Monday, October 16, 2023

Make no mistake, the No result was an act of insurrection

If there were ever any doubts Australia had made the right decision on Saturday, they were quickly put to rest by a group of Indigenous leaders who released a statement later that evening.

The statement blamed “newcomers” who had refused to acknowledge “that the brutal dispossession of our people underwrote their every advantage in this country”.

“That people who have only been on this continent for 235 years would refuse to recognise those whose home this land has been for 60,000 and more years is beyond reason.”

The oldest person in Australia is Catherina van der Linden, who celebrated her 111th birthday in August. She arrived as a hardworking migrant from The Netherlands in 1958 and has never dispossessed anyone or anything, as far as we know. The prosaic truth that no one currently alive occupied this continent much more than a century ago explains why many Australians regarded the voice as unjust. Saturday’s result was a repudiation of the black-armband approach to history.

Australians outside the Tesla zone have told the elite they’ve had enough of the national guilt trip. They’re sick of the self-flagellating speeches, national apologies, welcome to country and all the other politically correct performances.

It is a call to let bygones be bygones, recognising the pursuit of historical grievances springs from the same unforgiving logic that justifies the Palestinian cause.

Above all, it is a rejection of the insufferable arrogance of the anointed and their presumption of superior wisdom and morality. The No vote amounts to an act of insurrection by outsiders against the progressive establishment.

That much is evident from the wide variation between comfortable inner metropolitan electorates and outer metropolitan and regional seats. As a rule of thumb, the higher the support for the referendum proposal, the harder it is to find a tradie. In the seat of Flynn, which centres on Gladstone in central Queensland, almost one in five people has a trade certificate. In the seat of Melbourne, on the other hand, the tradies make up just 5 per cent of the population. The latest counting shows that 78 per cent of voters in Melbourne voted yes while 84 per cent in Flynn voted no.

The pattern is reversed for university graduates. In the 33 electorates where the vote was running in favour of the voice at the close of Saturday night’s count, one in three residents has a graduate or higher degree. In the No seats, it is one in six.

At its heart, the voice was an intellectual project framed around an abstract concept of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians rather than a practical measure designed to improve everyday lives. People declaring themselves Indigenous account for 1.5 per cent of the population in the Yes seats. In the No seats, it is 4.8 per cent.

The five seats with the largest proportion of Indigenous residents – Lingiari (40.3 per cent), Parkes (16.4 per cent), Leichhardt (16.3 per cent), Durack (15.2 per cent) and Kennedy (14.8 per cent) – voted no by an average of 71 per cent. The results in the five electorates with the smallest Indigenous population – Goldstein (0.2 per cent), Chisholm (0.3 per cent), Bradfield (0.3 per cent), Kooyong (0.3 per cent) and Higgins (0.3 per cent) – averaged 56 per cent in favour.

That doesn’t mean all Aboriginal people were against the voice any more than we can assume every tradie voted no. Indigenous people were split, despite the hubris of the Indigenous elite in their references to “our people”.

The intelligentsia may find it impossible to concede defeat on anything more than a technical amendment to the Constitution. The Indigenous leaders’ unsigned statement on Saturday hinted darkly at “the role of racism and prejudice against Indigenous people”. They said Australians who voted no should “reflect hard on this question”.

Pointing the finger at the “dinosaurs” and “dickheads” who populate the morally bankrupt land on the other side of the argument offers an easy way out for the voice crusaders. They will not have to dwell on the uncomfortable truth that the result is a rejection of their entire vision of the world, in which Indigenous Australians sit on a higher moral plane, as people who have been wronged by others, who deserve to be redressed.

The Sydney Morning Herald got it badly wrong in a headline on Sunday. “Devastating verdict,” it read. “Australia tells First Nations people ‘you are not special’.” The overwhelming sentiment among No voters was the very opposite.

