A FREE taste of an Insight Politics article by writer Lushington D. Brady.
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Albo Has United Australians at Last
Just not in the way he’d hoped…
In the end the polls were wrong: the “Voice” referendum was not narrowly defeated – it was wiped out. Not just by a thumping national majority, but in every single state: even Yes’s great hope, Tasmania, voted emphatically No.
The fallout from the referendum will reverberate, not just for days and weeks, but years. Decades, even. And it holds a number of bitter lessons for those who invested so much political and social capital – not to say other people’s money – in what was so obviously a doomed and divisive campaign.
The first lesson is one that was already well known, but which the referendum has made brutally clear: the stark divide between the small clique of inner-city elites and the vast sprawl of suburban, regional and outback Australia. This was a referendum of the snobs finger-wagging the masses.
That was obvious enough from the campaign itself. Just as in the 1999 Republic referendum, the elite establishment were unanimous in their bombast. A conga-line of corporations trumpeted their support, while actors, pop stars, and sports people chirped and twittered in a deafening idiot chorus. The Yes campaign’s sleb-hunting ranged from the drearily predictable – Ray Martin, Johnny Farnham – to the just plain bizarre and a little bit sad. Shaquille O’Neal and MC Hammer? Really?
The airy detachment of the elites from the Australian reality showed in the results. The only places to achieve a Yes majority were in the wealthy, inner-city quinoa-belts of the capital cities. Greens leader Adam Bandt’s nouveau-riche, gentrified seat voted 78% Yes. Hawke in Melbourne’s outer west, named for Labor luminary Bob Hawke and held by Labor’s Sam Rae, voted 65% No. The richest electorates in Australia, the Teal seats of inner Melbourne and Harbourside Sydney, all voted Yes. Sydney’s western suburbs, Labor’s heartland and held by a slew of cabinet ministers, voted resoundingly No.
Tellingly, the only state or territory to show an overall Yes majority was the Australian Capital Territory. For many Australian voters, this merely confirms the perception of the Australian capital being a completely out-of-touch, insular bubble. That a city that is so clearly divided from the rest of Australia, not just by income, but in attitude, serves as the seat of government and public service only deepens Australian voters’ fury at being governed by a cloistered, taxpayer-funded ivory tower.
At the diametric opposite end of Australia, socially and economically, the Northern Territory, home to the largest proportion of the most disadvantaged Aboriginal Australians, also voted completely opposite to ivory tower Canberra. Elsewhere across Aboriginal Australia, the result was even more stark. The five seats with the largest proportion of Indigenous residents – Lingiari (40.3 per cent), Parkes (16.4 per cent), Leichhardt (16.3 per cent), Durack (15.2 per cent) and Kennedy (14.8 per cent) – voted No by an average of 71 per cent.
There is no doubt that the referendum result has wounded the Albanese Government: perhaps not immediately fatally, but certainly in the long term.
Don’t expect Anthony Albanese to have the basic decency to fall on his sword in the same manner as former British PM David Cameron. When Cameron lost the Brexit referendum he had invested so much political capital in, he announced his intention to resign the next day. Albanese, on the other hand, is trying to bluster his way through, proclaiming that his government will get on with the job of “closing the gap”.
Which only raises the question of why he even insisted on a referendum in the first place. When it was suggested that Albanese simply legislate a Voice through normal parliamentary means, he insisted that it had to be done by referendum. Yet, having lost the referendum, now Albanese seems determined to legislate what he demanded by Constitutional change. To a great many Australians, Albanese has not just wasted $400 million, but has torn the country apart in ways that will take years, if not decades to heal. And for what? As Sunrise host Natalie Barr put it, “Something your government hung its hat on failed dismally across this country – it was a wipeout…Four hundred million dollars down the drain to something people said ‘nup’.”
If the voters’ judgement on Albanese’s leadership will be harsh, it’s nothing compared to the incandescent fury that will be unleashed in the Labor party room. Albanese is already having enough trouble keeping Labor’s feral left in check over everything from boats to Hamas. Now Albanese has squandered whatever authority he may have had, the dogs of leftist war will be set loose in the party room. While the open calls for Albanese to resign are currently coming from across the aisle, it’s almost certain that the knives are being sharpened behind his back.
But if the PM is a lame duck, his Minister for Indigenous Australians is a dead goose walking.
Linda Burney, who never misses an opportunity to trumpet her indigenous heritage (while studiously ignoring the half of her family tree rooted in wealthy Scots gentry), was the government’s second-most public face of the referendum campaign. More pointedly, it was wholly the responsibility of her ministry. And she completely and utterly bollixed it. Like the prime minister, every time Burney opened her mouth, she only drove the No vote higher. Her answers to pointed questions in parliament were vague and mendacious, to the point that she was credibly accused of misleading parliament.
Burney’s own constituents voted 56% No – a deadly embarrassment for the Minister. But, if the verdict of her constituents wasn’t harsh enough, the reactions of the “key stakeholders” with whom she must (try to) work with from now on suggests that her job will be nigh-impossible. The troughers of the Aboriginal Industry are throwing a gigantic wobbly at having a Constitutionally-enshrined gravy train snatched from their grasping fingers. And they’re directing much of their vitriol at Anthony Albanese and Linda Burney.
Sally Scales, part of Burney’s own Referendum Working Group, threw an almighty tantrum on Saturday night, as the scale of the drubbing they’d received became clear. Scales declared – not unreasonably – that Burney had “done nothing since the ALP came to office”. The PM, she said, is “insulting and pathetic”.
While Defence Minister Richard Marles alone had the decency to acknowledge that the people had “got it right”, and the Yes campaign had failed itself, the bulk of the left behaved as they always do when they don’t get their way. Tears, tantrums, name-calling, sulking: it all came tumbling out on Saturday night. It apparently never occurs to these loons that this is exactly the sort of behaviour that turned so many people off the referendum in the first place.
But the referendum result will keep delivering in other ways, long after the “Voice” is consigned to the dustbin of history along with the other 80% of referenda that the Australian people have wisely rejected, over the last 120 years. Not least, the whole idea of referendum is dead for at least another couple of decades.
It’s been nearly a quarter-century since the last referendum. That one came a decade after the one before. The crushing defeat of this one makes it exceedingly unlikely that any government will dare go there again for a very long time. Opposition leader Peter Dutton has already dropped his call for a consolation-prize referendum on “Indigenous Recognition”. But the result also means that some of the left’s other pet causes are dead in the water: not least, an Australian republic. The Australian Republican Movement, which had pinned so much hope on striking hot once the death of Queen Elizabeth II had faded from memory, can kiss their hopes goodbye for at least another quarter-century.
Australians are winning in other ways, too. When Marcia Langton warned that a No result would mean the end of the fatuous Welcome to Country ceremonies that increasingly pollute daily Australian life, many Australians joyfully took it as a promise. It may be one of the few promises the left will keep: already an “Aboriginal elder” has dropped out of a WTC for a cricket match.
We can only hope this sulking catches on, and we’re spared the asinine virtue-signalling for good.
Australia dodged a bullet this Saturday. But far more damage than was ever necessary has been done.
The government that willfully inflicted such damage must be made to pay.
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