Sarah Gall is a political data scientist and membership secretary for the UK’s Conservative Friends of Australia. She previously led policy and political research for the Prime Minister of Australia.
For many school-age children, George Orwell Farm and 1984 They were part of the curriculum. And while these works of fiction were seen by many as a warning against authoritarian regimes, much of what is depicted now reflects the politics and political agenda of the Australian Labor government.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton drew this line last month when discussing a bill to hold a referendum on an Indigenous Voice in Parliament (the Voice), saying: “It will have an Orwellian effect where all Australians are equal, but some Australians are more equal than others.”
The Voice is a proposed permanent indigenous consultative body that would “make representations to Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
However, this proposal means that Indigenous Australians currently have no voice in parliament. In reality, they, like non-indigenous Australians, have representatives who were democratically elected to the Australian Parliament.
In fact, nearly five per cent of MPs are Indigenous, all of whom have a voice and represent before Parliament and government on issues relating to Indigenous Australians, who make up just over three per cent of the population.
Despite this, the Labor’s Voice proposal aims to give some Australians a greater say in legislation than others, based solely on their race. The details of this body, including its “composition, functions, powers and procedures”, will be determined after the vote has taken place.
The wording of this proposed constitutional amendment has led to a division within the legal community. Several eminent legal experts, including former High Court judges, have raised concerns that the High Court might find that the government is legally required to consult the Voice on a variety of issues and that failure to do so could be challenged in court. the court.
Other constitutional experts disagree with these concerns, stating that the High Court would be unlikely to take this view.
However, several examples have been cited of circumstances where the High Court’s interpretation of the constitution has surprised the government, the attorney general and many legal experts (one only has to look back to Citizenship Saga for that example). .
This matter has therefore given rise to debate as to what the Voice could provide advice, as currently all non-Indigenous legislation affects the lives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, making the body’s mandate incredibly broad. .
Not surprisingly, as the government is pressured to provide more details, support for Voice has steadily declined, with a course of certain defeat on referendum day.
Anthony Albanese, the Prime Minister, has equated the opposition asking questions about details with undermining Voice. Linda Burney, the Australian indigenous minister, also accused the opposition of “misinformation and fear campaigns” about Voice, and warned social media companies to tackle misinformation and disinformation online regarding the debate.
In response, the Labor government approved £5m in funding for an “awareness and education programme” aimed at providing voters with “voice facts”. The government also insisted that the program was not a de facto Yes, and he reiterated that he was not providing public funds to any of the campaigns.
This funding, and privately raised funding, has not stopped the continuing decline in support for Voice and Noel Pearson, the architect of the proposal, is now pushing for a change in the Yes campaign’s messaging. Pearson claims the campaign of the Yes has been “deceived by deceitful arguments” and that “the Voice is only the means; the core of reform is recognition”.
The Labor government opposes this fundamental change, which is essentially the argument of the No campaign (who advocate constitutional recognition but oppose enshrining an indigenous bureaucracy in the constitution).
Instead, despite the fact that the Yes campaign outspent the No campaign eight to one, it has resorted to censorship as its latest tactic.
Last week, he posted a draft for public discussion of his fighting Misinformation and Misinformation Act. This bill defines misinformation as content that contains information that is “false, misleading, or misleading; and…reasonably likely to cause or contribute to serious harm.”
If the legislation passes parliament in its current form, it would give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), a body whose members are appointed by the government, the power to impose heavy fines on social media companies where you believe they have not adequately complied. disinformation censored from its platforms, and to people that it considers to be in breach of the provisions of the bill.
Most worryingly, the bill exempts anything from the government or the media from being considered misinformation or disinformation. However, anyone else, including political parties not in government, is not exempt and is subject to censorship and fines.
It is not clear who determines what is the truth, but given the exceptions provided in the bill, it can be assumed that it is the government and its new Ministry of Truth, ACMA.
Therefore, this could have serious consequences on the debates and what the government considers to be misinformation or disinformation; an accusation that has already been made against the opposition leader after he claimed that the Voice would “racialize the nation”.
What is now clear is that Labor will do anything to try to get its Voice proposal across the line, including taking an Orwellian route of creating a bureaucratic state, denying the truth and crushing individual liberties.