Indigenous voice referendum sends race relations backwards

indigenous voice referendum

Emeritus Professor of Law Fr Frank Brennan SJ has sharply criticised the Albanese government for its handling of the Indigenous Voice referendum.

Brennan, a staunch advocate for giving Indigenous Australians a voice in parliament, accuses the Albanese government of three major errors he believes have set back the cause.

According to Brennan, the following have all been detrimental –

  • the government’s failure to establish a bipartisan approach after last year’s Garma festival
  • its reluctance to unveil draft legislation for the Voice
  • the Prime Minister’s unilateral selection of 21 Indigenous leaders for the referendum working group.

“These three fundamental errors by government have put us so far behind the eight-ball, not only in terms of constitutional recognition but in terms of bringing the country together” Brennan told Sydney’s 2GB radio.

Brennan also expressed strong disapproval of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s comment that the Voice referendum would have been valuable even if it failed as it would bring attention to Indigenous disadvantage.

“I don’t know a single Aboriginal person who says they’d want to go through this again and that it was worth doing” Brennan said.

Brennan added that, because of this mishandling, race relations in Australia are in a “hell of a mess”.

Brennan says that the deadlock between major parties and Indigenous leaders on constitutional recognition has persisted for too long.

“We’ve been trying to find that sweet spot that can bring the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Aboriginal leadership together” he said.

“What I do urge on people when they’re thinking on how to vote is let’s at least respectfully listen to the Aboriginal voices.

“I would hope that people, if they vote No, will do it because they’ve heard Aboriginal people convincing them that they should vote No – or, if they vote Yes, they’ve heard Aboriginal people convincing them they should vote Yes,” said Brennan.

In the event of a ‘No’ vote for the Voice referendum, Brennan urged the Prime Minister and Liberal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton to reconsider their stances on constitutional recognition. He also emphasised the importance of listening to Aboriginal voices when making a voting decision.

The Jesuit lawyer highlighted the stark contrast between the voice referendum and the same-sex marriage plebiscite, noting that the latter was about treating everyone the same way.

“You didn’t have leading gays and lesbians out there saying vote No. What we’ve got here is clear public division between key Aboriginal leaders,” he said.

“That’s why we needed a process which was far more aimed at getting people locked into a process, and that sadly wasn’t done,” Brennan concluded.

Prime Minister Albanese meanwhile remains optimistic about the referendum’s chances.


Additional reading

News category: Great reads, World.

Tags: , ,