There’s been a lot of media commentary about the meeting of Aboriginal activists demanding changes to our Constitution. The ‘Recognise’ campaign has been running for years and has had many notable supporters including corporates and politicians.
Throughout the campaign I have said that anyone backing it, without knowing exactly what they were supporting, was foolish.
The wisdom of that approach has now been demonstrated.
The politicians who said they would ‘sweat blood’ to make the referendum succeed even before they knew what the specific question was should now be eating their words. Corporate backers like the AFL should do the same.
The basis for my position is, and has been, quite straightforward. No one should write a blank cheque for anything. No one should endorse constitutional change without knowing exactly what they are agreeing to. Even the parliamentary committee looking into the matter couldn’t agree on the path forward so what chance does the general public have of achieving consensus?
It seemed clear to me that at the very most the public might support a statement of fact limited to a pre-amble with no constitutional or legal implications.
Instead there were demands to remove the existing race provisions (enabling governments to make laws for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders) because they were ‘racist’, whilst also replacing them with other (presumably non-racist) race provisions. Some were demanding treaties - or the recognition of nations within our nation; whilst still others wanted race-based places in our parliament.
These are all foolish notions and in my view all doomed to fail any referendum process.
And yet, that is pretty much what the Uluru meeting last week decided. Despite the participants unanimous support for the profit-making symbolism of smoking ceremonies and welcome to country, they rejected a symbolic statement to be inserted into our Constitution.
Instead they demanded treaties and what is effectively an aboriginal only parliament. It’s as if the people behind this process actually want any referendum to fail, so they can continue guilt-tripping non-indigenous people over Indigenous welfare.
Let me say that we, as Australians, have nothing to feel guilty for. What has happened in the past is not our responsibility.
What is our responsibility is to question the tens of billions of taxpayer dollars spent on aboriginal communities with virtually nil effect on health, domestic violence, education and wellbeing outcomes.
No constitutional change will ever redress this reality. No amount of money will fix the problems plaguing Indigenous communities until we expect them to do what everyone else in our society does.
Yes, we can accept the harsh reality of past conduct but we should not judge the decisions of yesterday by today’s standards. If we did, the substandard treatment of the convicts, war-time internees or those subject to the death penalty would be cause for an apology too.
Put simply, we need to deal with the issues of today, not continually revisit the problems of the past. A forward focussed, unified nation, will reject any division of our society according to race, creed or colour.
We will support stronger families, limited government, personal responsibility and civil society. Until they once again become the expectations of every single Australian, identity politics will continue to divide and diminish our future cohesion and prosperity.