ve never done it. And when I said that teachers were afraid to go to class because of students, I wasn’t referring to all students. Any suggestion that I’m anti-student is ridiculous.

Albanese: Nobody’s accusing you of being anti-student.

Dutton: I just believe that we could do more for students by increasing detentions and expelling the bullies. A bit of tough love never hurt anybody.

Albanese: Ok, well, we’ve got more items on the agenda so unless anyone has something important to add, we’ll come back to Student Voice later. Yes, Mr Joyce.

Joyce: I’m a bit sick of all this nonsense about this school belonging to the kids. I just wish we could go back to the good old days when schools were set up to give us all a job and if you tell kids that they’ve got just as much right to an opinion as we have… I mean, they do have a right to an opinion, don’t get me wrong… but when we start treating their opinion as more important than mine then there’s likely to be problems because the important thing is not education because I remember going to school and what I really wanted to do was get teachers out of my life, because I was sick of them telling me what to do and now it seems that I’ll have students as well as teachers telling me what to do.

Albanese: Nobody is suggesting that Student Voice will give students the right to tell you what to do. It’s just a vehicle for…

Joyce: That’s not what the guy at the pub was saying. He claims that it’s just a start and before we know it they’ll be taking over the staffroom and we’ll have to eat lunch outside like the students do.

Albanese: I’d like to suggest that before we end up spending all next staff meeting discussing the misinformation that you all read the report on Student Voice and Agency which is a comprehensive 29-page document which explains it all.

Dutton: 29 Pages? We don’t have time to read 29 pages! We’re all far too busy for that.

(Murmurs of agreement.)

Meeting closes at 4.32pm.


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