The dangerous Voice is in shambles and it’s already dividing us

The Voice is a dangerous shambles which is already dividing Australians – that’s the lesson this week.

Here’s what happened:

The referendum working group still can’t agree on the wording of the constitutional amendment – so they’re already divided (and they support the Voice).

Meanwhile, an article today shows the efforts to change the wording to make the Voice’s role more defined actually makes the model worse.

And that’s because the problem isn’t the model.

The problem isn’t the wording.

The problem is the Voice itself is a dangerous and divisive idea.

It’s enshrining division and separation in the constitution and you can’t fix that.

Chris Merritt did a great job demolishing the proposed wording in The Australian today. Merritt, vice-president of the Rule of Law Institute, comprehensively demonstrates just how dangerous the Voice is: because of the near-certainty it will undermine our system of government and end up embroiled in the courts. 

Merritt writes:

The confusion, the lack of community-wide consultation and the slow leaking of information from private meetings is undermining all that could be good about the Voice.

Remember, you’re being asked to change the constitution – a big deal – and the people asking you don’t even know what they want to change yet. That’s what makes the confusion, lack of consultation, and leaking of information so dangerous.

Merritt then continues by explaining clearly the judicial dangers of the Voice:

The very real complication of setting up the voice to second guess decisions made by the federal executive – ministers and public servants – has serious consequences for governance and the law itself

This is the key thing: the Voice, whatever its proponents say, simply has to undermine governance and the law. That’s by design. And the fact is, the Voice advocates don’t even know how it will undermine it. That’s what makes it so dangerous.

Even worse, Merritt notes:

The latest change could even trigger debate about whether the government wants to use the coming referendum to erode the separation of powers in order to head off the risk of litigation that is inherent in its model for an Indigenous Voice.

Read that again: “erode the separation of powers” because there’s a “risk of litigation that is inherent in its model”. Daming stuff.

Merritt is firm about what this means:

All this would inevitably embroil the court in political disputes about the powers of the voice, the parliament and the High Court. This cannot be allowed to happen.

That’s right. We cannot allow a poorly thought through, divisive Voice into our constitution where it will put at risk our system of government.

Meanwhile, The Australian also published Shireen Morris, director of the Radical Centre Reform Lab at Macquarie University who is concerned the voice doesn’t need to be watered down at all.  

I thought this was meant to be unifying.

Instead, you’ve got the Attorney-General trying to water down the voice with language that actually makes it more likely to be caught up in the courts, you’ve got another Voice activist saying it’s actually already too watered down, and the referendum council can’t decide on the final wording. 

And you’re meant to agree to change the Constitution based on this?

Merritt closes with the key point:

The Garma model is not modest. It would empower the Voice to provide advice to the executive as well as to parliament.

It’s not modest. It’s dangerous. It’s already divisive and will become even more so.

The only sensible response is to say ‘no’.