I read hundreds of bills when I was advising Senator Leyonhjelm.  

Some of the bills would significantly alter the size of government or the extent of government interference in the lives of individuals.  For these bills, my advice and the Senator’s decisions were aligned and easy to predict.

But most bills were not like this.  

We should consider ourselves lucky that, in Australia, the descendants of displaced inhabitants aren’t reaching for rockets

Most of the bills wouldn’t make Australia less libertarian or more libertarian.  They represented tinkering with the labyrinthine statute book of a bloated state.  They were fiddles while Rome burned; a re-arranging of deckchairs on the Titanic.

There were bills to change the composition of agencies that shouldn’t exist, the elements of pointless regulations, and the application process for unwarranted handouts. 

I still provided advice on these uninspiring, run-of-the-mill bills.  If such a bill might marginally improve the functioning of our dysfunctional bureaucracy, and if it was supported by a smattering of individuals who had to deal with that bureaucracy, I would advise the Senator to vote for the bill.

I feel much the same way about the Voice referendum, which is why I will be voting yes.

… if we instead see the election of some Aboriginal leaders who believe in the individual rather than the collective, it would be worth it.

The Voice referendum isn’t a particularly libertarian issue.   It has little bearing on the extent of government interference in the lives of individuals, or on the size of government.

A bureaucracy making representations is not an infringement on anyone’s freedom, and the passing of the referendum would do nothing to reduce the existing ability of anyone to make representations.  The Voice is hardly the evil of affirmative action.

The passing of the referendum would require the indigenous bureaucracy to be reshaped, and would likely increase it in the short term.  But the overall size of Australia’s indigenous bureaucracy, and the bigger issue of indigenous-specific handouts, would remain a question for Australia’s parliaments.  Reducing indigenous-specific bureaucracy and handouts will remain an important task for libertarians, whether the referendum passes or not.

Some argue against introducing race into our Constitution.  But, unfortunately, race is already in our Constitution.  While there remains a constitutional power to make laws about race, and while we only specifically legislate about the Aboriginal race, it is reasonable for there to be an explicit constitutional provision about an Aboriginal body making representations to the Parliament and Government.  Just as, if we were silly enough to have laws about Dutch Australians, it would be reasonable to be explicit that Dutch Australians can make representations to the Parliament and Government.

Some argue that the Constitution should remain limited to our major institutions.  But our Constitution already has provisions for minor institutions.  Consider Section 105A, inserted by referendum in 1928, to underpin the now moribund Loans Council.  I suspect that those who wax lyrical over our Constitution have only read bits of it.

Other arguments against the Voice referendum represent a cavalcade of fallacies.  

The passing of the referendum would require the indigenous bureaucracy to be reshaped, and would likely increase it in the short term.

There are straw-men: arguments against a body whose advice needs to be waited for and listened to, when no such body is being proposed.  

There are slippery slopes: arguments against separate things, like treaties and a different Australia Day, that will be argued for regardless of the referendum result.  

And there’s ad hominem: arguments against proposers rather than the proposal.

For me, there are two half-decent arguments in favour of the Voice referendum.  

Firstly, Aboriginal affairs couldn’t get much worse.  If the Voice delivers more of the same, we haven’t lost anything.  But if we instead see the election of some Aboriginal leaders who believe in the individual rather than the collective, it would be worth it.

The Voice is hardly the evil of affirmative action.

Secondly, saying no would disempower Aboriginal leaders pushing the Voice and empower militant Aboriginal leaders instead. If you say no to Martin Luther King you end up with Malcolm X.  We should consider ourselves lucky that, in Australia, the descendants of displaced inhabitants aren’t reaching for rockets, as occurs in other countries.  We should not be so naive to think that such violence is not possible in Australia.

Despite the popularity of tribalism, not every issue warrants a strong, certain, and unwavering response.  Some issues warrant only weak support or opposition, or even indifference.  This is one such occasion.

As our libertarian principles are not at play, we should be prudent and gracious, and vote yes – then move on to more consequential matters.

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Duncan Spender is CEO of Oysters Tasmania, having previously served as CEO of the Multicultural Council of Tasmania.  He advised Senator David Leyonhjelm from 2014 and briefly served as Senator in 2019.  Duncan’s early career was in local government and the Australian and New Zealand Treasury Departments.


  1. Sorry Duncan, but from one libertarian to another, I have to disagree here. It is totally a libertarian issue and people should vote NO. This voice enshrines a layer of bureaucracy into the constitution, which is not even the correct place for this kind of virtue-signalling agency.

