Robert Griffith | 1 September 2023
Robert Griffith
1 September 2023

 

This morning I sent the letter below to our Prime Minister. I am sure it will be lost in a large pile, but I decided it was better than talking to my TV screen and computer as I try to process all that this referendum will mean for our nation.


 

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: The Voice Referendum

Like most concerned and engaged Australians, I have been following the commentary online and in the mainstream media about the coming referendum. I confess that most of what I’ve heard and read on both sides seems to be political rhetoric or emotional manipulation. What I have been craving are some measured, reasonable facts which will help us to decide what we, the voters, believe is the best way forward for all Australians, including our ‘first peoples.’

I have just finished watching your interview on A Current Affair this week and I feel I should respond because I sincerely believe my comments and questions will be echoed by a large number of Australians at present. Whilst I don’t require or expect an answer from you personally, I do respectfully ask that you address my concerns in your public discourse over the next six weeks because I believe when this referendum fails, the issues I raise in this letter will most likely be the reason.

I want to begin by acknowledging your passion and commitment to this cause. Whether I agree with your position or not, you are to be commended for embracing what you perceive to be the best way forward for our nation on this issue and you have not wavered from your position this whole time. However, even the best visionary leaders are prepared to change course if and when they discern their direction is perilous or self-defeating.

In your interview with Ali Langdon I believe you failed to provide any substantive reason why we should support this Constitutional Amendment in its current form. Ali stressed to you that so many Australians “just don’t get it” and nothing you said in response to her questions will change that.

Throughout this whole process you have told us that, “we must do better” and I think the majority of sincere voters in this nation would probably agree with you and would support sensible initiatives which truly serve the needs of indigenous Australians. We have wasted billions of dollars on failed schemes and programs which have done nothing to truly address the issues facing what you say is the most disadvantaged group in our nation.

You then said to Ali that The Voice is different to everything we have done before because it is a ‘bottom up’  initiative, rather than a ‘top down’ process where those in Canberra set the agenda. You said you want to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people setting the agenda. What you have failed to explain to the voters from the outset is why that requires an amendment to the Constitution. If The Voice will have no power to force a government to do anything, then what will prevent the Government from ignoring the ‘advice’ given to it, just like it seems to have done so many times before?

You then supported the ‘no’ case perfectly by citing a number of examples of programs in recent times which have been grass roots ‘first peoples’ initiatives which have actually succeeded and made a difference!  I am sure at that point in the interview many voters would have been shaking their heads in disbelief that you would so clearly show us how we can actually “do better” without a Constitutional amendment.

You keep telling us how ‘simple’ this proposal is and yet you have made it very clear that none of the details about how this will work and how this new body will interact with the Parliament or the government of the day will be even decided until after the referendum is approved. You scoff at the suggestion that we are being asked to ‘sign a blank cheque’ without any clear understanding of what we are buying, and yet that is exactly what is happening.

Prime Minister, I thank you for agreeing to the interview on A Current Affair and I thank you for not shying away from any and all questions about this very important proposal. However, with the greatest respect I must say that the only thing you convinced me of in this interview is that our own Prime Minister doesn’t even know how this radical new initiative will play out or what the financial, legal and racial implications will be for our nation.

If this was just a policy decision, then maybe it would be worth the roll of the dice in the hope that it might work because it can always be scrapped later if we get it wrong. But there is no turning back if this referendum succeeds and the implications for our whole nation if we get this wrong is beyond my ability to even imagine.

I am bracing myself for the next six weeks now as people argue back and forth about the merits of this proposal but my greatest fear is that we will arrive on polling day knowing nothing more than we know right now and that is because our Prime Minister and government is actually not able to tell us anything more this side of the referendum. That is as frightening as it is irresponsible.

Listening to your sincerity and passion when responding to Ali Langdon’s questions, I felt deeply saddened that an issue which means so much to you has been sabotaged by the very process you have chosen to deliver it to the nation. I believe the vast majority of Australians would be happy to support Constitutional recognition for our ‘first peoples of Australia’ but they simply cannot support the delivery mechanism you have proposed and it makes no sense to press on into another failed referendum which will demonise all the ‘no’ voters when in actual fact the proposal itself was flawed from the outset and will ultimately be the cause of its own demise.

I know it is too late now because even if you know in your heart this referendum will fail, you cannot put the brakes on at this late stage. So, my hope and prayer Prime Minister is that when this is over and the people reject your flawed proposal, you will show strong, positive leadership the following day, demonstrating that you are still committed to “doing better” for Indigenous Australians with all the resources available to you whilst you are in government.

Sincerely yours,

Robert Griffith