Voice Referendum – The case for No

The No campaign's, Warren Mundine.

THE ‘No’ campaign, ‘Australians for Unity’, is led by Indigenous businessman and community leader, Nyunggai Warren Mundine, and the Shadow Indigenous Australians Minister, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.

[Read Yes position]

Mr Mundine says the Voice, an advisory body of 24 people, won’t deliver meaningful change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The idea that you can have people who will be representatives of Aboriginal culture, 24 of them, when you have 300 Aboriginal nations, is just bizarre to me,” he said.

“I am Australian. I’m a member of the Bundjalung First Nation of Australia, from my father’s side, and the Gumbaynggirr and Yuin First Nations of Australia from my mother’s side. And I oppose the Voice to Parliament.”

Mr Mundine agrees with Mr Pearson that Indigenous Australians need to find solutions to their own problems. However, the time for conversation on Indigenous disadvantage is over. Rather than ending alcohol abuse, surging incarceration and child removals through an advisory body to government and the parliament, Mr Mundine says individuals need to act.

“There’s only one person, or group, that can help us. That’s us. We don’t need anything in the Constitution to make people accountable, we can do it today.”

Mr Mundine said there should be more accountability on how money is spent on indigenous policies, and for a better focus on education outcomes, economic participation and social change. The federal government should use brilliant reports, such as The Closing the Gap and Productivity Commission reports, to help identify what’s working and what’s not working among Aboriginal communities. “We should be then utilising those reports and moving forward,” he said.

Mr Mundine says the Indigenous Business Strategy launched in 2015 is going from strength to strength.

“It has helped 45,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders get jobs since 2015, starting with $6.2 million worth of contracts, rising to $8.7 billion in eight years,” he said.

The proposed change to the Constitution is not recognition of Australia’s First Nations, he maintains.

“All it does is recognise Aboriginal people as a homogenous race,” he said.

“Race and nationhood are different. The Oxford Dictionary defines a ‘nation’ as ‘a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory’. Indigenous Australians don’t have the same languages or cultures or histories or descent or territorial lands. The Indigenous Australia language map … illustrates the first language groups across the continent. Each different coloured area represents a distinct group united by unique descent, history, culture, and language, inhabiting a particular state or territory: a nation,” he said.

The proposal believes the Voice can speak as one with no contemplation of its members having differing opinions.

“It’s as if this Voice has a singular consciousness. This is based on a false premise that Indigenous Australians are one homogenous group and will constitutionally enshrine us as a single race of people, ignoring our unique First Nations. It’s a step backwards.”

Mr Mundine says a fundamental cultural principle of all Australia’s First Nations is that only Countrymen and women can speak for Country.

“I used to live in Dubbo, but I’m not Wiradjuri. Now I live in Sydney, but I’m not Dharug. So I don’t speak for Wiradjuri or Dharug countries,” he said.

“My common ground with Wiradjuri and Dharug people is race. Not Country.”

Mr Mundine says the Voice, based on the 2021 Calma-Langton report, will have 24 members: two appointed by the government; two from each state, territory and the Torres Strait; five from “remote” parts of Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales; and one for Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland. A current model rejects direct election and says members of the “Local and Regional Voices” (community organisations) within each state and territory will “collectively determine” Voice members for their respective jurisdictions.

“The regional boundaries for Voice representation won’t align with First Nations but will primarily align with state and territory boundaries – in other words, based on the way British colonists divided up the continent,” he said.

“Aside from the chaos, confusion and conflict this will create in practice, it’s fundamentally flawed in principle. This Voice cannot speak for Country since it won’t represent one. I fear worse: that the Voice will purport to speak for Country without authority, undermining traditional owner rights.”

Mr Mundine says governments have passed the 1976 Land Rights Act, other land rights legislation in the 1980s and 90s, and in 1992, the High Court’s recognition of native title led to the Native Title Act.

“Today, anyone who wants to do business on lands or waters where native title or land rights exist needs to talk to the traditional owners of those lands and waters,” he said.

“Traditional owners (like all humans) don’t always agree. There are governance structures and closely supervised rules for how traditional owners make decisions, but when the group makes a decision, there will invariably be some in the group who don’t agree.

“It will be much easier to undermine traditional owner autonomy by enlisting a Voice, with a constitutional right to make representations to government, to advocate against the wishes of traditional owners about their own countries,” he said.

Mr Mundine says the Uluru regional dialogues that preceded the Uluru Statement, Document 14 in particular, declare a “metaphorical war on modern Australia”.

The document is steeped in grievance and claims indigenous Australians are “trapped in victimhood and oppression, not currently free or able to make their own decisions, where self-determination is an aspiration, not something within reach today”.

“This is not true. Nothing could be further from the idea of Reconciliation. Document 14 contemplates a future of separation with First Nations sovereignty standing apart from, and opposite to, Australian sovereignty.”

Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price says an advisory body will create a “wall between Australians”. “A question I get the most often is, ‘Why are you, an Aboriginal woman, opposing the Voice?’ The answer is simple, it’s the Voice of division,” she said.

“The Voice will not promote recognition or reconciliation because it has been an ‘invite only process every step of the way’ – “a movement of academics, activists and elites who think they know better. ‘Trust us, they say, we’ll get it right and give you the details later’.”

Senator Price says some Yes campaigners who cannot win on the merits or their proposal have turned to emotional blackmail and dismiss arguments against the Voice as “racist and stupid”.

“The Voice is being used as a mechanism to undermine the last 122 years of work to bring Australians closer together. For them, this Voice isn’t an attempt to unite, but a tool to divide,” she said.

“I don’t want her, my own family or country divided. My mother is Warlpiri, my father is of Irish descent, all three of us are Australian. I want us to be one, together, and not two divided. That’s why I’m voting No to the Voice of division.”