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I'm confused, is the "Voice" racist?

We've had this question a few times via our Q&A page so we're addressing it here!

This question comes from an admirable concern for removing systemic racism from our laws. Australia's Union movement was at the forefront of the international campaign against Apartheid in South Africa and we stand with our members every day against discriminatory treatment - but social media memes say the "Voice" is racist , so why would we support that?

Does Constitutional Recognition through Voice "introduce race" to our laws?

As initially written, s 51(xxvi) of Australia’s constitution empowered the Parliament to make laws with respect to: "The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws". The Australian people voting at the 1967 referendum deleted the words in italics, so that Australia’s Parliament could also make laws with respect to Aboriginal people.

Section 127 of the constitution had also excluded Aboriginal people from being counted for constitutional purposes; they were not included in the populations of states and territories for the purposes of allocating federal seats in Parliament. The removal of section 127 allowed Aboriginal people to be counted for these purposes.

These were systemic exclusions of Aboriginal people, intended to disenfranchise Indigenous communities.

The Voice to Parliament has the opposite aim. It intends to engage Aboriginal people in Australia’s democracy, to overcome the generations of disillusionment and disenfranchisement they have suffered from discriminatory policies, actions and attitudes.

So is that racist?

No. Racism is characterised by the preferential treatment of one race over another. The “No” campaign’s claim that the Voice is racist is based on the idea that non-Indigenous or white people would lose political power by the admission of more people, views and ideas to Parliament’s workings.

And that’s why it’s such a powerful argument, because a LOT of us – black and white - are excluded and disenfranchised from Australia’s political system. When we already feel overlooked, it’s easy to believe that someone else getting a benefit is a threat to us.

a LOT of us – black and white - are excluded and disenfranchised from Australia’s political system. When we already feel overlooked, it’s easy to believe that someone else getting a benefit is a threat to us.

The Rupert Murdoch’s and Gina Rineharts of the world – who own our media and control what is considered “news”, and the multi-national companies that wine and dine our politicians have way more than their fair share of political influence, wealth and power.

So it’s no surprise that the Murdoch media is campaigning so heavily against the Voice. Because they know that the biggest threat to their privilege is ordinary working Australians standing together against their stranglehold on ideas.

The political elite in the Liberal party have always stood against the power of working people coming together - it's pretty much their whole thing. Instead of taking up the opportunity to bring the country together around the Voice, the Liberals have chosen to turn Australians against each other by promoting fear and distrust of Aboriginal communities.

But how are non-Indigenous Australians in any way disadvantaged by the creation of a committee to give Aboriginal people’s advice to government? Is the Voice really what’s standing between you and a career as an MP or Sentator?

Because if your only concern is that you don’t get a vote on who represents the Voice, or that you can’t get elected to the Voice yourself, I’d point out that most of us also can’t become the King, nor be chosen as captain of the Australian women’s cricket team. (Both of those, incidentally, are objectively much better gigs than becoming a Voice rep). 

Australians are absolutely right to be concerned about who gets to wield power in our democracy – but we are not in competition with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters for the scraps from Rupert Murdoch’s table. We are working together, with our first nations comrades, for a fairer Australia in which more voices are heard.