The following question was posed on Quora:
“Is Peter Dutton wrong when he says he is going to have another referendum to recognize Indigenous people in the Australian constitution?”
My Answer was as follows:
Yes, Dutton is very wrong and very naive. Let me explain why this ‘Voice’ has no place in a constitution.
Firstly, you can never trust Government.
When constructing a democracy, you must start from the premise that all Governments will, over time, try to accrue unto themselves more and more power to control the citizens. Many succeed in doing this.
You must also realise that, from time to time, a very bad person or group of persons will attempt to gain control of the Government.
Sometimes very bad people end up in power.
It is necessary therefore, that there exist certain checks in the system of Government to slow them down.
That way the electorate has the opportunity to become aware of what is happening and vote them out of office.
That is why there should be a separation between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of Government.
It is also why most democracies have a bicameral system of Legislature.
That is, an upper and lower house with the members of each of these two bodies being elected by different methods.
The “Bad News” for Australia
Now for some bad news! In Australia and, indeed, in most countries that have adopted the Westminster system of Government (Canada is a prime example!), there is not a proper separation of the Legislature from the Executive.
Why this is so is the material for another essay and there isn’t the time for it here. Suffice to say that members of the Legislature become members of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet and, in most Commonwealth countries, this body has, over time, assumed more and more power.
In consequence they, and not the Monarch (aka Governor General), actually run the Public Service in detail.
More bad news! Political Parties effectively negate the protection that a bicameral structure was supposed to provide.
If the same Party, particularly a socialist Party like the Greens or Labor, are dominant in the Upper and Lower House, the Upper House simply rubber-stamps the legislation presented to it.
The Governor General, another intended level of protection, then rubber-stamps the legislation because he or she is beholden to the Legislature for their employment and is often ideologically aligned with the Party in power.
The final nail in the coffin is that Unions dominate the Public Service, particularly in education and health.
The Labor Party is the political arm of the Unions. The consequence of this is that even if a free-enterprise loving, libertarian Party dominates the Legislature, the Public Service is an integral part of the Labor Party.
Therefore, the Public Service will do its best to undermine any Right leaning Government whenever the opportunity presents itself with poorly executed programmes and embarrassing leaks to the media, which itself is dominated by socialists and corporate elites.
So, as you can see, the various checks that are in place to prevent capricious use of power by the stupid and wicked are greatly weakened.
There is a need for some serious reform of the Australian Constitution and system of Government to address this.
Unfortunately, Peter Dutton and, in fact, most of the people in Government are not sufficiently critical in their thinking to appreciate this situation.
Instead, whilst Australia burns, he wants to fiddle with the Constitution.
But I digress!
The Sacred Principle of an Enduring System of Democracy
A foundational principle of any democracy, that will endure the test of time, is that we are all born with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We appreciate that without some Government there would be chaos. However, we do so with some reluctance and trepidation.
It is prudent to require that the Government intrude as little as possible into our lives. We should insist on this.
The final starting point is to realise that people, when in a mob, will act in their own self-interest to the detriment of others not belonging to that group.
The analogy of two foxes and a chicken voting on what should be had for lunch is often used to illustrate this point.
People also have a tendency to surrender some liberty for the promise of security; but history informs us that in the end, they will have neither.
We therefore need to set down some ground rules and a framework in the hope that we will all get along with each other and not become serfs to a ruling, wealthy elite.
The Prime Role of a Constitution in a Democracy
That is where a constitution comes in. It is a Master-Servant Contract between the Governed and the Government, respectively.
This is a very serious document and any deliberate attempt by a politician or group to circumvent this contract is an act of treason and warrants the punishment that that offence attracts.
The Constitution is Not a document for “warm & fluffy platitudes & homilies.”
So, there is no place for those warm and fluffy sentiments in this document.
Instead, the Constitution should make very clear the rights we, the Governed, insist on and the fact that the Government is our servant with dire consequences for those involved should it ever fail us in that regard.
Certainly not “recognition” because what does “recognition” actually mean?
Indeed, the wording of this contract has to be kept very precise and succinct because lawyers and politicians will try their hardest to read meanings into this contract, that were never intended by the Governed.
It is the Governed, after all, who, first and foremost, should be the framers of this document and only they should have the right to alter it by way of a referendum.
High Court Judges in Australia already have a track-record for making new laws in a manner that was never intended by the founders of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Those judges who have been guilty of this should have been immediately impeached by the Parliament and removed from office.
Regrettably the Government of the day was collaborating with the High Court Justices.
In summary, Dutton is very wrong to even suggest another referendum with the aim of recognising Aborigines.
It is a mealy-mouthed appeasement of an activist group which should be given no concessions at all.
Instead, he should direct his efforts to rescinding Section 51 sub-section (xxvi) which presently confers upon the Federal Government the right to make “special” laws on the basis of a citizen’s racial makeup (something most Australians are unaware of!).
In place of this clause of the Constitution should be inserted a clause that specifically forbids all Governments and all Government funded or related agencies at any level within the Commonwealth of Australia from making laws or constructing regulations which discriminate, either positively or negatively, on the basis of a citizen’s race or gender.
If Australia is to survive and thrive as a Democracy, everyone in Australia must be treated exactly the same and no group should rate a special mention in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia.
To do so invites some mischievous politician or judge to try to infer more than was ever intended by these well-intentioned platitudes.