Thursday, June 13, 2024

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

HomeVolume 28The bush voted Yes

The bush voted Yes

COMMENT by FRANK BAARDA

Politicians will adjust their policies in relation to Australia’s First Peoples in the aftermath of the referendum’s No vote.

Their priority is likely to be how the referendum will affect their chances of re-election rather than what is best in the Nation’s interest. That is not new.

In the remote communities our political clout is minimal and relies much on how we are perceived and on goodwill.  I therefore think the bush’s Yes vote is of great importance.

Almost lost in the wide ranging angst ridden or victorious reportage on the No vote there was an article in The Guardian about Senator Jacinta Price: “One thing we do know is the way in which Indigenous people in remote communities are exploited for the purpose of somebody else’s agenda,” she said.

“I think we probably need to look at the way the Australian Electoral Commission … conduct themselves when it comes to remote polling at elections and referendums.

“I think we should take away those who come in with their how-to-votes, unions that come in and overpower vulnerable Aboriginal communities.

“There is a lot that goes on in remote communities that the rest of Australia doesn’t get to see. If we had cameras in those remote communities, at those polling booths, Australia would see what goes on in within those communities. There’s a lot of manipulation.”

Asked if an allegation was being made against the AEC, Mundine intervened, shouting, “you know what, people are committing suicides in these communities.

“People are being raped and beaten and this is the questions you come up with!?

“We had a vote tonight that said Australians want to get things done,” he said.

Mundine urged the media to “stop talking about all this other nonsense and start talking about kids … who are as young as nine and 10 who commit suicide in their communities and those kids who get raped”.

Apart from these allegations being offensive and insulting to myself and my community, they are simply not true, and need to be debunked.  Untruths are also called lies or deceptions.

There were 18 mobile polling teams deployed to remote NT.  In contrast to the rest of Australia, remote Australia voted Yes, only Remote Mobile Team 4 voted No (49% Yes 51% No), the 17 other remote team results ranged from 52.1 to 92.1% (median 76.7%) Yes.

When I voted in Yuendumu, 300 kms north-west of Alice Springs, there were three people who had bothered to drive out from Alice Springs to support the Yes campaign. 

They were sitting outside of the polling place at a respectful (and legal) distance offering Yes campaign material. 

At no time did I see them cajole voters. Many voters went to have friendly conversations with these visitors and most didn’t need campaign material. 

Voting yes or no is not exactly rocket science. When I voted there was no one there from the NO campaign.  I suspect they didn’t bother to come out because they realised that there aren’t enough votes in the bush to turn the tables.

A friend of mine sent me this: “It is not possible within financial constraints for polling booths to be open in every remote community and outstation on the Saturday that polls open in the city and larger regional towns.”

Instead in the fortnight leading up to election day the AEC sends out “Mobile Voting” teams of AEC staff to remote and far remote communities to enable people to register their votes.

AEC Staff travel to most voting places by 4-wheel-drive, some remote polling locations are visited by AEC staff in light aircraft or by chopper.

Whichever way they travel they take with them portable voting booth bins that are lockable.

At the opening of a remote location polling session the booths are unlocked and they remain unlocked for however long the polling place is open, which in most places is for a couple of hours.

Voters place their ballots into the booth’s bin. At the close of the polling session each bin is locked and each lock is protected by a unique seal that is applied.

The AEC team then move to their next polling location where the seals are inspected to ensure the bin contents have not been tampered with, the locks are removed and the bins opened for the next session and the next batch of voters to lodge their ballots.

For the purposes of my information herein a session is that period between when a remote voting booth is opened for voting on a community and when the booth is closed.

That is what the AEC staff do, I know because I have witnessed them doing it in my role as an official scrutineer at six different elections.

I followed the AEC staff in my own vehicle and was present as an official scrutineer at the unsealing and opening of a ballot and at the locking and sealing of each bin.

The AEC staff I witnessed never once engaged in handing out electioneering material such as how to vote cards.

They never once engaged in any form of electioneering.

The AEC staff remained quietly at their posts, they assisted people with general inquiries, but never suggesting who to vote for.

My experience is limited to the NT. The parties are permitted to send scrutineers, the booths I attended as a scrutineer were always attended by two or more CLP scrutineers. Note Jacinta Price is a member of the CLP.

Also note that during the time a booth is open for voting, scrutineers set themselves up according to AEC regulations and offer how to vote cards out to people arriving at the polling place to vote.

