Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeVolume 28A Voice for everybody

A Voice for everybody


The debate about a Voice to Parliament for Aboriginal people is reaching its crescendo. This may be a good time for the rest of the population to join them on the barricades.

Marion Scrymgour and Malarndirri McCarthy (at right) are representing the Northern Territory in the Canberra halls of power, in the House of Representatives (the seat of Lingiari) and the Senate, respectively. Both are Indigenous and committed Yes campaigners.

The Alice Springs News sent the following email to them 50 hours ago: “According to media reports two Australian warships are in the contested South China Sea for a joint exercise with the armed forces of the Philippines from August 14 to 31.

“Why has your government sent these ships?

“What has been the process of decision making for this action?

“Is the ships’ presence in that area likely to increase the risk to people in the NT given the build-up of foreign military forces in the Top End and Pine Gap continuing to be a first strike target, in the view of experts?”

When after 48 hours neither had replied we followed up with phone calls.

Ms Scrymgour (at left) did not respond but a minder did. This is what he had to say: “Your request is best put to the Minister for Defence. Marion as a local member is not involved in decision making of the Australian Defence Force.”

A staff for Senator McCarthy, in response to our follow-up call today, said: “It would be worth going to Defence for this enquiry.”

So now, 52 hours after our initial request, we’re still no wiser what these two representatives of the people in the Northern Territory know about or were doing about an issue of life or death.

Yet they are members of the Parliament which is expected to listen to the Voice, if it becomes a reality.

IMAGE AT TOP: A Philippine military resupply vessel being hit with a water canon from a Chinese Coast Guard cutter. AFP Photo. The US Naval Institute publication, where the photo appeared, yesterday reported that growing tension with China requires more surveillance off the Philippines. The United States, Japan, Australia and India, operating as “the Quad,” an informal economic and security arrangement, announced the maritime domain awareness program in May 2022.


  1. Is that why we need a gigantic bureaucracy to support the Voice? Is it likely that these parliamentary representatives will be clueless on a range of issues – without being told what to do?
    However, one of the real problems will be that the hand picked public servants will be clueless as well. Guess who will pay for this waste and expanded chaos?

  2. I’m not surprised you have been referred to the Minister for Defence.
    It is a pity that you have used your voice, on such a serious matter for the Nation, in this way.
    Bob Beadman

  3. Dear Mr Chlanda, you are linking the pressing internal matter of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament with the pressing matter of the Australian voice to China.
    One is mostly concerned with Australian internal affairs to do directly with our history and the other with Australian external relations with China.
    Would you please explain your logic of linking Indigenous affairs with Chinese affairs? Please explain in more detail your point.

  4. Dear Erwin Chlanda, your article above is mixing apples and pears.
    Decisions possibly made in Parliament by the Minister for Defense, the Hon Marles MP, and I assume the Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong, are reflected in (I quote) “some media report that two Australian warships are in the contested South China Sea for a joint exercise with the armed forces of the Philippines from August 14 to 31”.
    This has definitely nothing to do with the forthcoming referendum about a Voice to Parliament in answer to the Uluru Statement of 2017.
    Malarndirri is a Senator for the NT, whereas Marion is the Member for Lingiari, a very large portion of the NT. Their role, when the Voice becomes part of our Constitution, and when new legislation affecting First Nations people is presented to Parliament, will certainly not refer to “two Australian warships sent to the South China Sea for joint military exercise with the Philippines”, which seems to be a matter of long term national security, like the multi-billion dollars nuclear submarines, for better or worse.

  5. Given that Foreign Policy and Defence are the direct remit of our Federal Government it is hardly adequate that members of Parliament do not have or take a position on matters such as these.
    It is not surprising however that politicians get distracted by their passions.

