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Yes is inclusive, No is divisive

The words speak for themselves, but I shall return to them briefly at a later stage.

Firstly, may I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land to which I am writing from today, and I pay my respects to Elders past and present.

In his meticulous biography of Dr Samuel Johnson’s life, his friend James Boswell records this discussion he had with the great scholar and lexicographer, ‘Patriotism having become one of our topics, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apothegm, at which many will start: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.’ Dr Johnson’s observations about one emotional issue politicians deploy to manipulate public opinion are as apt today in modern society as they were in the eighteenth century.

The problem about politicians manipulating social or moral issues is that it invariably makes good people speak, write and act in a manner which is contrary to their otherwise good intentions in life, all because of partisan attachments to their political proclivities. Neither side of the Australian political spectrum has had a clean slate on addressing social or moral issues. Indeed, lest we forget during the 1977 Federal Election it is reported some Labor members of both state and federal parliaments were espousing their opinions about the legitimacy of some Vietnamese boat refugees as not being in keeping with the humanitarian queue, a political commentary we have subsequently witnessed play out about refugee policy from the Tampa onwards regarding supposed ‘queue jumping’.

Political support sometimes gets lost in the abyss of emotion and it is from these overtly biased feelings we must stand back to observe the socio-political ramifications of our political discourse.

This week we witnessed in Parliament an unelectable opposition leader turning up the volume on an unsavoury argument not befitting of the office of a parliamentarian. To argue that an amendment to the Commonwealth Constitution to include a First Nations voice to make representations to Parliament will somehow ‘re-racialize’ our country is the epitome of banal asininity of Pauline Hanson’s reverse-racism argument circa 1996.

Dutton’s speech in Parliament this week was risible in its abstruseness and just plainly a deliberate last gasp leap to base manipulation of race before Liberal Party moderates such as Ms Archer jettison him into political oblivion. It is just another primeval bellow from the bowels of Dutton’s zealotry, a bellow which highlights he has not learnt from his disgraceful display when he walked out of Parliament as the Stolen Generations were receiving their long overdue apology. Indeed, Dutton has not learnt from his racializing of First Nations people last month when he ‘appeared’ at Alice Springs, a town he had shown scarce interest in whilst in government.  

Dutton is a repository of the Ugly Australian we have strived to shed from our national image. After delivering his disinformation and misinformation in Parliament this week Dutton fled from the chamber; his pusillanimity is just as repulsive as his zealotry. Sir Robert Menzies, Harold Holt, John Gorton, Sir William McMahon and Malcolm Fraser would all be ashamed of Dutton resorting to racializing an important step on the path to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island members of the community.

Sadly, racism has played out too much in the public domain in recent times in Australia. We recently witnessed on our television screens just how devastating and destructive racism can be, as we watched the senior journalist Stan Grant announce he would be standing down from hosting the ABC television program ’Q & A’ after he had been subjected to a tirade of online racial vilification and threats to his safety, and that of his family, by people proclaiming to be monarchists.

What did Mr Grant do to be subjected to this deprivation of his mental wellbeing? He told the truth. He told the truth. Let those words ruminate in your thoughts and settle in your minds. Mr Grant’s candour about how damaging the Crown has been for the welfare, community and culture of First Nations was truth telling. Mr Grant’s veracity about our history since 1788 was a timely reminder in truth telling. Mr Grant should not have been subjected to the disgraceful abuse online, and in the media.

Yesterday, on National Sorry Day, I read online further disgraceful commentary containing blatant racial abuse of First Nations by the vacuous souls participating in our political discourse, people who have been regrettably manipulated by Dutton to believe in his misconceived notions of division. Acknowledging the past acts of our ancestors’ treatment of First Nations being wrong is precisely the element of resipiscence we must embrace. First Nations offer love to every member of Australian society, even the likes of Dutton. National Sorry Day is a reminder for every Australian that we cannot be complacent about reconciliation, there are further steps we must take which include enshrining #TheVoice in our Constitution.

First Nations people are the only members of society Parliament makes special laws about, so it is only appropriate and fair for the voice to be heard about these matters of legislation. The proposed words for #TheVoice to be enshrined in the Constitution are spare and lacking in complexity. #TheVoice is the principle. Parliament will then legislate the machinery.

#TheVoice being enshrined in our Constitution is a bona fide representation to First Nations we are listening to them, but it does not mean Parliament is bound by #TheVoice. Listening to First Nations will hopefully prevent their artworks of 40,000+ years in antiquity being so casually destroyed by the Pleonexia of mining companies. Listening to First Nations will assist us in understanding the vicissitudes of our environment, which had we been listening to approximately 200 years we would have disabused ourselves from the selection of a flood plain upon which to build a major capital city.

