My name is Brianna McKee. I’m a research fellow and the National Manager of Generation Liberty at the Institute of Public Affairs.
And since I’m speaking at the annual conference for the PGA, I feel it’s appropriate that I give you my farming credentials.
Because, I have been a livestock owner in the past. I grew up on five acres on the edge of Sydney and when I was about 12, my sisters and I had a flock of chickens. We started a small business selling eggs to our neighbours – until the local fox paid us a visit and that was the end of the chickens.
But the fox incident was a mass slaughter – something like what the Greens would like to do with your cows and sheep in the name of cutting carbon emissions.
This whole experience nipped my entrepreneurial spirit in the bud. That was my first and last small business to date. I tell you this story to show that I have a limited but important understanding of the difficulties of being in the livestock business.
Of course, our egg business was a black-market operation. We only took cash, and we didn’t have to deal with an army of environmental bureaucrats rocking up at our door with clipboards nor animal welfare activists nor the taxation department. Even then, it was not the most lucrative business – like many farmers – our losses exceeded our profits. I take my hat off to all farmers who do it weighed down by taxes and regulation.
In any case. I would like to acknowledge from the outset of my talk, the outstanding work of the Pastoralist and Graziers Association, and especially its formidable president Tony Seabrook.
At a time when so many business groups and industry associations have gone woke, the PGA stands head and shoulders above the crowd, always fearlessly representing the interests of its members, who are helping to put food on Australian tables even if this is not understood by the political class.
The defeat of the disastrous Cultural Heritage Laws would simply not have happened without Tony and the PGA. You have performed a great service, not just for farmers in WA, but for the whole state and the whole nation.
And I am delighted that the IPA was able to work with the PGA in helping bring down those damaging laws, and I look forward to our continued relationship.
Farming and primary industry is absolutely foundational to the Australian way of life. It’s our food producers who exemplify Australian values such as hard work, independence, grit, mate-ship, and community. Everything, in other words, that the inner-city elites reject.
And it is our famers who put food on our tables and export food, grain, and fibre around the world, to the benefit of the world’s poor, and earning critical export revenue which is to the benefit of all Australians.
What the whole cultural heritage episode reinforced is that the life of a farmer is not an easy one.
And it’s being made much harder by politicians in Canberra and Perth and other state capitals who regularly add to the stack of red, green and blue tape that is being placed on farmers and business more generally.
What we have is a bad system – and bad systems beat good people almost all of the time. We are dealing with two classes of people in society who navigate and interact with the world in two fundamentally different ways. One commentator has put it this way:
The first class are the physicals – people who work in the real physical world and often directly with their hands like a farmer, or a tradie or they might be one step removed as a business owner who organises people who work with their hands. This set always works in a physical location, or they own or operate physical assets that are central to their trade.
The second class is the Zooming set, which during the lockdowns even extended to schoolchildren. This group doesn’t interact much with the physical world directly. They handle information – digital, numerical or narrative. But this information exists in the abstract and can only influence the real world through informational chains operated by people who act in the physical world. This class can fulfil their roles almost entirely by laptop and had the magical revelation during covid they don’t even need to sit in an office cubicle to do it.
To summarise, we have two classes, the ‘physicals’ and the ‘virtuals’. They aren’t divided by wealth or by gender or class. They are divided by the character of their work. This is one of the most relevant separations in the West at the moment. Work shapes the common identity and values of each group.
It helps to explain the difference in political preferences between men and women. Men tend to work with ‘things’ that are more concrete while women tend to work with ‘people’ in a space that is more abstract.
It also helps to explain the city-country divide because the virtuals are mainly concentrated in the cities while the physicals often dominate in the countryside due to the nature of their work.
The most important difference between the virtuals and the physicals is the virtuals are now everywhere the ruling class. The ruling class is the global class. And this ruling global class have more in common with each other than those who live within their own borders in the physical world.
This has led to the rise of influential figures at organizations such as the World Economic Forum who say that by 2030 they want everyone to, “own nothing and be happy”. Of course, what they mean by this is – ‘the global elites will own everything and be even happier!’