At each polling booth I attended all of the party supporters handing out how to vote cards behaved politely and cordially with supporters of opposition parties and with AEC staff and especially with the people arriving to vote.

I did not witness anyone attempting to “overpower vulnerable Aboriginal communities”.

I am absolutely certain that had anybody attempted to overpower anyone the AEC officer in charge at the polling place would have intervened very quickly and put a stop to it.

We are very lucky in Australia that we have the independent Electoral Commissions to oversee and conduct our election and referenda ballots.

I think Jacinta Price has been rather careless with the truth here.

That was my friend. Now to Warren Mundine’s allegations: That wasn’t the first time Warren evoked child rape. Millions of dollars were spent by the AFP during the first five years of the Intervention investigating Mal Brough’s alleged paedophile rings. 

They didn’t find any.

Long ago we stopped talking about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.  I wish people like Warren Mundine would have the decency to stop talking about alleged community dysfunction and depravity.

AT TOP: Senator Jacinta Nampijimpa Price with Opposition Leader Dutton. The Guardian photo.

UPDATE 10:10am: The unnamed friend in the article who kindly provided the description of how remote community polling takes place in the NT is Forrest Holder.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I have also worked on polling booths and was an OIC on many.
    The elections are conducted in a very secure way and no one attempts to influence people on how to vote.
    Jacinta needs to get her facts right and realise that the people in the communities wanted the Voice.

  2. How interesting that those who decided to support the Voice are either “overpower(ed) vulnerable Aboriginal communities” Jacinta Price or “intellectually arrogant city dwellers” Mayor of Quilpie.
    With 30 electorates actually supporting the Voice and a host of remote and other polling locations with dominant first nations voters also in support the reported “universal rejection” is yet another lie.
    There is no choice but to press on with the demand that our First Nations people be heard. I am confident that the Yes voters and the many organisations, business, sporting and cultural will continue to be united on that and will seek to find a way forward acceptable to the majority.

  3. Although it seemed major centres voted Yes and a handful of remote communities the majority of the No vote was clear. Yes voters who keep going on with the result … wake up. No was the vote.
    Sometimes you need to address the exorbitant funding going to these places which no other race gets. They want equality, stop the handouts.
    I realise not all are like that and work for a living.
    You want to have a voice, they are your elected parliamentarians. That’s who you voted for in an election.

  4. Thank you Frank and Yvonne for presenting the truth to readers.
    Your experience working on polling booths and as scrutineers carries more weight than Senator Price’s scattergun allegations of AEC misconduct which she does not back up with any specific and verifiable cases.
    Sadly, we seem to be living in an age of mis- and dis-information where if a lie is repeated often enough, it transcends to being seen as “the truth” by a section of our community that is driven more by emotion than any understanding of the issue at hand.
    You both show that the only way to overcoming this destructive political trend is for us all to get off our arses and make the time to counter false claims with facts.
    Well done.

  5. I’ve been out to communities handing out how to vote cards over the years, never seen any evidence of attempts at “overpowering” by either side, or any impropriety by AEC officials.
    I have also acted as a scrutineer in Alice Springs polling booths and always been impressed by the integrity of the AEC officials and the processes they follow.
    Many Centralians like Yvonne Driscoll have given us excellent service over the years, providing a world class electoral system.
    It is disappointing to see politicians now adopting Trump like attitudes, calling it into question with groundless comments. It seeks to undermine faith in our democracy.

  6. In Jacinta Price’s documentary released only a couple of weeks ago she explains that she wants remote communities to get all the assistance they need and not the people who have enough access to resources – those in cities unless they need it.
    She explains that those who will get hold of the media and Voice aren’t from the remote communities but articulate, urban people without any contact with the people in remote communities and Alice who are traditional and speak their language.
    She emphasises that all the remote area and English as a second language children need to learn fluent English and in order to have the same opportunities as all others.
    She also emphasises that children in town camps and anywhere they don’t have safe nurturing homes, need care and protection and school opportunities, health care etc. That the system hasn’t treated those kids well because they are Aboriginal and so don’t interfere.
    She also says that the tradition of men remaining silent (and women) against any practice that keeps women and children in submissive positions or in relationships they aren’t safe in, should stand up and be counted against any traditions that oppress women and children – and men. Some traditions need to change just as they have in western society.
    The press have not reported Jacinta and other Warlpiri women story on her doco … they have only taken lines out of context. And she has made some bloopers.
    Have a look at her doco and see what you think.
    I guess if only those on the un-PC side of politics listen to what she is saying then they are the only ones that she is associating with.