We will learn more from saying #YES than we will from saying no. We will grow as a nation by saying #YES, whereas we wilt if we say no. All that you stand to lose by saying #YES is your guilt and anger about the past; saying no will only exacerbate the injuries we inflicted on First Nations in the past so that their pain will remain for decades to come.

Yes is inclusive. No is divisive. First Nations have stepped up to make a bona fide offer of love, peace and healing on the road to reconciliation. It is time we accepted the offer and embrace social harmony.


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  1. Anthony Judge

    Unfortunately the title is in my view an indication of the non-inclusive nature of framing a moral obligation to say yes. It is a celebration and reinforcement of binary thinking. Good people say yes; bad people say no. This thinking pervades society worldwide at this time and is associated fundamentally with divisiveness. It is a particular form of logic long reframed by other logics — including those used by computers. According to Buddhist logic, for example, there are four options: yes, no, yes and no, neither yes nor no. Only the Scots seem to recognize a third option in law, namely guilty, not guilty, not proven ( No trace of the latter with respect to the referendum. The referendum will define the good and the bad, as have religions down the centuries. In a world in which there are now multiple identities in addition to male (good?), female (bad?). No trace of the LGBTQ+ multiciplicity. And then, for the assiduous, there are the 16 logical connectives of which yes and no are only two (

  2. Roswell

    Just brilliant, Michael. Thumbs up.

  3. Andyfiftysix

    There is an undercurrent of mass stupidity in the Australian psyche. It’s a strange form of “politics of envy.”

    A few of my friends resent how much assistance aboriginals get. They seem obsessed with the notion that they can never be satisfied. All the while missing the irony of their own wealth. The NO arguements have ready ears in this group. Yes the jokes are all in jest but shit, I know that’s what they really think.
    These are respectable high achieving and well educated individuals.

    The YES campaign has to overcome the 50 yrs of a liberal indoctrinated nation. Morality just doesn’t get a lookin for nearly half the population.

  4. wam

    Spot on, Mr Springer, anyone voting no needs to look carefully at their reason.
    I listened to insiders and saw the perennial loonies’ argument re-affirmed.
    Loonie Lidia wants power, not surprising even after a couple of years in the senate(she fits keating’s description of senators). She may have deserted her election process but she still is smeared with the inability to understand that to move forward you must take the first step. From senile bob through milne, natale to the bandit, the loonies want to breast the tape without starting the race. Lidia’s move to not support the yes without saying no is impossible in the referenda dichotomy.
    Andy56, how can you make Australia a proper noun without giving Aboriginals the same dignity?
    As for friends, tell them the paper says $ millions to Aborigines but most goes to non-Aborigines as ‘on costs’ which is not reported

  5. Terence Mills

    I see that Senator Lidia Thorpe is lodging a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission over what she claimed was racist treatment while she was a member of the Greens.

    This throws the whole concept of racism up in the air : is she saying that her appearance has attracted racist comment or the fact that her father was white and her mother of first nations heritage has attracted racist comment.

    Could it be her views on sovereignty or her insistence on throwing herself around that has some clue to her claim of racism.

    Is it because the Greens are considered as lesser beings by some in the media ?

    The bigger and more profound question is : what is racism ?

    I’m not sure that the Oxford Reference Dictionary helps us all that much :

    The inability or refusal to recognize the rights, needs, dignity, or value of people of particular races or geographical origins. More widely, the devaluation of various traits of character or intelligence as ‘typical’ of particular peoples. The category of race may itself be challenged, as implying an inference from trivial superficial differences of appearance to allegedly significant underlying differences of nature; increasingly evolutionary evidence suggests that the dispersal of one original people into different geographical locations is a relatively recent and genetically insignificant matter.

  6. leefe

    “In Dr Johnson’s famours dictionary, patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferor lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.” (Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary)

  7. Clakka

    Yeah, spot on Michael Springer.

    Where you cite “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, it brings me to ponder amongst all the varied ‘ ..ists’ and ‘ ..isms, just what level of refuge ‘racism’ occupies. In these divisive times of rights vs responsibilities, and identity / culture-war politics, it seems of convenience to just roll off the tongue of innumerable orators rather than getting to the tangible matters and mechanics of resolving embedded inequities.

