Features Australia

Another costly folly

13 May 2017

9:00 AM

13 May 2017

9:00 AM

Under the guise of compassion and atonement for past injustices suffered by Aborigines, white activists, joined by overseas imports, have used confected white ‘guilt’ to enflame Aborigines, endow them with ‘victim’ status and use it to forward the real activist agenda of dividing Australians.

‘Reconciliation marches’, ‘Freedom rides’, ‘Sorry days’, apologies to the ‘Stolen generation’ and a push for 26 January to be a ‘day of mourning’ have all been orchestrated as outpourings of public remorse for our past history. The latest bout of self-immolation has been the Referendum Council set up by Julia Gillard in 2015.

Sixteen ‘eminent’ people have been travelling Australia from Melbourne to Broome having ‘national conversations to advise on the next steps towards a referendum to recognise Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution’. Is this seemingly benign proposal a foot-in-the-door for large scale changes in Aboriginal affairs to be written into our Constitution?

The supposed beneficiaries of this costly junket, however, are divided among themselves about the whole show and how they want to be ‘recognised’, if at all.

While two Tasmanian groups squabbled about which best represented them, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and Sovereign Union-First Nations Asserting Sovereignty complain they have been left out of the Council’s ‘secret, stacked and deceptive’ meetings where half the Council is made up of non-indigenous people, the other being ‘government selected Aboriginal people’. Meanwhile, they are being coerced into voting ‘yes’ to constitutional change before they know what it is. And they rightly point out there is no ‘No’ case provided, as was done with the referendum on the republic. It’s arrogantly assumed that adding to or removing sections of our Constitution is a Good Thing and so the Referendum itself is not up for debate.

But ‘recognition’ has many interpretations; what do activists, both white and indigenous, want ‘recognition’ to do for them? Amongst some specific, but many confused claims, Aborigines want ‘a clear statement’ written into the constitution ‘that indigenous people can share in every opportunity this great country has to offer’. What ‘opportunities’ are they missing out on now?

However, the politicians who started it all, supposedly favour a ‘minimalist’ change: an acknowledgement of Aboriginal presence as the First Australians, presumably alongside some sort of honeyed words of remorse for past ‘atrocities’.

But the Aboriginal radicals in the Referendum Council won’t have a bar of this; they are adamant they will not accept any symbolic wording or gestures. Pat Anderson, now co-chair of the Council since Pat Dobson’s sudden departure, puts it bluntly: ‘We want Constitutional reform.’ What exactly does she have in mind? An indigenous group in Parliament seems a top priority, but chosen or elected? And by whom? Special legal rights for Aborigines? Claiming Aboriginality already bestows many benefits — serious financial ones among them. Others see any changes as band-aid measures and drum away in the background wanting a ‘Treaty’ with Australia to form their own independent black nation. Meanwhile, the ‘Aboriginality’ question remains the elephant in the room.

The absurdity of Aboriginal claims is highlighted by the dispute over the one mention in the Constitution of ‘race’. The original wording, to make laws for ‘the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws’ was extended in the 1967 referendum to include Aborigines, to empower the federal government to legislate specifically for them. Now they claim this is ‘racist’ and should be removed !

Aboriginal representatives see the other major flaw as the sin of omission: ‘the historical exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the Constitution’. Says Pat Anderson: ‘We’re not in the constitution… we’re almost invisible… we are powerless, nobody has to talk to us about anything.’ Anderson’s claim to fame was being awarded the Human Rights Medal by a euphoric Gillian Triggs in 2016.

But once begun and our Constitution is changed for one issue, there’s no end to those who will demand their ‘cause’ be included.

‘Gender’ is just one of the multitude of modern preoccupations claiming the spotlight. Should it be included in some form to ‘update’ the Constitution? Or euthanasia, abortion or multiculturalism? And as Labor now wants age, disability and sexual orientation to be part of the Racial Discrimination Act, it’s a short step to demand their inclusion, too. Meanwhile, as Turnbull and Shorten both agree that Australia was ‘invaded’ not ‘settled’, would that be the start of some historical ‘revision’? Turnbull originally endorsed the referendum, but is now leaving the door open to reverse his decision (what’s new?) saying ‘any wording has got to sing to them… to enthuse them, otherwise they will wash their hands of it.’ Which Aboriginal tribe will arbitrate on the appropriate ‘singing’? The 1993 Native Title Act, referring to Aboriginal Title to land, has resulted in some reasonable, some outlandish claims, including where entry is not permitted except by application to the particular clan that owns it.

Native title claims now cover 60 per cent of Australia; Native Title Services Victoria wants $72 million of federal money to resolve claims which would cover almost 90 per cent of Victoria, including two national parks. These claims, they say, can be resolved by 2019. Yet we are still banging on about ‘recognition’ of the indigenous cause.

The last of the Council’s ‘dialogues’ will be held at Uluru in late May, where it will recommend ‘the next steps’ to the government towards a referendum.   Doubtless, these will bring on new rounds of debates, recriminations, dissent, accusations and further enquiries to sort it all out.

It’s being sold to us as a democratic, inclusive process that will right previous wrongs. It’s nothing of the sort. It’s an invention whipped up by activists who have coerced the naive and the politically correct into supporting a useless, time-wasting, expensive indulgence that is dividing Australia — exactly as its promoters intended.

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