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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