    There is no question in my mind that fear and greed play the key roles in such devices. I can to an extent excuse ignorance and fear of the universe of unknowns, but I do not excuse fear of being found out for ones concealed wrongs and intransigencies, nor greed, in its many forms (including singular self-interest).

    It would seem prima facie to be a politician’s role to get to the tangible matters and mechanics of resolving embedded inequities, and the media’s role to where necessary give further clarity to such matters. Huh! But it appears, on this planet, in this time, to be a remote, and some might say risible ideal, such is the degradation of our discourse. It seems that contorted sophistry is the preferred m.o. to conceal inequities and biases.

    Dutton’s parliamentary discourse, obviously written by an unconscionable paid toady, was an utter garbled disgrace of sophistry and diversion from the matters and mechanics of resolving imbedded inequities, and concealment of the many wrongs, greed and singular self-interests facilitating those inequities.

    This morning, Lidia Thorpe seemed on the surface of it to make sense. She seems to have poorly borrowed from the more objective and understandable position of Gary Foley. BUT, her push for treaty vs Voice neglects to account for the several treaties underway in various states, which the Voice cannot stop. Further, her allegation that the construction of the representatives comprising the Voice (committee) was prone to bias and inoperable, was not, and cannot be substantiated. I thought her ultimatum to Labor re The Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and Child Incarceration was OK, but in the scheme of her personal Yes or No vote was a tad too cute. The final straw for me was when she could hardly contain her smugness and glee at announcing she was taking action against Sarah Hansen-Young et al from the Greens for ‘racism’ to the HRC …. just what has that to do with her deliberations on the Voice? More like a boast to those lending her an ear – oh dear, could it be singular self-interest?

    Rather than all this gratuitous divisive claptrap from the naysayer political opponents, in the face of two centuries of our First Nations folk being excluded, and at the very least not heard or listened to, it is well beyond time, especially since the crushing of ATSIC, as a matter of obtaining reasoned equity for them, that their many and varied complexity of issues should be heeded. Labor and especially Albanese should be lauded for taking it to the people.

    In all this I just wonder who put the sock in the loud and clear msm fact-checkers and who took down the guardrails for the truth ….. it’s not very hard to guess.

  8. Fred

    Michael: Nice work.

    AJ: The referendum question will require a binary answer – Yes or No. The ballot will not ask for a figure between 1 and 10. While there may be a spectrum of perspectives, in the end there has to be a threshold and you are either for or against. You already know this, so why the obfuscation?

    This real issue is the justification for voting NO. Have we had racist legislation at state or federal levels? Yep – both. So which ethnic groups were targeted? Only ATSI. The crap put out by Duddon is reprehensible. Remember “The Intervention” of 2007 which he supported. For all of his time before the last election Alice Springs didn’t rate a mention but now, on his suggestion, “endemic child abuse” is rife there. The problem being is that if he has knowledge of actual cases, then why hasn’t reported them to the authorities? If he is talking about rumors and hearsay then he should be asking the same question of his sources. If he is. as he claims to be, non-racist and respects ATSIs, then why didn’t he push his own party to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commissions? The list of his actions and utterances that reinforce the understanding Doddon is a racist is long. (Walking out of the apology… the Biloela family… latest address to Parliament.) Not somebody to be listened to for a balanced perspective on the subject.

  9. Andyfiftysix

    Wam, don’t give me the shits about the grammar. I got my message across but apparently I didn’t cross a “T”. Crickey, the stupid things people worry about.
    As for telling my friends, doesn’t matter what I say. I am the outsider, the crazy lefty with weird ideas. I do have my say but logic doesn’t come into play, mate. They acknowledge the ” white” control but they can’t join the dots. The politics of envy can be a hard barrier to cross. And I for one don’t see this as a hill I am going to die on. Yes I will lend my support but it’s not the be all and end all for me.

  10. Terence Mills

    Minister Linda Burney at Uluru last week was asked about the composition of the regional Voice delegates.

    She responded that they definitely would not be nominated or chosen by government but would be elected within their respective communities. The National Voice would have 24 members:

    Two from each state and territory — 16 all up
    Five from remote communities
    Two from the Torres Strait
    One representing Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland

    She then added that the delegates would be gender and age balanced.

    She failed to explain how that would work ? Can you actually select or exclude a candidate based on
    gender or age ?

  11. leefe


    It’s not about excluding someone based on gender or age, it’s about making sure that different genders and generations are included. With limited numbers, inclusion of one inevitably means omission of another, but no-one is saying “You can’t because you’re too old/too young/male/female/non-binary.”

