Polling can be wrong but it certainly looks like Australia is going to reject the Voice.
It was a terrible decision to commit to a referendum without having a clear explanation as to why when we've got buckets of advisory bodies another advisory body, in Canberra, would improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Sadly, we aren't being given the opportunity to simply say "yes" to recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution. Surely, such a vote would romp it in.
It would have been a resounding, unifying yes to Indigenous Australia. Politicians may have already agreed to this but the weight of a resounding yes from the Australian people would be a clear instruction from their boss, the Australian people, " get this done".
Admittedly, if the second question was "do we want to implement that recognition by way of the voice?", the answer would still be a no. If Parliament had an instruction to find recognition that was acceptable to the majority this model would never have been put up.
It was a mistake to assume that, because Australians want to close the gap and because they'd be happy to have Indigenous Australians recognised in the constitution, they would just accept whatever form of recognition was served up.
It may be true that the responsibility for this divisive mess lies with the government. The results we see after Saturday, broken down by various demographic cohorts and by electoral boundaries will tell by how much and with whom Labor is out of touch.
They used the Indigenous "consultations" to sell the idea, chose the emotive Uluru location to launch the final package and off they went. It's this or you're all a nasty racist mob of people.
So overconfident we're they that not only did they have a no negotiation position, but they clearly didn't turn their minds to the possibility they might lose. In effect, they've tried to convince Indigenous Australians that if we vote "no" it's a racist statement rejecting them. What a shameful, disgraceful and abhorrent way to misuse, no, abuse, your fellow Indigenous Australians.
Those angry hate-ridden leaders should now admit their error. But don't hold your breath. Legends before their own lunch time often find that impossible. Sometimes because of pride and bloated ego and sometimes because they are genuinely so out of touch with reality that they just can't see it. Indigenous Australia should no longer tolerate people like this purporting to speak for them.
In any event, whilst Labor will go in to a bit of serious finger pointing in house, there's little point in the rest of us looking in the rear-vision mirror and doing the same. If you think badly of what the government did, your next chance to exact a price is at the next election. That's when you ask yourself: "How have they done?"
"Are we a stronger, more united country under their decisions?" Just whingeing now achieves nothing.
We can use our energy more effectively by focusing on what we really can do now to close the gap.
Here's five ideas. First, make the states and the Northern Territory do their jobs. The state MPs skulk around whilst people blame the Commonwealth government for not closing the gap, hoping nobody mentions the obvious. The states and territories are primarily responsible. It is state governments that are responsible for your safety, to protect you from violence, to protect your kids from sexual abuse. It's a hard task in any circumstances, more so in remote communities. Ditto for health, housing and education. They are just not doing the job.
Second, scrap the idea of ticking people off. Instead of more loud angry voices in Canberra, we need the most-informed and caring minds all over Australia coming together. We need a database, a few generations on from what the Royal Flying Doctor Service built under the then-CEO Martin Laverty.
Imagine you could click any location, like Kununurra or Elcho Island and compare health, education and personal safety outcomes. With access to the people and services in those places, you might find the explanation and share it. You should be able to find who else is working on the same issue and get Australians working together.
Nurses or teachers with years of experience will have a lot to give to current researchers in any field. Everyone who can help should be able to easily access information and link up with others.
As corny and basic as it sounds, re-inventing the wheel is ridiculous. When we work together we can achieve great things. Give Australians the tools and they will get the job done.
Third, demand that Indigenous bodies are accountable for their own efforts. Are dollars, housing, jobs, and much more, being dealt with fairly and equitably? Importantly, sort out land tenure for young people wanting a house and for people who might want to run a store on communally owned land.
To say you can't do that is rubbish. There are ways, but progress is slow. Let young people know the home is theirs, no one can move them on, make it something worth them investing in. Ditto people who want to run a business. With no tenure, why should you invest or care?
Fourth, establish a royal commission or national audit into what money is being spent effectively. Keep the effective programs and reallocate the stuff that's just sucking money out of the system rather than helping people on the ground. Keep going with that audit until the dollars are going where they're needed rather than lining the pockets of handwringing advisors. And then monitor it all to prevent the rot returning.
Fifth, demand greater accountability from the public service bodies around Australia. Can you imagine someone from Canberra ticking off an Indigenous elder in a remote community for using a government car without permission to help put out a house fire? Do you agree somebody should be moved to another job?
News flash: it's not the idiot that said it, it's the very stupid person three levels up that condones such a ridiculous bureaucratic culture.
Each public service needs to look not at their list of programs and spending but at what they're actually achieving. Where the news is good, share it. Where it's not, reallocate the resources. Pronto.
There's a few more I'd add, but these five will be a good start.
- Amanda Vanstone is a former Howard government minister and a regular columnist.