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OPINION — VOICE TO PARLIAMENT: Vote ‘Yes’ to Fight Against the ‘Racist No’ Campaign

The right have used the Voice to Parliament referendum to promote disgusting anti-Aboriginal racism over Labor’s proposal to establish a symbolic advisory body.

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Oskar Martin is a Bundjalung and Kamilaroi student at the University of Melbourne. He is the incoming 2024 Indigenous Students’ Representative on UMSU Students’ Council.

Content warning: racism


The right have used the Voice to Parliament referendum to promote disgusting anti-Aboriginal racism over Labor’s proposal to establish a symbolic advisory body. 

Most recently, Coalition Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Jacinta Nampijinpa Price argued that colonisation has only ever had a positive impact for Indigenous people, citing that we now have running water and readily available food. This amounts to nothing more than genocide celebration. Colonisation was indisputably violent and brutal—as Indigenous people were massacred by colonisers, genocided by new diseases and dispossessed from our land by force. Its legacy continues in the intense economic inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, child removals, disproportionate incarceration and the pillaging of Indigenous lands by mining corporations. Price has become a key spokesperson for the ‘No’ campaign—a darling of the racist far right in this country—leading many ‘No’ campaign forums and events such as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). 

Another prominent ‘No’ campaigner, Warren Mundine, is the chair of CPAC and a collaborator in spreading vile racist sentiment and arguments about Indigenous people and culture. He recently defended “comedian” Rodney Marks who said that he would “like to acknowledge the traditional owners—violent black men”. Gary Johns said that if Indigenous people wanted a voice they should learn English and that most Indigenous people live in a “stupor.” Their campaign has also promoted racism by saying the Voice will give Aboriginal people “special privileges” and create “apartheid”. 

From the offset, the ‘No’ campaign has been insanely racist. The likes of Dutton and the right have no interest in ending structural racism Indigenous people face. However, this rabid racism is not just confined to the Voice debate. The intense racism displayed by the ‘No’ campaign has had real world ramifications for the state of Indigenous rights.  

In Western Australia, the Labor government succumbed to a racist campaign against the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act. The Heritage Act, while very moderate, was put in place to protect Indigenous Heritage sites after the destruction of Juukan Gorge in 2020 by Rio Tinto. The Pastoral and Graziers Association, with backing of the Liberals and Nationals, campaigned against this act. They argued that Indigenous people can use such an act to steal your property, whether that’s your land or personal computer. Ultimately the state Labor government folded and got rid of the act, reverting back to the 1972 Aboriginal Heritage Act, which for over half a century, has allowed mining companies to destroy Aboriginal heritage sites.

Additionally, the right has focused their fire on supposed youth crime. Earlier in the year, Dutton and Price claimed that there was a youth crime problem in the Northern Territory (NT), arguing that the Australian Federal Police needed to go into NT to restore law and order. A similar campaign has been raging in Queensland, with right wing vigilantes like those from the far-right Patriots Defence League, going out to attack and terrorise Indigenous teenagers in places like Rockhampton and Townsville. The state Labor government in Queensland has given such actions and arguments greater air and legitimacy by suspending the state Human Rights Act to allow the imprisonment of Indigenous children into adult watchouses to occur—this is all while Indigenous children make up 62% of the youth prison population in Queensland.

These examples show that the right are having a detrimental impact on the state and livelihood of Indigenous people. A victory for the ‘No’ campaign will embolden the racist right, and be a set back for anti-racists who aspire for genuine Indigenous rights and justice.

So in the Voice to Parliament referendum I encourage all left wing and progressive people, on and off campus to vote ‘Yes’ to fight the vile right wing ‘No’ campaign. We need to call out the racism of the right for what it is and fight it. Beyond the referendum, we need to continue the fight for genuine Indigenous rights and liberation.

 

 

 
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