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A defeat for the Voice is not a ‘victory’ conservatives could truly celebrate

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Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Voice architect Noel Pearson. Photos: Supplied/Screenshot of Youtube ABC News
Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Voice architect Noel Pearson. Photos: Supplied/Screenshot of Youtube ABC News

As we go to print, Australians are yet to go to the polls for the referendum on an Indigenous Voice to parliament. Although the official campaign has only been underway for eight weeks, it has in some respects been running since election night, when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced that he would implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.

The lengthy lead time does not seem to have been kind to the Yes campaign, with support dropping from a sizeable majority to a minority position that makes the Yes vote look almost impossible to achieve.

According to the polls, younger people and women make up the majority of yes voters, while older Australians and men are putting No in the lead. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has declined to ask people to vote one way or another, while many Catholic social welfare agencies are pushing hard for Yes. The Murdoch media seems to have taken an editorial position against the Voice, with the Nine newspapers taking the opposite.

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Without trying to be overly simplistic, the polling and public statements seem to show the vote will split along progressive and conservative lines. If the referendum is defeated on Saturday, it could be the first conservative “victory” in a long time. As a conservative, it’s a victory I hope we do not celebrate.

I’ll put my cards on the table, I have already put in my postal No vote, but it’s not because I’m a social conservative; it’s because I’m a constitutional one. Every change to the constitution takes a decision out of the hands of our elected representatives who we can lobby and hold accountable at each election, and places it into the hands of the courts. To convince me that giving decisions like this to an unelected and largely unaccountable judiciary is a good idea, you have to meet a very high bar, and the prime minister and others proposing this change have not met it.

Additionally, I have no confidence that the Voice will be able to resist being infiltrated by those pushing a progressive agenda that is unrepresentative of those for whom it is supposed to be an advocate. As a comparison, if this month’s Synod on Synodality proposes that there be a women’s voice to the bishops enshrined in canon law, I would also think it to be a very bad idea. Not because I don’t think the voice of women should be heard (I obviously make a lot of noise myself), but because those who purport to speak for women in the church continually push a reform agenda unrepresentative of me and so many other women I know.

So, while I voted no, I will not see this as a “win” for conservatives and I don’t want this to be characterised as the beginning of the conservative fightback or Australia’s “Brexit” moment.

If conservatives are going to win something, I want it to be something good. I want it to be a victory for life or marriage or family. I want it to be a victory over the gender ideology that is being pushed onto kids without regard to the long-term effects it will have on them.

I want it to be a victory for religious freedom, for free speech, for something good and positive that will contribute to the thriving of each individual and the country as a whole.

I believe a Yes result may be positive for the country in the short term, but not in the long term. I think a No result will be terrible in the short term, but the correct one for the country in the long term. Neither result will be a good result because we were forced into this referendum for political expediency. I hope the No vote will be successful, but I wish we were never put into a position like this.

I also hope that in the event that No succeeds, conservatives like me will not tally this up as a win. Instead, I hope we will see it as a sad day for the country and a day to recommit ourselves not only to reconciliation, but also to working towards something that conservatives truly can celebrate.

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