Now It’s Indigenous-Only Constitutional Conventions

(This comment was originally posted on on 24 August 2015. At that time Tony Abbott was Prime Minister. The principles discussed are still valid, including the implied suggestion that governments elected on a conservative platform are duty bound to carry out that platform.)


24 August 2015:

Once again Tony Abbott’s sound instincts have been overwhelmed by Australia’s inverted ethnic hierarchy.

The federal government has caved into Noel Pearson’s demand for indigenous Australians to have their own series of constitutional conventions, funded by tax payers. The remainder of the population will be offered mixed “mainstream” meetings.[1] The two sets of consultative meetings will be conducted in parallel. Mr Abbott’s first impulse was to keep the meetings inclusive, to avoid a “them and us” procedure. He has retreated from this wise caution, though he did maintain a stand against holding the indigenous conventions before the mainstream meetings.

The agreement to fund indigenous-only forums is a dangerous precedent. Consider how it might lead to other demands.

It could be argued that, while all citizens should participate in discussing the Recognise proposals, Anglo Australians have a special duty to do so because they connect us to our colonial past and remain at the heart of our national identity. At the same time they are the majority of the population, the leading culture in numbers and links to the nation’s past. The argument could continue by asserting that as the leading culture Anglo Australians have a special responsibility to correct past wrongs and protect the national interest. Such a special role was implicitly recognised in the Expert Panel appointed by the Gillard Government, which consisted largely of indigenous and Anglo Australians.

Fairness and symbolism (though not common sense) would seem to dictate that if indigenous Australians have their own forums, Anglo Australians should have theirs, because it is their burden of guilt for alleged past wrongs that the recognise campaign is designed to correct. Australia was a consciously British-derived society until after well after the Second World War.

If the prospect of Anglo-only conventions seems outrageously discriminatory, why did our Prime Minister agree to indigenous-only ones? Will the media highlight instances of non-indigenous Australians being barred from meetings or prevented from speaking? Will bureaucrats establish a working group to accredit attendees by race? Perhaps badges will be issued showing a large “I” for indigenous people, and an “O” for other ethnicities. No, that would be too easy to fake. Can we look forward to federal police at the door checking racial ID? DNA tests can now be done quickly.

The government’s decision to racially segregate discussion of the Recognise campaign – that is the reality – should shock Australians. But it is part of a wider trend of privileging indigenous activists. Indigenous Australians now have their own free-to-air television channel, a privilege denied other ethnic groups. Every day, school students across the nation are subjected to indoctrination that symbolically dispossesses their people. In a country with dozens of ethnic groups – multicultural Australia – students sit through “acknowledgement of country” rituals in which the land is designated as belonging to a tiny minority. There is no mention of the nation’s pioneers and settlers, of those who explored, named, and forged modern Australia. School assemblies do not affirm most students’ place in Australia.

The government’s decision to further racialise an already discriminatory recognition process is akin to its back-down on reform of section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. That surrender was made in the face of fierce lobbying from the multicultural community and its “progressive” allies.[2] The government has sound instincts but was let down by intellectual weakness in the field of ethnic affairs, which can be traced to the politicisation of the humanities and social sciences since the 1960s.[3]

It’s time the government began to think about the Recognise campaign outside the box. A good start would be for Tony Abbott to trust his instincts.


[1] Rebecca Puddy, “Recognition show ‘back on the rails’” The Australian 21 August 2015, p. 7.

[2] Salter, F. K. (2014). Multiculturalism: Divide and concur. Quadrant Online. 28 March.

[3] Salter, F. K. (2012). “The war against human nature III-2: Australia and the national question, part II: Race and the nation in the universities.” Quadrant 56(11 (491)): 36-44.


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