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Black or White – Not as simple as YES or NO

YES or NO – It’s not as simple as Black or White, it’s a little grey.

On October 14 via a referendum, the public will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on a proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament.

There are two sides to the “no” campaign and they are very different. The “yes” campaign has largely coalesced around a single message, while the “no” campaign does not.

As far as style and tone are concerned, here’s what they’re arguing about.

Conservatives’ ‘no’ campaign

Right-wing politicians, including prominent Coalition members, are on one side of the “no” campaign. In order to convince voters who are unsure of what it all means to simply vote no instead of finding the necessary information, this campaign uses the catchphrase, “If you don’t know, vote no”.

Indigenous people are also considered beneficiaries of special privileges by a number of Australians. There is a claim that the referendum will introduce “racial privilege” by establishing a government system where Indigenous people will have influence over government decisions.

This “no” campaign is being driven in part by Fair Australia, an arm of Advance Australia, which counts former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as an advisory member.

They use social media to push their arguments, which mainly revolve around two themes: dividing the nation and masking an agenda by omitting details.

The “no” camp has been accused of spreading false information many times.

A senior Indigenous politician, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price is the Liberal Party’s spokesperson against the Voice as well as the main Indigenous voice in the conservative “no” camp. Recently, Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton appointed Price as Indigenous Australians’ shadow minister.

Black Sovereign’s ‘no’ campaign

In contrast, the “no” campaign claims to have the best interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at heart.

Lidia Thorpe is the most prominent voice of this progressive camp, which is often framed as the “no” campaign’s progressive side. According to Thorpe, the Voice is a “powerless advisory body” that will do little to improve the lives of most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. As a substitute, Thorpe supports truth-telling and treaties.

According to Thorpe, the Voice is just a way to fake real progress for Indigenous people without actually changing anything.

She also points out that the Voice debate has caused harm and divisiveness, describing it as a “destructive distraction”.

Despite both sides supporting a “no” vote, one seeks more self-determination rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while the other advocates for the status quo.

What does this mean for Indigenous people?

Proponents of the Voice claim it will bring a new and enlightened Australia, but the government will be able to disregard what it recommends.

Indigenous writer Celeste Liddle captures how many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel about the referendum:

Currently, I am faced with a choice between systems I don’t trust and giving in to rabid racists.

We see these falsehoods repeatedly spread because they are at the heart of racism in Australia, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are entitled to something other Australians are not.

It has been questioned whether Australia can engage in a debate about the Voice without devolving into racist stereotypes and argue it points on merit. Like the ”Greens” this will be a “state of mind” and the final outcome not based on
any real, implied or resolved issues within Australia.

Dash Editor

Self-confessed confused news junkie, with lifelong additions to coffee, great conversations, perfection in all its forms, cold wine, hot music and puppy dogs.

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