    You’re doing a lot of focusing on the details but very little comment on the concept. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees …

  12. Harry Lime

    With all the bullshit thrown around,Dutton conducting an out of tune orchestra,aided by a discordant section of propagandists in Murdoch’s dying garbage rags,Bullethead may well succeed in scuttling the referendum.To what end? Simply to inflict a loss on Albanese?Never mind the merits of the proposaLSome of us vainly imagined that the last election would rid us of this type of insulting,stomach churning tripe.Dutton and his henchpeople have obviously failed to grasp the message,and they are on a road to nowhere,and they’re going to hit the wall,sooner ,rather than later.
    Nice bloke privately?My arse,he’s merely a continuation of the Liar without the rat cunning.

  13. Terence Mills


    What an odd comment !

    I am fully in favour of the Voice and the principle of recognition and I will be voting YES but I fail to understand why you would want to avoid discussion on the mechanics of the Voice particularly when politicians make conflicting statements.

    Let’s say for instance that there are four people on Thursday Island – or within the numerous Torres Strait Islands group – who wish to represent their community on the Voice – in reality there would probably be more than four.
    Let’s say, one in a male elder, another is a young woman, another is an older woman and another is a young man.
    There are only two positions available, who decides who can run or do you do a run-off vote until you are left with two and if the latter, what if the two men get the majority of support – do the two blokes get the guernsey and you try and balance gender in other communities or do you cancel out one of the men ?

    I don’t know the answer, that’s why I ask how will it work ?

    I am surprised that you have no curiosity.

    At one stage we were told that the delegates would be chosen by politicians which I found quite alarming but Linda Burney has knocked that on the head and said they will be elected from within their respective communities hence my question.

    The quality and integrity of the Voice delegates is absolutely critical for this to work and ideally the process should be transparent and democratic : what do you think ?

  14. B Sullivan

    Terence Mills, “The bigger and more profound question is: what is racism ?”

    It is the false belief that there is more than one race of humans and that some of those non-existent races are superior to other non-existent races. When the wider public catches on to the recently discovered facts of genetic science and the news gets out that all humans belong to exactly the same race then racists will have to come up with some other more rational excuse to justify their fears, hatreds and discriminations.

    Racism is not a genetically acquired trait. Humans aren’t born to be racist. It is an ideology that has to be taught and passed on from generation to generation. It is an excuse used to justify mistreatment and exploitation of humans by humans by denying that we share the same, common humanity. Genetic science proves that we do.

  15. leefe


    I am curious about the practicalities, but at this point I’d rather focus on the pros and cons of the proposal rather than bicker about details. Too many antis are using quibbles like this as camouflage for the racism behind their opposition.

    Also, it’s for communities to decide for themselves who they think can best represent their interests. Selection of candidates and representatives needs to be a bottom-up system, not more top-down paternalism. There need to be basic guidelines and suggestions can be made about preferences in order to gain balance, but no imposition of strict controls from Canberra.

    Given the size of the proposed body, it is impossible to have real, across the board balance of age, gender, lifestyle etc. Ideally you’d want each region to have a good mix of major factors of that nature, but to do that you’d be inflating the size of the group to impractical levels. Quotas? Not sure. It seems to work reasonably well within the ALP (at least better than the LNP’s system – or rather, lack of one) but this isn’t an institution the make up of which I’m comfortable having strictly dictated from on high.
    I think the best that can be done would be the subtler “We’d prefer it if … ” but still leaving choices up to the communities them selves.

  16. Terence Mills

    bicker about details…………

    Mate, we are supposed to be talking about changing our Constitution !

    Have a good day

  17. leefe

    The details will not be in the Constitution.

  18. wam

    Leefe Correct and neither should they without a voice from Aboriginal Australians. Terence’s example is an accurate description of many of the Australian electorates’ attitudes to women and it was in the minds of white southerners, with no personal contact with Aboriginal people, 50 years ago, with respect to Aboriginal society, but my experiences from the 60s, show territory Aborigina’women have always been, knowleable, powerful and politically active.
    Currently, we have one white ex-soldier labor man, representing the city and one Aboriginal labor woman representing the bush and two Aboriginal women senators. Perhaps you could think again, Dance of the cuckoo?
    ps Andy56
    Isn’t 67 years enough to have learnt the difference between grammar and respect
    Stupid things? To not give Aboriginal people a proper noun? The aboriginal people of NZ are Māori and the aboriginal people of Australia are Aborigines. I also give people who use Ayres Rock and Gove the shits

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