Tuesday, 9 September 2014

We had a referendum

here Downunder. It is a topical issue given that the Scots are going to have one next week.  It was some years ago now and it was over the issue of whether the place should "become a republic". Fortunately it failed but the movement still exists and needs to be watched. It is not, as republicans would have use believe, about "independence" but about "power". Those who want power should never be given power. Unfortunately they tend to get it.
In order to pass a referendum needs to get a majority of the votes in a majority of the states. Most referenda fail. (The one on a republic did not get a majority of the votes in any of the states - although one state came close.)
Although the date is not yet decided there is another referendum on the horizon. This one is to add recognition of indigenous Australians to the preamble of the Constitution.
On the surface this sounds like a good idea. We would be acknowledging that Australia was inhabited before white settlement.
It seems like such a good idea that, to date, there has been no attempt to provide an official "no" case. A "no" case has to be provided but the government, with the support of the other parties, is in no hurry to provide one. We are effectively being told that if we vote "no" then we are being racist and that the only way to vote is "yes".
I don't like it. Although I rarely rebel I do not like being told what to do. I like to make up my own mind.
In this case I also hope I managed to learn enough constitutional law to know that this is not a simple matter. Putting something like that into the preamble of our constitution has constitutional implications, particularly for sec. 25 (disqualification on the basis of race - never used) and sec. 51 (allows laws on the basis of race - has been used). It has the potential for division rather than cohesion. It has the potential to do more harm than good. It could lead to the need for change to other parts of the constitution - without any guarantee of success. We would need to do that in order to ensure that indigenous Australians were not discriminated against on the basis of race.
Someone thought this was a good idea. Perhaps they can convince me but, at present, I am worried the unintended consequences might do more harm than good.

1 comment:

cathyc said...

Couldn't agree more. There is so much that is important to discuss in this country that can't be done because one is automatically labelled - if not branded - by doing so.