“They have said no to grievance and the push from activists to suggest that we are a racist country when we are absolutely not a racist country,” Jacinta Nampijinpa Price said on Saturday. “We are all part of the fabric of this nation.”

The founding philosophy of modern Australia, 19th-century liberalism rooted in Christianity, holds that every person is unique, just as all lives matter. No one, however, is more special than anyone else.

On Saturday, Anthony Albanese finally hit the right tone in a speech expressing optimism and a “new national purpose”. The referendum offers a mandate for just that, should the PM have the courage to take it.

Albanese should recognise the result as a call for the end to the policy of separatism that began under Gough Whitlam and has yet to be challenged. The self-determination policy, as it was called, was intended to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by granting them control of settlements where they might practice their traditional customs.

The descent of these Rousseauean-inspired idylls into welfare sinkholes riddled with social dysfunction was immediate and is now all but irreversible. The most tragic mistake was the assumption that Aboriginal people held abnormally strong communal values that rose above the wishes of any individual. The free market barely operates across much of central and northern Australia.

Adopting capitalism may have brought a couple of billion people out of poverty in the last 30 years, but in large parts of remote Australia, it is effectively banned.

Saturday’s result provides an opportunity to liberate Aboriginal Australians from the debilitating assumption that they are victims from birth. It is a chance to break the tyranny of low expectations. Every Indigenous citizen should be able to exercise their full rights as citizens to alter the course of their lives for good or ill.


Failed Voice could force corporate Australia to rethink position on divisive issues

Companies could potentially think twice about backing divisive ­social issues, according to key business leaders, after many high-profile firms poured millions of dollars into supporting the failed Indigenous voice referendum.

Most of Australia’s 20 biggest companies – including BHP, the big four banks, Telstra and Woolworths – backed the Yes campaign, despite more than 60 per cent of Australians rejecting the proposal.

While not all businesses donated cash, the result of the referendum reveals a gulf between Australian boardrooms and the broader population, a move experts say has the potential to alienate customers, staff and wound brands.

Marcus Blackmore a prominent supporter of the No campaign - said the failed referendum has the potential to halt the wave of companies virtue signalling.

“They will really have to think long and hard about social issues,” Mr Blackmore said, adding he expected investors to ask executives tough questions at annual shareholder meetings, which begin this month.

“Some of the companies came out and said ‘Well, we‘ve got a responsibility to have a say in these sorts of things on behalf of our staff’. But I bet none of them did it on behalf of the staff. None of them.

“I think what will happen in the boardroom, before they come up with a similar sort of thing again, is the board would want to see the views of the staff. Because if the staff are all opposed to it, or even if 60 per cent of them are opposed to it, then you don‘t want to alienate your staff.”

The outcome of the referendum has already quietened the voices of some of its loudest supporters, with ANZ - which donated $2m to the Yes campaign - declining to comment on Sunday. Meanwhile, Qantas - which held a joint media conference with Anthony Albanese to promote the Yes campaign in August - issued a two sentence statement on Sunday, saying it would continue to push for recognition and reconciliation with indigenous Australians.

It adds to a growing list of corporations misjudging the broader community’s mood. Anheuser-Busch InBev, brewers of Bud Light, placed two on leave following a furore around its use of a transgender advocate in a US marketing campaign, while Adelaide-born Peter Flavel resigned as Coutts chief executive following the backlash around the bank’s decision to close the accounts of polarising pro-Brexit figure Nigel Farage.

Don Argus - doyen of Australian company directors, former NAB chief executive and BHP chairman - warned in August that business which supported the “Yes” case without checking the details in the Uluru statement could trigger a “challenge” to their fiduciary duties.


Ex-commando win in war crime fight against ABC

A former special forces commando has won his defamation case against the ABC after a Federal Court judge ruled the public broadcaster could not prove articles that alleged war crimes were reported in the public interest.