  6. They are supposed to be the local parliamentary representatives. Why don’t they approach Defence, and any other relevant portfolio, on behalf of the constituent? That is their job, whether they realise it or not! Why else are they there?
    Who knows what is to be relevant to the Voice? If one listens to some of the leaders it can be everything! That is the point being made by the article. It is likely to be a mess as nobody knows and Albanese won’t explain. How can he? He hasn’t even read the full Uluru Statement! And he wants to amend the Constitution? Unbelievable!
    Bound to substantially increase division in society – as this article also demonstrates.
    This is what to expect when serious government policy and decision making occurs for emotional rather than practical or evidence based reasons.
    Thus, what evidence do we have that the Voice can work given the apparent failure of a plethora of Aboriginal organisations over a relatively long period?
    Why have these organisations failed? Is it due to a lack of expertise? Is more training required? Are their problems of communication between different groups? Are their serious issues of social breakdown in some communities and living arrangements? How is the Voice proposing to deal with such deep seated and complex problems?
    No-one leading the Voice, nor the Prime Minister is prepared to say. Why is it therefore possible to blame the many people with concerns on how the Voice will operate?
    Is it always a good thing to be uncritical and careful in relation to political decision making? Is it wise to make decisions solely on emotion, or as Albanese says – a “vibe”?
    It is not realistic to blame the failure of the multitude of Aboriginal organisations on other factors, such as changing governments, or other people or other institutions.
    Nor is it reasonable to blame this failure on a lack of resources. There is a need to closely examine the reasons for failure before embarking on another uncharted voyage, in rough seas.
    This is necessary, even though some may be content to be lured by the call of the bewitching sirens who in Greek mythology, led unsuspecting and emotionally driven sailors to their ruin on dangerous rocks.

  7. ED – My comment piece is about the role Members of Parliament have in a parliamentary democracy. I argue they must be informed about the work of government and pass on that knowledge to their constituents if requested to do so. Ms Scrymgour and Senator McCarthy are our eyes and ears in Canberra.
    Their second obligation, I argue, is to canvass and take on board the demands of their constituents and raise them in Parliament to influence government policy in line with their constituents’ wishes and opinions.
    That is the objective of the Voice and may well cover issues from sending war ships to into a distant conflict zone, seen in context with the impact on Indigenous people of the Territory’s militarisation.
    Or is the using the Voice going to be limited to defined issues and if so, who defines them?
    I also suggest in the comment piece that the non-Indigenous population, also tired of being fobbed off, could join Indigenous Voice campaigners on the barricades.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  8. @ Marli Banks: You are setting quite a high bar for NT members of parliament but closer to home as a Councillor on the Alice Springs Town Council there are some public interest questions I assume you have answers to.
    What do you think about the 7.5% rate increase at a time when many residents are struggling to pay for accommodation and put food on the table for their families?
    Was the budget seriously debated or just rubber stamped?
    The latest Hartley Street development following the ugly street lights fiasco is to build a structure over the main walkway. It isn’t covered so will not shelter pedestrians from rain so what is it for?
    Did ratepayers or the NT Government pay for it and at what cost?
    Also, did the Council really plant limb dropping River Red Gums along Harley Street as suggested on local media?

  9. @ Ralph Folds: Touché!
    Criticising the lack of transparency elsewhere in government when you are an elected member of our secretive and non transparent town council is galling.
    I hope Marli rises to the challenge and answers your important questions but I doubt she will.
    She may even have been advised / instructed by the Mayor, Matt Paterson to say nothing.

  10. Would these two Members of Parliament even know where the Philippines is as a country or what is happening in the South China Sea? Or what is happening in our region? Another great reason to Vote no or we could become another failed pacific island.

  11. All my life I have been accused of thinking 20 years ahead of my time. I can see a stuation where just as in the case of the defence issues emerging in the China sea, (we recently had the case of a Chinese warship lasering an RAAF plane between us and PNG, and a Chinese marine surveillance ship off the Kimberlies) the Voice group makes representations to Government, in their interests, which are rejected by the elected government of either leaning, as being not in the broader national interest.
    What if the Voice then withdraws political support from the prevailing party and forces us to an election and/or High Court to get their way?
    According to elements in Voice with Communistic leanings. the Indigenous population may well finish in a similar situation to the Weigas. Who prevails? Unfortunately political philosophies often do not feed or defend people although they sound great.

  12. @ Trevor Shiell: The legitimacy of the elected government of the day does not rely on the support of the Voice group which is only an advisory body and has no independent power to do anything except provide advice.
    It is simply not possible for the Voice group to force us to an election.
    Nor can the Voice turn to the High Court if its advice is rejected.

  13. If the Voice referendum is successful the Commonwealth will claim Australian voters support the Commonwealth citing racial divisions can divide Australians with racial measures.
    When proposing the 1967 referendum Harold Holt acknowledged that Australian voters wanted NO racial discrimination between Australians, while Mr Holt was more concerned eliminating racial divisions might limit the power of the Commonwealth government.
    Australian voters need to note NO in this referenda to clearly reject racial divisions, and racial segregation of families, upon Australians.

  14. The Voice is showing the lack of equality in Australia: “A referendum is only passed if it is approved by a majority of voters across the nation and a majority of voters in a majority of states — this is known as a double majority.
    “Territory voters are only counted in the national majority.”
    Where is the fairness of our system? Before making new laws it will be better to get rid of some old ones.


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