In news that comes as a surprise to absolutely no one, Liberal Party leader and resident rotten potato Peter Dutton has decided that actually, no, he won’t symbolically recognise Indigenous people in Australia’s Constitution in a second referendum.
Just days after the referendum failed and he got what he wanted, Dutton has abandoned his previous promises of a second referendum to constitutionally recognise Indigenous people.
“Look, all of our policy … is going to be reviewed in the process that Kerrynne Liddle (Coalition spokesperson for child protection and the prevention of family violence) and Jacinta Price will lead now. I think that’s important, but I think it’s clear the Australian public is probably over the referendum process for some time,” he told reporters, per SBS News.
In case you have this guy permanently muted on every feed (so fair), Dutton was a staunch opponent of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament being constitutionally enshrined, but previously asserted he does support constitutional recognition for Indigenous folk in a more symbolic (read: tokenistic) way.
He promised that if the referendum failed as intended, his government would then hold another referendum to add a statement of recognition of First Nations people in the Constitution.
“Yes, I believe very strongly that is the right thing to do,” he told Sky News at the time.
“But enshrining a Voice in the constitution is divisive.”
Well, he can’t have felt that strongly about if by Monday he’s already abandoned the idea. Fkn classic.
As spineless as the decision is, some Yes campaigners would probably argue it’s for the best, given their misgivings about the second referendum in the first place.
Yes campaigner and an architect of the Uluru Statement from the Heart Megan Davis said there was “zero evidence” that a symbolic/plain statement would actually *do* anything, and she wasn’t about to support a statement that didn’t actually change people’s lives.
“There’s a unity ticket among Australians on this point: there is no use going to a referendum if it’s not going to change the daily lives of First Nations peoples,” she said, per SBS News.
Strategic advisor of the Uluru Dialogue Kirstie Parker also pointed out that a huge criticism of the referendum is how costly it was to organise and implement — suggesting a second one right after is a bit of a strange offer.
“Some people have said the referendum is an expensive exercise and yet here we have an opposition proposing to spend the same amount of money on something that would not change lives,” Parker said.
Honestly, even without all that discourse, there’s just the simple fact that the referendum, whichever way you voted, was traumatic for First Nations people who were dehumanised and subjected to all kinds of racist misinformation — and if a second one also failed, the consequences on community unity and Indigenous mental health would be devastating.
Image: Martin Ollman / Getty Images