Heston Russell sued the ABC and journalists Josh Robertson and Mark Willacy over two articles that, he claimed, through the use of links and his photograph implied he was complicit in the execution of a prisoner captured during a joint drug enforcement operation ­between Australia and the US.

He will be awarded $390,000 in damages.

The first article, published in October 2020, relied on the evidence of “ear witness” Josh, a US Marine, who heard a “pop” over a radio and asserted Australian soldiers had killed an Afghan prisoner.

The second article, published in November 2021, stated the Defence Department had revealed there was an active criminal investigation into the conduct of an Australian commando platoon in Afghanistan in 2012.

The story evolved after Defence refused to answer a Freedom of Information request lodged by the ABC, saying there was an active investigation into the conduct of Mr Russell’s November platoon.

On Monday, Justice Michael Lee ruled in favour of Mr Russell, finding the broadcaster caused him serious harm and could not prove the articles were reported in the public interest.

The public interest defence was tested for the first time in this case.

Throughout the trial, the ABC argued even if the articles were not wholly true, they were a matter of such high public interest that they were worth reporting.

However, in reading out a summary of his judgment, Justice Lee partially rejected this assertion, and said: “On one level this is obviously correct, but it is important to understand that there is not some sliding scale which means the greater the public interest in the matter, the greater the margin for error of what is published.”

“To embrace this notion would distort and oversimplify the requirement to make a value judgement about whether the impugn publication was in the public interest by reference to call relevant circumstances,” he said.

Justice Lee said while Willacy was genuinely reporting a matter he believed to be in the public interest, “taking his conduct as a whole, his belief was not reasonable in the circumstances.”

Justice Lee also found Robertson had acted “unreasonably” in his interactions with Mr Russell, having failed to obtain a response from him prior to the publication of the November article.

“Mr Robertson did not procures all the information he could have reasonably obtained to assess whether what he proposed to publish serious as it was was sufficiently accurate,” he said.

During the trial, Justice Lee criticised the broadcaster for grandstanding and failing to accept fault in the matter.

“(They were) trying to suggest the court was making them reveal their sources, when they’ve got a statutory protected privilege which they couldn’t invoke because of their own conduct,” he said.

“That was notably absent from the press releases, which was this self-congratulatory (statement) to make them look like great fellas to the journalistic community.”


The nightmare from Geelong West

How would you like to be confronted by this one afternoon as you walked along a Melbourne street? Another triumph of Australia's immigration system

A 'thug' punched a stranger in the Melbourne CBD before his friend allegedly partially cut off the man's earlobe with a knife when he refused to hand over his wallet and phone in a robbery.

Jok Gar, 20, fronted Melbourne's County Court on Friday where he pleaded guilty to robbery and reckless causing injury

Judge Frances Hogan unleashed on Gar, from Geelong West, saying the behaviour was 'cowardly' and that he showed a complete 'lack of empathy'.

'It is appalling offending that strikes at the heart of the security of people in our community to walk alone at night on the streets, it's just awful,' she said, reports The Geelong Advertiser.

The court heard Gar and his co-accused Tyler Da Silva walked up to the complete stranger at the intersection of Spring St and Victoria Pde in the centre of Melbourne on September 6, 2022.

When the man refused to hand over his wallet and phone the two men allegedly attacked him.

'During the attack the complainant was cut with a knife, causing a slash wound across his right cheek, and partially amputating his right earlobe,' Crown Prosecutor Matthew Cookson said.

Gar is not accused of having the knife or being complicit in using the blade in the attack.

But the court heard the victim was knocked out when punched by Gar, who is was born in Egypt and migrated to Australia with his family as a six-year-old.

The pair then took the man's phone and left him lying in the street bleeding.

Police later found the two about 4.30am in the bathrooms of the Southern Cross train station with Gar's defence lawyer claiming he was under the influence of drugs on the night.

Co-accused Da Silva will appear in court next week on to enter his plea on charges of armed robbery and intentionally causing injury.

Gar will reappear for sentencing at a later date.




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