  7. Jacinta Price was not “careless with the truth”. She knew exactly what she was doing.
    And getting into bed with a nasty piece of disruptive work like Dutton (the one who walked out on the Parliamentary apology for the stolen generation no less), shows that they are both learning from the Trump playbook of mis-information.
    The No result of 60% plus is deeply shameful for this country. Lack of generosity, lack of empathy, wilful ignorance of history … the list is long.

  8. David and Heather I think you’re missing the point of what I wrote.
    I sprang to the defence of the AEC and my community that I love against untruths, that is all.

  9. Perhaps now those Labor parliamentarians calling for a voice might just start listening to the many Indigenous voices that have been saying the same thing for many years. The Voice was perhaps a smokescreen to hide their lack of ears.

  10. About two weeks ago 25% of voters were still undecided! This is twice the amount needed to swing the vote from No to Yes.
    Indecision is not surprising, as the Uluru Statement is a complex set of issues to understand. As the NY Times explained last week: “The Voice is the first step of a three-pronged plan, developed by more than 250 Indigenous leaders who gathered at Uluru in 2017, which would eventually lead to a treaty and a process of ‘truth telling’ about Australia’s colonial history.”
    However, the Yes Campaign presented voters with only the first step of this plan, leaving the other two steps open to interpretation and mis-interpretation.
    Thus, I think it is inaccurate to claim that 60% of Australians are “ignorant” and lack “generosity” or “empathy”.
    Rather, the Yes Campaign made a poor strategic decision to simplify their messaging, which left them open to disinformation about the next two steps of the Uluru plan. When I asked local Yes campaigners if the Voice will lead to Truth-Telling and Treaty which in turn may include reparations and Aboriginal self-government (as specified in the Referendum Council’s own Final Report) local Yes campaigners were ignorant of those two steps and said they were the beliefs of extremists.
    However, Yes spokesman Thomas Mayo wrote in his NY Times Opinion piece a week ago: “Other nations have created the means to listen to Indigenous peoples. In Scandinavian countries, there is the Sami Parliament. In New Zealand, Canada and the United States, First Nations assemblies represent Indigenous views and allow self-determination. Australia must reach this same standard.”
    So, I would say that Australians were typically cautious and conservative toward a “three-pronged plan” they did not fully understand.
    And their “indecision” is a consequence of the Yes Campaign’s over-simplified messaging strategy about a quite complex and far-reaching plan.

  11. Frank, those who have lived and worked on remote communities long term tend to have a more positive and nuanced view of Aboriginal society.
    Outsiders only see the negative press that highlights bad things whereas there are also many good things that happen every day.
    Jacinta’s opinions strike me as outsider views, unshaped by lived experience in a remote community.
    That flies in the face of her insider claims such as living at Yuendumu until she was a toddler and participating in ceremony as a child etc.
    My recollection is that her father, Dave Price, was a teacher at Yuendumu School and Bess was an Assistant Teacher when they formed a close relationship.
    They left the community and my recollection is that Dave was reluctant to return due to community disquiet about their relationship.
    Happy to be corrected here and you would know, but I’m not convinced that Jacinta has ever lived at Yuendumu. Of course she has a degree of insider knowledge through her own relatives but if my timeline is correct her insider claims are not strong.
    This would help to explain her opinions on vote manipulation and colonisation being a good thing.

  12. Am I seeing correctly when I look at the tally for the seat of Lingiari that out of a possible 80,000+ people eligible to vote only around 45,000 actually did?
    Solomon shows slightly better with close to 70% voting but still 30% didn’t.
    I’m intrigued that pre the vote the AEC was announcing record enrolment for voting. So who didn’t vote?

  13. I think we can assume that Jacinta Price is old enough a snd experienced enough to know exactly what she is doing. I think we also have to assume she is looking after number one and doing and saying what she is told for rewards.
    How else do we explain her sudden parachuting to the No 1 Senate spot in 2022 pushing aside all the usual party hacks who would normally have got the gig?
    Of course one reward is staring us in the face, a six year term on the Senate gravy train which is very comfortable.