But this is the problem that we face. The pastoralists and graziers of the world are physicals while the politicians in power are the virtuals. They are detached from the physical world but make decisions for those people living in it. The increasing separation between these two classes means that these decisions keep getting worse. Which brings us to the latest bright idea of the virtuals in Australia – The Voice to Parliament.
The Voice is another product of the elites in the Canberra bubble attempting to impose their views and values on those in regional Australia.
The Yes case is one of hope and hype. It’s what Denis Denuto, the lawyer in The Castle, described as ‘the vibe’. The Yes case is based on an emotion – guilt – drummed into Australians through all our major institutions: schools, universities, the media and popular culture.
It’s important to note this guilt is not due to anything current Australians have done but the supposed sins of their ancestors.
Personally, I am not much into going with the vibe when it comes to public policy and especially the constitution. Instead, I’m going to look at the facts and go through some of the IPA’s research on the Voice. I’ll cover three key arguments:
- Firstly, New Zealand’s equivalent to the Voice, the Waitangi Tribunal. This is relevant because the Prime Minister himself said Australia needs to follow New Zealand’s lead.
- Secondly, the Calma-Langton report, which the PM has deflected to on multiple occasions when asked for critical details on the Voice.
- Thirdly, how the debate around the Voice has exposed big tech censorship. Australians should be deeply concerned about who has the power to influence public policy discussions in this nation.
First to the Waitangi Tribunal. This is relevant because the Prime Minister said in a Twitter post in February 2020
And I quote:
“We can learn a lot from our mates across the ditch about reconciliation with First Nations people.
New Zealand has led the way. It’s time for Australia to follow.
It’s time to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”
And the Prime Minister was absolutely correct. Australia can learn a lot from New Zealand and its equivalent to Australia’s proposed Voice, The Waitangi Tribunal.
Research published by the director of the IPA’s legal Rights Program, John Storey, looks at the practical consequences of following New Zealand’s lead.
He found that the Waitangi Tribunal started as a purely advisory body. But through a series of court interpretations including 1987 Lands Case, the Waitangi Tribunal was turned into a quasi-judicial body with the power to impose outcomes on the New Zealand government to redress past Māori grievances.
If the Voice is established in Australia and follows the precedent set by the Waitangi Tribunal, then it could suffer from three serious flaws. These are:
- The Voice could become involved in every aspect of life – including defense, education, tax, interest rates, and the selection of high court judges.
- The Voice could wield veto power over important government decisions (the Waitangi Tribunal has an explicit veto power over certain legislation, and there are some laws that only Māori can even suggest reforms to.)
- The Voice could become impossible to repeal, defund or effectively reform if there are problems with it after its creation.
In short, there are certainly a number of big issues here and what we could be doing with the Voice is importing New Zealand’s failures to Australia and institutionalising activism into our governance structures.
The second argument relates to the IPA’s analysis of the Calma-Langton Report which shows how radical and divisive the Voice will be.
It has become a hallmark of the referendum campaign that when the Prime Minister, and other advocates, are asked to explain critical details about the Voice proposal, they invoke the Calma-Langton report.
In June, the IPA released an analysis of this report and the detail it contains, which found:
- The Calma-Langton Voice plan would potentially create an additional 850 new politicians, over 4,000 political staffers, at an annual wage bill in excess of $600 million. This is based on the assumption that each of the 24 members of the Voice are paid the same as the base pay of a Commonwealth Member of Parliament and the same benefits.
- The Calma-Langton Voice plan would be pre-occupied with niche concerns of the activist class, rather than improving indigenous outcomes. The terms “gender”, “diversity”, and “inclusion” are referenced over ten times more than “disadvantage” throughout the report.
- The Calma-Langton Voice plan would be undemocratic. The report does not once mention the term “democracy” and the method for selecting Voice participants would be determined by local communities, which means closed-shop nepotism could be rife.
Now because the government has provided no draft legislation on what the Voice might look like, this is all we have to go on. The key message here is that the Calma Langton Voice model was designed by activists for activists to push their own agenda, rather than improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.
