As a social justice organisation, we cannot say No.
On 14 October, Australian voters will go to the polls. There they will decide whether the country changes its constitution to enshrine an advisory body that will make representations to federal lawmakers on policies that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
And that’s it. Despite rabble-rousing by the No vote supporters, the body will simply advise Canberra’s politicians to better deliver services to First Nations people.
The PSA CPSU NSW, being one of the first Australian unions to have an Aboriginal Council, demonstrates how the advisory body would work.
The PSA CPSU NSW Aboriginal Council is made up of elected representatives. The body meets regularly to discuss issues that affect our First Nations members, such as job opportunities, identity theft and the lack of senior positions reserved for Aboriginal workers.
The body then advises the PSA CPSU NSW Executive and Central Council, which are the decision-making bodies for the union. The key word here is “advises”. Decisions are ultimately made by Central Council, the composition of which is voted on by all members.
Voting Yes to the Voice is not voting for a third chamber of parliament. It is not voting for a body that will take anyone’s house off them.
The Voice vote is about enshrining an advisory body that cannot suffer the same fate of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, which was done away with at a stroke of a pen by the John Howard Government.
It is about doing more to avoid the policy failures of the past, where despite years of government intervention, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still lack in crucial areas such as education achievement, incarceration rates, labour market participation and, most crucially, life expectancy.
To critics who say the PSA CPSU NSW needs to stick to industrial issues, we say that social justice is at the core of our values. We believe a Yes vote is, like the marriage equality poll a few years back, a social issue whose time has come.
The campaign for the Voice has, sadly, unleashed unacceptably racist behaviour. The “comedian” and former Labor Minister Gary Johns at the Trump-lite Conservative Political Action Conference are two sad examples.
As union members, we need to be better. We encourage our members to talk to colleagues about the referendum. However, we also encourage all sides to refrain from name-calling and to debate the issue in a civil manner.
On 14 October, you will have a chance to walk to your polling station, grab a democracy sausage and do something to help some of the most disadvantaged people in our state.
I urge our members to vote Yes.4 comments