Mass Migration And State ‘Voices’ Fuel Distrust In Democracy

Written by:
27 March 2024
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Originally Appeared In

In this article, John Storey contextualises and disseminates the IPA’s research into the government’s unplanned migration policies and its affect on Australia’s economic prosperity.


Opinion polls from around the world show an accelerating decline in trust in democracy.

In a recent American poll, only 28 per cent of adults said they were satisfied with the way democracy worked in their country. In an international poll of 30 countries conducted last year, only 57 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 35 felt democracy was preferable to any other form of government, and 42 per cent of that age cohort were supportive of military rule.

Policymakers wondering why there is such a decline in support for democracy need not look far. Too often the electorate votes for something and does not get it, votes against something and gets it anyway, or feels it does not matter how they vote one way or another.

Take the ‘Brexit’ vote in the United Kingdom in 2016. An overwhelming motivation of those who voted to leave the European Union was the high immigration that EU rules foisted upon them. For their efforts, British voters saw net annual immigration increase 230 per cent in the six years since the ‘Brexit’ vote.

Australia is no better. Precisely zero people voted in the May 2022 federal election to have the largest migrant intake in our history. Neither major political party campaigned on a ‘Big Australia’ platform, but that is precisely what we got, and it probably would not have mattered much who won the election. Opinion polling by the IPA shows that 60 per cent of voters want a pause in migration, but the bureaucrats at Treasury and Home Affairs control the keys to the gates, not voters.

In this vein, Australians voted overwhelmingly at last year’s referendum to reject changing the Constitution to include an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. A whopping 64.17 per cent of South Australians voted ‘No’. And for their efforts, South Australians watched this month as their state government pushed ahead with introducing a South Australian Voice to Parliament by holding the elections to choose its inaugural members.

A State Voice does not raise identical issues to the national Voice. State Constitutions are relatively easy to amend by an Act of Parliament compared to the difficult process of changing the Commonwealth Constitution by referendum, so there is less of a risk of being forever lumped with a dud proposal. And the High Court of Australia rarely adopts activist interpretations of State Constitutions in the way it routinely has at the Commonwealth level. So, some of the legal risks are ameliorated.

But these were not the primary reason Australians rejected the national Voice to Parliament. IPA exit polling showed that the number one reason South Australians voted ‘No’ was ‘the Voice would divide Australians’. The poll showed 69 per cent of South Australian ‘No’ voters were influenced by this argument, the highest single factor.

Yet dividing the community by race is precisely what the South Australian Voice will do. Some South Australians will have special legal rights to address Parliament, consult with ministers, and force lawmakers to at least consider their views on every policy issue. And who gets to exercise these privileges will be chosen by a certain group of South Australians, based only on their race and ancestry.

Nothing will come to symbolise this division more than when voting at state elections. The legislation governing the process for choosing members for the South Australian Voice stipulates that in the future they must be held at the same time as regular South Australian elections. Therefore, when South Australians attend a polling place, they will be asked whether they are a ‘first nations’ elector or not. If not, they will be given two ballot papers (one for each house of the South Australian parliament). If they answer yes, they will receive an additional ballot paper for the South Australian Voice.

The number of ballot papers you receive depending on your race and ancestry can only cause long-term division and disunity within the community and undermine confidence in South Australia’s electoral process.

Without the heat of a contentious referendum and the focus of the national media, it is understandable that a state-based Voice will not garner the same level of interest as the national Voice debate.

However, South Australian voters should know that their government is pushing forward with an agenda that they so recently and overwhelmingly rejected. And for the rest of the country, it is yet another timely reminder that just because you voted ‘No’ to something, does not mean you will not get it anyway.

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