Thin black veils and unity tickets.

1 Sep 2023

Now the Voice to Parliament referendum date has been announced, Ben Abbatangelo writes, we as a nation are being reminded, there’s no moral high ground between Labor and Liberal, and by extension, ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Thin Black Veils and Unity Tickets

The christian-fascist block of the ‘conservative movement’ was in full swing at the recent CPAC conference. 

Behind the thin black veil of Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine, rabid racists like former Labor Minister Gary Johns wound back the clock as a cesspit of confronting genocidal filth was spewed to their mostly white and boomer audience. 

It was a deeply Australian moment, as the modern day Klan nourished age old ideas that have flourished since the invasion of these shores. 

In the aftermath of the event, a boisterous army of Labor-Green Yes campaigners have sought to double down on what is ostensibly a contrived narrative- that those who vote ‘No’ are on a ‘unity ticket’ with the likes of Gary Johns, Pauline Hanson and Peter Dutton

It’s an effective campaign tactic, as Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples and other undecided voters who disapprove of the proposals modesty publicly state they’re voting ‘Yes’ solely because they can’t stomach the idea of being on the same side of the ledger as these sadists. 

As it’s intended to do, this coercive tactic and strawman argument creates an optical illusion that voting in lockstep with Labor and their supporters is not only the right thing to do, but the purest option. 

As countless others before me have alluded to, the left wing belongs to the same bird. The apocalyptic state our communities have been indentured into has been unanimously championed by the entire settler-colonial political system.

Purity doesn’t exist and there are no outliers. 

It doesn’t matter which party and leader is the face of the Empire. Whether John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abott, Scott Morrison or Anthony Albanese, the policy platforms and outcomes are slightly different versions of the same devastation. The illegality of their occupation doesn’t change.

Strangely, I appreciate the Coalition’s honesty. I know that they want us wiped off the face of the Earth. It’s helpful knowing where you stand with them. Labor wants the same, except they’re not brave enough to say it with their chest out. Instead, they prefer to lure you in with grand promises and forward-looking visions only to stab you in the back at the moment of embrace

This term of Anthony Albanese’s government is the perfect example. With a ‘historic moment’ at the forefront of Labor’s agenda, they have doubled and tripled down on all of the same violent policies of the past. So too have Labor state governments, with Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government suspending the Human Rights Act for the second time in a matter of months to box and cage more Aboriginal children

Under the ‘winds of change’, they have irrefutably invalidated the entire premise and promise of the Voice. Their contempt is unchanged, incurable and in plain sight – as it has been for 250 years.  

Whilst the coalition might be responsible for the idea of herding First Nations peoples onto modern day missions, it’s Labor that gleefully steps in to manage them. The Northern Territory Intervention is the perfect example; a John Howard policy that was unanimously supported and rolled out by Rudd, extended by Gillard and left unremediated by Albanese. 

It’s within this context that I can easily account for how I end up on the same side of the voting ledger as Gary Johns, Pauline Hanson and Peter Dutton. 

Accounting for Unity Tickets

While they’re voting ‘No’ because anything for First Nations peoples is too much at all, I’m voting ‘No’ because – among many things – the Voice delivers upon the aspirations of the colony by reducing our status to that of a subservient lobby group. I believe that no deal is better than a horrendous one, and only once the colony’s mask is completely ripped off can we recalibrate an agenda based on recognizing our inherent right to self-determination and self-government. 

Like Professor Irene Watson, I believe power and possibility resides in rebuking the Commonwealth – not ‘completing it’ as its architects, who also paternalistically supported suspending the Racial Discrimination Act and the military-laden roll out of the Northern Territory Intervention, have enthusiastically championed over the years. Despite what’s promised, there is no autonomy, agency or authority in an advisory. 

I believe anything other than a rights-based agenda is not only a distraction, but also leaves us susceptible to free market economics and ‘national interests’. If the endeavour isn’t affirming or expressing our sovereignty, it’s undermining it.

Any honest accounting would conclude the Voice to Parliament proposal is incompatible with the past, present and future. Especially as the institutional apparatus we’re being assimilated into, which is jointly owned and controlled by fossil fuel barons and the US industrial military complex, continues their commitment to anthropocenic armageddon. We’re best placed to determine our own affairs as we have successfully done since before colonisation – something that I vividly remember and cannot forget.

What hasn’t been accounted for is how ‘Yes’ voters end up on the same side of the ledger as Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party, BHP, Woodside, Rio Tinto, the Business and Minerals Councils – institutions that, through ongoing dispossession, exploitation and displacement of Indigenous people, actually create the world Gary Johns envisages. How do the ‘not all no voters are racist, but all racists are no voters’ explain this? How do the ‘white moderates’ pretending to be ‘progressive environmentalists’ account for this ‘unity ticket’ they’re riding? 

If ‘No’ is the only racist option, then how do people like Mark Textor – who was the populist pollster that, ironically, used wedge politics to fan the flames of racism during John Howard’s prime ministership, not only led to the disbandment of ATSIC and the rolling back of other protections, but also the inhumane ‘stop the boats’ campaign and offshore detention centres – end up on the board of Yes23 alongside John Howard’s former Chief of Staff, Tony Nutt and current BHP Director Catherine Tanna? 

How can a ‘grassroots’ campaign that is purported to ‘deliver justice’ and offer ‘transformational change’ not only be a beacon that attracts these people, but be spearheaded by them? Like all white vanity projects, these organisations and individuals don’t support the Voice because it restores the sovereign rights and exclusive status of First Nations peoples. No, they hitch their wagon to it because, like everything under the ‘practical reconciliation’ banner, it can’t, doesn’t and never will. 

Within the rigid binaries assigned to this argument, I can easily account for how I end up on the same side of the ledger as those I despise. If ‘unity tickets’ are being used as an argument by ‘Yes’ campaigners, then they should audit their own backyard and give an honest account for theirs.

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