“On this matter, we are partners and collaborators.” Tony Abbott’s remarks to Julia Gillard on the Act of Recognition are telling. The man who trampled all else (the environment, single parents, education, the economy, not to mention the general population who are dying for a legitimate alternative to the usurper) in his insidious sustained effort to topple the government has put his agenda aside to join with his apparent nemesis to recognise… indigenous Australians? I wonder if he means the city folk or “authentic” Aborigines. Clearly, the government and opposition have broader intentions than first appear. At face value the Act of Recognition and by extension the referendum which will be pushed and highly publicised by the government is a positive step towards reconciliation which removes the powers of racial discrimination already instilled and if you look no further it will make you feel like a good person to vote “yes” on constitutional recognition. But, if you do look further, you will find that this is a deliberate, bipartisan attempt to disenfranchise Aboriginal communities by bringing their laws, culture and, most importantly, their natural resources under the direct jurisdiction of the Australian government by power of a constitution which was forced on this land, and now, its original inhabitants.
Social movements have exploded globally over the past 5 years and Idle No More which began in Canada with a hunger strike has been able to generate mounting pressure on the Canadian government as its popularity increases and its message for indigenous sovereignty spreads. Australia, like Canada, has ignored and subjugated its original inhabitants, moved them off into pockets of their own land and pitted them against other Aboriginal communities to sell off their natural resources and as the pressure for change builds, it is only a matter of time before a movement rouses the Australian people. Idle No More might have been that movement and this act is only a deterrent to the indigenous in Australia who want recognition with substance, and a nail in the coffin for wider public support for meaningful sovereignty for Aboriginal communities. The question of who can provide “peace, order and good governance” is one that deserves to be thought about and a government that has historically disempowered and marginalised your people with genocidal intent is probably not going to be your first choice to make that call. If you genuinely want to step towards true reconciliation which recognises Aboriginal sovereignty, you will head into the coming referendum and you will write “treaty.” Sovereignty was never ceded.
The problem with voting the party line
In Australia, in the Federal Parliament MPs are usually required to vote along party lines whenever any legislation is to be scrutinised. This practice is one of the most damaging, widely accepted abuses of democracy in our current system. There are two ways this disrupts our so-called democratic system that I can see; and probably a number of effects that I haven’t conceived yet. The first is the accepted denial of true representation at the Federal level of every single electorate in the country. Once an MP is required to vote along party lines or face the consequences, they are no longer considering the well-being or the opinion of their electorate for the simple fact that they are now forced to focus on their own as well as, always, the interests of their party. This gives rise to the second, the indoctrination of ideology within the party. Like an isolated, incestuous, lovecraftian family the “ideals” and “practices” of a good Liberal, National, Labor, etc. member are continually devoured and reprocessed to be devoured again. There is one simple solution to this problem and we already have a name for it; the conscience vote. When the Leader of the Party decides the issue is incredibly divisive they will allow a conscience vote and allow MPs to vote their mind (or preferably their electorate’s). Allowing the public to rally and lobby their elected representative to actually vote the way they felt would be a positive step towards a new truly democratic society. Why isn’t every vote a conscience vote?