The Voice to Parliament is designed to empower Indigenous activists to push the “radical agenda” of a treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Rita Panahi has argued.
The Sky News host used her Friday evening editorial to highlight the arguments of three prominent architects of the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament, all of whom described the Voice as a vehicle that would lead to a treaty.
“Let’s get serious about the Voice referendum, the race-based referendum seeking to change our constitution and entrench racial privilege into the founding document of our nation,” Rita Panahi said.
“And if that is allowed to occur, if Australians are guilted into backing this radical agenda then you can be sure that what comes next is further division including an empowered Voice body full of activists pushing for the implementation of the Uluru statement in full.”
Panahi highlighted comments Referendum Council co-chair Pat Anderson made in 2022, who said the Voice would correct the power imbalance between Indigenous people and the Australian government.
“At the moment we are powerless. If we have the Voice, then we have two sovereign peoples having an equal discussion, not the power imbalance that we have now. So we will then be in charge of everything that happens after that,” Ms Anderson said.
“Once we are locked in there to the Constitution, we are locked in. We can’t be gotten away – and we are equal.
“At the moment there’s nobody, no group that can negotiate on our behalf. We have been powerless for a long time – In fact, since ATSIC.
“You know, ATSIC had its issues, but nevertheless, we all were able to go to one place and have our arguments and sort stuff out.”
Panahi described the statements as “Incredible stuff”, joking that Ms Anderson must have accidentally said the quiet bit out loud.
“ATSIC had its problems? Yeah I guess that’s what you can call mass waste and corruption,” she said.
“As many of us have warned, the Voice will be ATSIC on steroids, an ATSIC with far greater power and no accountability because it’s in the constitution and it cannot be disbanded without another referendum.”
Panahi also aired an excerpt from a talk given by Dr Dylan Lino, a University of Queensland academic and member of the team that provided legal advice to the Uluru Dialogue.
“The Voice can give First Nations peoples greater political power in negotiating a national framework for treaties,” Dr Lino said in a 2022 talk.
“This is the whole idea behind the voice, that it will give indigenous peoples collective political power, institutionalize that through the process of a referendum and kind of this formal recognition of the Constitution.
“All of this will be valuable in shoring up indigenous people’s bargaining power when it comes to the second stage of settling on a framework for national treaty-making.”
Panahi then moved on to comments from Indigenous activist and prominent Yes campaigner Noel Pearson.
“Our aspiration nationally is to have a Voice to Parliament. And once we have a representative body, we will seek to negotiate a treaty with the Australian Parliament,” Mr Pearson said in a video.
In addition to being the president of the Cape York Institute, Mr Pearson is also one of a handful of individuals who first came up with the Voice proposal in the mid-2010s.
The Sky News host reminded viewers that Mr Pearson had previously “attacked Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine in the ugliest terms” by calling them “glove puppets” who mindlessly regurgitate the words of white folk to punch down on Indigenous people.
“You’ll remember that he also called readers of the Australian newspaper ‘borderline casual racists’,” Panahi said.
“And let’s not forget the manner in which he targeted fellow Yes advocate Mick Gooda for daring to say the Voice was losing support and there needed to be compromise.
“Gooda was right by the way and now Pearson wants you to forget his bullying tactics, he’s now all magnanimous, mild-mannered and advocating for reasonable change.
“That, of course, is complete fantasy… in the end what matters is the power of this thing and Pearson is among those who has made it clear what a Voice will lead to.
“Voice, treaty, truth-telling. It’s all there in the Uluru Statement and it’s a commitment Anthony Albanese has made time and time again.”
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