The third and final key point relates to social media censorship. The covid-19 pandemic was the first indication that big government, big business and foreign big tech companies were working together to censor mainstream opinion. Senator Alex Antic’s freedom of information request found the Department of Home Affairs’ pushed to censor or remove over 4,000 posts across all social media platforms over a period of three years.
Censorship has continued and accelerated post-covid – and the Voice debate has been the latest target. Jack Houghton at Sky News showed how one of Australia’s top universities RMIT teamed up with Facebook to block, deplatform and silence news coverage of the Voice referendum.
The IPA has had 7 videos on the Voice censored by Facebook and associated factchecking organisations. One of these videos included Senator Jacinta Price and Senator James McGrath expressing their opinion on why the Voice to Parliament is divisive.
In fact, big tech and The Voice advocates have something in common: They both want to prioritise certain voices at the expense of others.
The Voice and the Vibe: The famous Aussie classic ‘The Castle’ highlights the stark divide between the physicals and the virtuals. Darryl Kerigan is a truck driver – a physical. And he’s up against the government – the virtuals – who are trying to take away his house.
The argument used by advocates of the Yes case looks remarkably similar to the famous but disastrous scene where lawyer Denis Denuto tries to explain to a judge why the Kerrigan family should not be forced to sell to their house to airport developers.
During the court hearing he goes up to the judge and desperately trying to come up with an argument says, “it’s the constitution, it’s Mabo … it’s the vibe”. This is essentially what Yes case advocates are running around saying. If they continue to do so, then it’s great news for the No campaign.
Finally, how did we get to this place where we are deciding whether to insert a provision into the constitution which will divide the nation on the basis of race permanently?
Well, it’s because we haven’t understood the values of liberty and equality. And in fact, our universities have been pushing an agenda directly opposed to these two things. This has been happening progressively. It’s like that scene in Ernest Hemingway’s book the Sun Also Rises. One character Bill asks another Mike how he went bankrupt, and Mike says, ‘slowly, then all at once’.
Universities used to be places where knowledge was preserved and generated and disseminated, and where academic excellence was encouraged and where people devoted themselves to the pursuit of truth. Today, they have become humourless, woke, and highly politicized centers, where telling a joke or using nicknames are now forbidden. The atmosphere is one in which students and teachers alike, are stifled by a culture of political and ideological correctness. If we lose my generation to the activist class, the values that you guys epitomise will be lost.
Generation Liberty is the IPA’s youth wing, and we’re pushing back against this and promoting debate and free speech on campus. We have a team of campus coordinators who are students at universities across Australia who host events – some of these are social events to connect likeminded freedom-loving people and most bring great speakers and thought leaders onto campus to present an alternate view and to challenge and inspire students. We also reach out to young people on social media providing information about freedom and hard work and the values that have made the West great.
I’m sure you guys have children or grandchildren. Sign them up to the IPA’s Generation Liberty program so they can join a community who believe in the values of freedom. You can go to your internet browser and type in Generation Liberty and there is a sign-up page. With their permission, put in their email address and you can start to get them on the right track.
To close, I want to remind you that even though the ‘virtuals’ are the ruling class and in power, they are still dependent on people like you, the physicals of the world. The truckie protest in Canada showed how the physicals have the capacity to kick up a fuss and cause the virtuals big issues.
Current polling on the Voice, should also give us hope. It shows that people are capable of thinking for themselves and not just accepting everything they hear in the media.
I will finish with an old Roman proverb that I recently heard from a speech given by Tony Abbott:, ‘genus Humanum vivit paucis’ which translates to ‘the human race lives by a few’. This recognises that only a few key people have real influence over the many. The quote speaks to the power of the power of the ‘small, noisy minority’.
The left have had their long march through the institutions. We need to replicate that, but we need a quick march through the institutions. But the good news is we only need a few people in order to do that.
And the defeat of the cultural heritage laws, which was a modern-day David/Goliath battle, shows that it can be done.
And remember, ‘the human race lives by a few’ and the people in this room are among those few.
This speech about IPA research was delivered by Brianna Mckee on 5 October 2023 to the annual convention of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia. Edits have been made for clarity.