The ‘Yes’ Campaign Are the Moderates

“…although the author does not associate themselves with the Yes campaign, they are giving us a window into some of the more radical views of some of the people whose voice would be seriously empowered if the Yes campaign were successful.”

Sometimes it is good to be reminded that as radical as something like the Voice to Parliament is, the Yes campaign is the moderate wing of the “progressive” left, and there are some who want to go further, much further.

Here is one example published in Crikey:

The “racist” No campaign embodies the reality of this settler colony and reflects the ideological foundation and spirit of the Australian nation. It highlights the deeply vicious, anti-Indigenous sentiment that resides at the core of the Australian national identity. To be Australian is to accept the narrative about us as a dispossessed and defeated people, as boongs, petrol-sniffers and dole-bludgers in need of care and control by the white man who knows best. It is to want to eradicate us, whether that be by extermination or assimilation.

This is the reality that Yes campaigners refuse to reckon with, the reality too many mob live with every day. A colony that kills us, that steals our children, that destroys our land, that poisons our water, blows up our sacred sites, throws us in prison and then tells us that we are the problem. It is a nation that tells us we do not belong on our own land.

The “progressive” No campaign embodies the spirit of revolutionary justice by demanding we confront the history of the Australian nation. The Yes campaigners will do well to remember that this is a history that has never been reckoned with in any meaningful way. We do not want to be recognised by the colonial constitution. We do not want to be part of it at all. Those who say that this inclusion would be a meaningful step do not speak for us. We do not want reconciliation. We want a reckoning.

Sovereignty was never ceded

When we say that First Nations sovereignty was never ceded, we do not simply mean that our spiritual sovereignty remains intact regardless of the colony’s existence. We mean that we maintain our legitimate claim to the lands and resources of this continent and the right to determine our own lives and future and we do not recognise the sovereignty of the illegal invader. We view the colonial federation as an occupying force whose existence to this day is predicated on the ongoing theft of our lands and the genocide of our people. Sovereignty is both our right to our lands and resources and our own self-determinate governance structures, and First Nations peoples have not ceded our sovereignty.

The Yes campaign is living in an illusion, where Australia is a progressive nation, where unity can be found through democratic participation and racism can be addressed through voting.”

This is a radical position. This is the position of some on the hard left, people who do not support the Yes campaign for the Voice, but for very different reasons than those who are on the right side of the aisle in politics.

I think it is important to amplify voices like this one represented in this piece because although the author does not associate themselves with the Yes campaign, they are giving us a window into some of the more radical views of some of the people whose voice would be seriously empowered if the Yes campaign were successful.

The Yes campaign has gone to great lengths to distance itself, at times, from more radical calls for more land rights changes and a treaty and other policies like Indigenous sovereignty. But the Voice would be designed to give a constitutionally protected place with influence in parliament to people who had such views amongst the Indigenous and progressive communities. And they do not like Australia as it is and want drastic change, as the Crikey piece notes,

“This idea being promoted today that First Nations peoples have been calling for constitutional recognition since back then is not accurate. We know that, because we know the history of the political movement was always about land rights, treaty and self-determination. Political struggles are not fought over symbolic gestures.”

For some, the Voice does not go anywhere near far enough. It is viewed as tokenistic symbolism and a “powerless advisory body.”

Views such as those expressed above are so far outside of mainstream[5] Australia, that their association with the Yes campaign has turned many moderate Australians away from it. And one can understand why, if you berate everyday Australians as racists and bigots for not agreeing with your political designs you will turn them off your cause in massive numbers. Especially when they have no ill will to anyone in this country of any particular group or nationality. Which most Australians don’t.

This is one of the most open and least racist places imaginable on the planet. I know some people will be shocked to hear that, but our country’s accommodation of varied cultures proves that most Australians are pretty tolerant and accepting of people from a large variety of backgrounds. This is not true in many, many places around the world.   

Statements like this for example, “The constitution is not a progressive document, and this state is not a progressive nation that we can be proud to be included in”[6] will create great headaches for those who are trying to allay fears that the Voice is really a window to far more radical change. There are many who support the Voice to Parliament who simply want to grant more ability for indigenous Australians to be heard. But even some of them will balk at being told they have to go much, much further. Australians are a radically moderate nation, that is Australia goes out of its way to be very moderate.

We should also recognize that a no vote will not stop the radical left from going further, as this piece again notes,  

What should we do in an Australia that has voted No?…

…As a start, we need to demand truth-telling across this continent. We need an end to the theft of our babies and the locking away of our children. We need to stop the murder of our people at the hands of police and lynch mobs, and we need to take police guns out of communities. We need to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, and poor health from our reality. We need to demand reparations for slavery and stolen wages, and ultimately, we need to take back the land and natural resources that are rightfully ours.

There are those who see Australia as a totalitarian state with a thin veneer of liberalism painted over it. The writer of this piece is seeking to paint child protection programs and dealing with youth crime as a form of oppression. I know people who live in indigenous communities and some are a pleasure to live in and others are not, and the levels of crime in the latter drive everyone, indigenous or not, crazy with frustration. I have spoken to police officers firsthand about some of the issues of youth crime and it is a genuine problem, especially in some indigenous communities.

No one denies our nation is not perfect, and that it has a long way to go in many areas. But I suspect many of us would disagree about what those areas are. Medical authoritarianism is one I would advocate for solving, whereas others would disagree. There are other big areas that need addressing, like our overreliance on foreign trade and immigration, and many other areas.

Australians need to recognize that the Yes campaign is the moderate wing of a far more radical progressive movement that would like to go a long way in dismantling the society we currently have. Be aware of this. A no vote will not stop their advocacy, indeed, it may even deepen their support and motivate them to advocate more. This does not mean we should vote yes, because we should not, it just means we need to recognize that our nation has other challenges coming ahead.

The Caldron Pool Show

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The Caldron Pool Show: #39 – Q&A (with Tom Foord)


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