An announcement in the Weekend Australian 26, 27 November, must surely ring alarm bells for all voting Australians. “Labor is to introduce a pre-runner to the referendum bill that removes a historic legal requirement that every Australian household receives a pamphlet containing a 2000 word essay in favour of the referendum question and a 2000 word essay against.” (Paige Taylor, Indigenous Affairs Correspondent). Taylor’s words were so concerning to us that we researched the matter further.

The Historic Legal Requirement concerning Referenda is stated by the Parliamentary Education Office to be, “Before the referendum is held, members of parliament prepare arguments for or against the proposed change. These are sent to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), which is in charge of running federal elections and referendums. The AEC arranges for the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ cases, along with a statement of the proposed change, to be posted to every Australian on the electoral roll.”

The requirement for these essays is obviously to educate all those on the electoral roll about the subject so they would not be voting from positions of ignorance. Overriding this Requirement to inform the public impartially about proposed changes to the Constitution is a dishonourable act, an unconscionable act. This nation is facing a referendum to change our Constitution to include a mandate that Aboriginals have a Voice to Parliament because of their race. It is vital that every effort be made to inform all Australians about both sides of the debate, as is their democratic right.

According to Senator Pat Dodson, the Government reserves the right to run a minimalist education programme, because campaigning before the referendum could cause hurt and division. He says, “People need to be free to make their own decisions, not be badgered by negative racist views that are ill-informed, untrue and irresponsible.”

So there we have it. Any debate about the No side of the referendum is to be swept under the carpet because it will cause hurt and distress to Aboriginal people.  Anyone who wishes to vote No is,  according to Senator Dodson, badgering the electorate with ill-informed, racist and an irresponsible lies. This is both offensive and nonsensical.

If a group of people want to change the Constitution they are free to argue their case. What they must expect is that other people will disagree, perhaps disagree strongly. If this disagreement causes hurt and division, then so be it.

What is insultingly unacceptable is for the Government to manipulate our democratic laws and processes to favour the people wanting the change because of ideological bias or professed feelings of sympathy.

We will continue to distribute bumper stickers to publicise the No side of the debate as long as there is a need. Please continue to support us. I can be contacted at jbhackett@bigpond.com for details about sticker purchase.

Joanna and Lindsay Hackett

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Joanna Hackett grew up in country Australia and taught for twenty-one years before circumnavigating the world for five years with her husband, in a yacht. She is a published author who still travels widely. She is particularly concerned about the proposal for a racial mandate in our Constitution