  14. The Voice referendum has truly been a scrum of scams.
    Yet, once both sides stop their self-serving fear-mongering, virtue-signalling, naming and shaming, we can work together to address REAL Indigenous disadvantage.
    Perhaps in the future we can look back and see that we dodged a bullet, albeit clumsily, and learned from the experience to communicate more honestly.
    Or not.

  15. Somewhat saddening and chilling in equal measure to see not only Frank but also the by and large the permitted commentariat here, in hardcore denial of the reality of terrible sexual and physical abuse of children and women in Centralia, which anyone who has dealt with it first hand can attest to.
    This is what Mundine and Price talk about, from the heart, because it is absolutely correct in my view, as it should be from anyone dealing with the heart rending and toe curling abuse that is reality for so many.
    Why Frank would seemingly deny child sexual abuse and suicide is up to him. Since most of the people directly involved aren’t exactly going to be in a position to make comment here, who is going to advocate for them?
    If you have been to Yuendumu (guess what you can’t for most people!!!) then you have seen with your own eyes conditions which are literally third world and not for want of a government trying to provide, this can be observed, but from deeply rooted issues in the community.
    No Marxist scapegoating of white people will fix.
    Price and Mundine spoke from a place I understand – the pain of the abused and bereaved. Can the same be said from a ANU Marxist lusting for power, seeking to exploit a potential victim narrative?
    As for many of the crying comments – the vote went NO in the same amount in NT as most places, about 60% against. That includes fully initiated Aboriginals one would expect. To say their vote should be dismissed is in keeping with the lust for power by people who see others as a footstool to their ambition to rule.
    As you probably know, the only place that went YES was the place with the lowest Aboriginal population, 1%, Canberra! That tells its own story.

  16. From the Guardian: Bridget Archer has blasted Peter Dutton for appearing to “weaponise” child sexual abuse for “some perceived political advantage” after the Liberal backbencher crossed the floor to vote against a motion calling for a royal commission into child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities.
    Archer, herself a victim of child sex abuse, objected to the singling out of Indigenous children as victims.
    This is also the reason I object to gratuitous allegations about my community whether it be electoral manipulation or child rape.
    I don’t consider this to be hardcore denial.

  17. @ Frank Baarda: A cross-cultural difference was partly responsible for the false claims of child sexual abuse.
    The age of consent is specified as an age in Australian Law but in remote Aboriginal communities it is based on individual female development, arguably a more nuanced approach.
    This difference led to a situation where young men could break Australian Law but not their own.
    After the consequences of these relationships became obvious young pregnant women on remote communities started refusing to name the fathers.

  18. Thanks Ralph.
    You’ve used a word sadly lacking in all this political opportunism and “debate” if you can call it that. The word is “nuanced”.
    You’ve reminded me of two incidents that happened soon after the imposition of the Intervention in the NT.
    A man (a “cleanskin” with no previous convictions) was arrested and gaoled when he went to Alice Springs Hospital to visit his wife and newborn child. His wife was fifteen years old. The magistrate (judge?) disingineously forbade the man, on his release, from returning to his home community until his wife reached the age of sixteen.
    Even sadder was the story of the young man who escaped custody after having been charged with underage sex at a remote Top End community.
    He was hunted in the bush by a police contingent. He chanced on a buffalo hunting camp and found a rifle and shot himself.

  19. Thanks very much Frank Baarda for your insights. I am so pleased that the Bush voted Yes. There are many of us who wholeheartedly supported the Yes case and fought hard to make it happen. I was appalled to see how Jacinta Price consistently appeared to distort the truth. I thought you might like to read that the claim that the AEC was or intended to rig the Referendum results was debunked by researchers at the RMIT Fact Check Lab.
    The Referendum question was simply about voting for a single sentence amendment to the Constitution in a single new Section 129 with three sub-sections (i) (ii) and (iii). That amendment was passed in the Lower House in favour of the amendment 36:22 and in the Senate 52:19.
    All usual Parliamentary procedures were followed. The proposal went to Referendum as promised by the PM Anthony Albanese. The amendment under 129 (iii) provided Parliament with the right to determine all operational powers for the Voice including composition, powers functions and procedures initially and subsequently. The Voice was to have no powers of veto or ability to fetter the normal functions of Parliament of the Executive Government.
    The legislation for the operational parameters would have followed a successful Referendum, but the design principles were readily available online.
    Citizens do not get to become de facto Parliamentarians or to view Bills before tabled before Parliament. There was no illegality about the Referendum as some had suggested.

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