Sovereignty at the heart of the Voice

Sovereignty at the heart of the Voice. By Janet Albrechtsen.

It would be a grave mistake to treat [Lydia] Thorpe as a fringe-dwelling maverick, or to treat the black sovereignty movement as merely a far-left analogue of the far-right “sovereign citizen” brigade.



It is now becoming clear that core claims to sovereignty made by Thorpe’s Black Sovereignty Movement are shared by key figures who have been central to the drafting of the words of the Albanese Amendment and to whom the government has outsourced its legal advice on the voice.

So much so that the words of the Albanese Amendment and the practical operation of the voice are little more than the appealing bait hiding the hook of Indigenous sovereignty.

Ordinary Australians certainly have not been told this was likely and don’t realise it’s happening. It is also possible that while Albanese is very good at slogans about the voice, he has little understanding of the substance of how the voice — and his proposed words — are integral to securing black sovereignty. …

We paid no attention to this radical language in the Uluru Statement that reflects a long campaign for black sovereignty. Securing sovereignty depends, first and foremost, on entrenching the necessary constitutional machinery — a voice.Instead, many Australians have been seduced by the soaring rhetoric of the Uluru Statement and misleading claims that this is a hand-holding exercise between black and white Australians, and a modest request for Indigenous people to be heard.

Closing the Gap has become an emotive cloak for upending our current system of governance and replacing it with a new constitutional deal of two peoples in one country with co-sovereignty governance structures.

Establishment voices on the Yes side are on side with Thorpe’s claims that black sovereignty has not been ceded. …

Given that the PM has not explained the legal implications of the voice, he will run a mile from demands to explain the legal implications of black sovereignty. Yet we are entitled to very detailed legal and practical explanations from the Prime Minister of what flows from co-sovereignty. …

We now know enough to be certain that this is no “modest” proposal, no “polite” request for consultation but rather the commencement of a long road to co-sovereignty. Black sovereignty academics cite approvingly the Declaration of Indigenous Rights (which Australia has not ratified) as a guide to what flows from self-determination: it includes, but is far from limited to, maintaining their own separate legal systems, living by their own customs, and establishing their own education systems.

This is not the road to reconciliation but to separatism. …

The voice is the single most important mechanism for negotiating the rights of competing sovereignties over time. It is designed to entrench and negotiate a form of co-governance while simultaneously allowing the voice to continue to be disguised as a “modest proposal”. Instead, the reconciliation project is, as the ABC’s Indigenous affairs reporter Bridget Brennan said on Insiders last year, about transferring power. The voice, she said, needs to be “feared and revered”. …

Once you understand the core purpose of the voice is about power and sovereignty, it becomes obvious why the voice, as drafted in the Albanese Amendment, is so radical in its language and why all attempts to adopt moderate or mid-course options have been eschewed.

It also explains why the last thing voice activists and the Albanese government want is a full and frank debate about the details of this body, or about the next stage of securing sovereignty.

For example, it is integral to claims of black sovereignty that the voice has constitutional power to comment on all matters “relating to” Indigenous persons, not, as we were promised, matters “relating only”, or even “primarily”, to Indigenous persons, let alone to laws proposed to be passed under the “race power” contained in the Constitution. …

This objective of co-governance also explains why the voice has to be permanently enshrined in the Constitution, not time-limited or linked to the achievement of objectives of removing disadvantage. The voice is not intended to be merely a special measure intended to last as long as disadvantage lasts. The voice is the critical constitutional machinery to demand and negotiate permanent joint sovereignty.

Thorpe is the worst nightmare for the Yes proponents. Her departure [from the yes case for the Voice, because she wants sovereignty now] blows a hole the size of Uluru right through claims from Yes advocates that the voice is a modest matter of polite manners. Her ­departure encourages us to dig deeper and, in so doing, better understand that black sovereignty sits at the heart of the voice proposal.

This is not about reconciliation. This is separatism, pure and simple, and to be writ large in law.

One nation where all citizens have equal rights is out. That historical tide of the last millennium is now as dead as Christianity (which is no coincidence, because Jesus’ main political message was that we are all equal in the eyes of God).

Instead, we should look forward to a continent with two governments, divided by race, arrived at by deception against the wishes of the majority. First nations people and, presumably, second class others. DNA tests are in.