“The referendum legislation introduced into Parliament today is another attempt to silence debate on the Indigenous-only Voice to Parliament. It is further evidence that the deck is being stacked by those seeking to prevent Australians having an equal say in the debate,” said John Storey, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.
IPA legal analysis has established that the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022, amongst other things, suspends the operation of Section 11 of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984. In particular, Clause 4 of the Bill will:
- remove the prohibition on the Federal Government from spending taxpayer money for any purpose, other than the official referendum pamphlet, meaning the government is now able to spend taxpayer money in support of its preferred outcome.
- remove the requirement for the Federal Government to publish and distribute to every household a pamphlet containing a 2,000-word essay for and against the proposed constitutional change.
“Introducing the legislation today, on the last parliamentary sitting day of the year, is a sinister political manoeuvre reinforcing the perception that the Albanese Government is lining up against mainstream Australians who do not want their country to be divided by race,” said Mr Storey.
In addition, the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney today conceded the Federal Government would “enable funding of educational initiatives to counter misinformation.” This contains ominous overtones of government-led censorship, and an Orwellian-style control of debate.
“Australians simply cannot have confidence that the Voice to Parliament referendum will be free and fair,” said Mr Storey.
“The Albanese Government has given itself the green light to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to drown out the opinions of mainstream Australians who do not want to be divided by race.”
“Abolishing the referendum pamphlet, on spurious grounds, trashes an important and indispensable Australian tradition, critical to democracy and freedom going back to 1912, which has ensured arguments in respect to both sides of the debate are heard.”
Today’s announcement follows on from the federal government’s mini-Budget that granted ‘Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition’, a body campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote at the forthcoming referendum, Deductible Gift Recipient status.
“This means the ‘yes’ campaign can receive tax deductible donations. Yet, the Albanese Government has refused to provide comparable concessions or assurances for the ‘no’ case,” said Mr Storey.
“The continual stacking of the deck by Australia’s governing class and elites violates a foundational principle of the Australian way of life, that being, everybody gets to have their say, no matter what their view is.”