The Guardian • Issue #2073


Not alright

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2073

In arguing for a YES vote for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, we are arguing change. People who oppose the Voice sometimes say that the injustices are all in the past, and that Australia is a fair place now. The latest nonsense from the No campaign is Mundine and Price saying exactly that. Things are alright the way they are now, they say. Colonisation had good effects. Price even said that Indigenous people should be grateful for running water – as though rivers didn’t exist before the invasion, and as though European settlement were the only way to get infrastructure up and running. Incredibly, Price said that there are no “ongoing negative impacts of colonisation.”

Price’s comments were widely ridiculed, but the assimilationist logic underneath them is very popular. Things are alright, they suggest, stop complaining.  Are things alright?

Is it alright that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are imprisoned out of all proportion to their percentage of the population?

Is it alright that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die far younger on average than non-indigenous people?

Is it alright that Aboriginal Australians have far higher rates of suicide than non-indigenous Australians?

Is it alright that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are subject to arbitrary uses of power by a state they have little say in, as for example in the Intervention?

None of these things are ‘alright.’ Voting against the Voice means voting for things to remain as they are, only worse, with racists emboldened by what they will see as a win, and the Liberal Party confirmed in its habit of using racist dog whistles for political success.

One response to the above facts is that the Voice will not ‘fix’ all the problems, the entrenched disadvantage that First Nations people face. This is a furphy. It’s true that the Voice on its own will not ‘fix’ problems. On its own, the Voice can’t do that.

What an Indigenous Voice to Parliament will do is give a higher profile to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concerns, and give First Nations people more direct, and democratic, input on government decisions.

It’s quite common for Australian governments to announce actions to ‘fix’ Indigenous disadvantage in this country. Various solutions are dreamed up, action is taken, in a way that makes the non-indigenous bourgeois politicians look good. In these fixes, what’s missing is the involvement of the people being ‘fixed.’

The Voice is an exception to the long line of paternalistic fixes. It comes from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, developed over a long and very democratic process by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Voice will mean that First Nations people are heard closely on matters that affect the first people to live on this continent.

None of the disadvantage that Indigenous people face will be changed easily. History shows that positive changes come from persistent struggle.

The Communist Party of Australia was the first political party in this country to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their struggle for Land Rights and sovereignty. We have been standing with First Nations people ever since. We are supporting the Voice to Parliament because it will give impetus to struggles to come.

We call on all Party members and supporters to work for a YES vote to the Voice because things as they are now are far from alright. Vote YES!

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