    A major part of libertarianism involves government not getting in the way and being just of sufficient size as to carry out functions that are reasonably expected of a government, and nothing more.

    In the proposed amendment, the Parliament may make laws pertaining to the voice. The Voice also has the right to make representations, adding yet another layer of complexity to law making. Parliament may decide that the voice has the authority to veto any laws, and this idea was toyed during its inception. We have no information as to what Parliament intends for the powers of the Voice to be, which is a dangerous precedent for enshrining into the constitution.

    So, do you as a Libertarian, support an agency whose authority is ill-defined, can make processes even more complex than they have to be, and is essentially a taxpayer-funded virtue-signalling bureaucracy, to be enshrined into the Constitution? An agency which may decide to reduce peoples’ freedoms under whatever authority is granted to them? An agency who wastes taxpayer’s money making representations to the executive (ie. EVERY government in Australia, federal, state, local, etc) to try and reduce our freedoms?

    If this Voice had been a separate act of parliament rather than a part of the constitution (which isn’t supposed to be an “About Me” page) I wouldn’t take as much issue with it as I do now, although I would still question the motive behind the push for such a ridiculous and ill-defined agency as the Voice.

  2. Are you serious?
    It is our fight! Even our overwhelmingly coercive and deceptive government had to acknowledge that changing our constitution is a matter for ALL Australians, thus the referendum. A referendum accompanied by a tax-payer funded campaign to create an overwhelming bias for the ‘yes’ vote, but a nation-wide vote, nonetheless.
    You say ‘race’ is already represented in the constitution. How? Where? The constitution represents the notion of a united Australia ie all people living in this country are equally covered and served by this document. No preference or exclusions to a specific group of Australians was even implied.
    I am fully supportive of the formation of an independent organisation (board, committee, council…) which seeks to reflect the needs of Indigenous people, however; there is no need to rewrite our constitution to facilitate this.
    Moreover, the Voice in its current design will not effectively serve the interests of the majority of Aboriginal people living in marginalised, unhealthy and dangerous conditions. That’s why many Indigenous people are strongly against the Voice! The Northern Territory will have only two seats on the Voice (same as every other state/territory), yet the majority of our Indigenous population live in the NT; in a drastically different context to people who identify as being Indigenous in Sydney or Melbourne. How can the Voice be anything other than a vehicle for generating more bureaucracy and more misdirected spending (oink addition to the billions and billions of taxpayer’s money) when the true crisis’ being endured by the country’s most vulnerable Indigenous people are not even being close to proportionately represented by this [yet another] advisory committee?

    • Hear hear!

      “this [yet another] advisory committee?” YES! Surely people here can remember the absolute waste of space that is the ATSC? The voice is basically likely to be that, only much worse!
      All you have to do is look at the disaster that was Perth’s cultural heritage laws, and see how the voice will behave. This Voice will be just another legally-enshrined criminal organisation.

      As for the constitution, there’s section 25 (races disqualified from voting) and 51(xxvi) (parliament to make laws specific to races) which have racial slants to them.
      But Duncan’s argument about adding a race-based agency just because there are already provisions for race-based legislation in the constitution, makes no sense. It’s like saying that, the bin is overflowing with smelly rubbish, so we should add more smelly rubbish since the bin currently contains smelly rubbish.

  3. Before we even consider the many possible consequences of this opaque proposed amendment to the constitution we must be opposed as it violates the principle of equality before the law. This proposal seeks to insert race-based minority group rights into the constitution. The proposal is fundamentally flawed no matter whatever good intentions gave it life.

  4. Goodness me, I make comment on somewhat disingenuously argued piece by Duncan Spender. I see others have done so and I agree with their expressed disappointment and the significant counterpoints they have raised.
    Its not our fight- to say so is to divorce Libertarians from Australia on all issues not specifically Libertarian- its this type of thinking that has seen the movement and the Party consigned to the micro-party status and if it prevails will see it remain there forevermore!
    This is a debate and a MAJOR change that is the right and responsibility of EVERY Australian citizen to carefully consider and where eligible, cast a vote one way or the other.
    The Voice has not been adequately designed or thought through by its proponents to be a sound proposal for Constitutional change; and IF it actually has been so designed already it has not been honestly advised to the electors.
    ” if we instead see the election of some Aboriginal leaders who believe in the individual rather than the collective, it would be worth it.”
    On what fantasy is this based, firstly there is NO model for how the Voice will be convened that I am aware of, in fact I understand that missing piece to be one of the concerns….it can as equally – under the proposed Question- be Selected by the Government of the day. Then to apply the IF those elected would be more concerned for the individual than the collective is pure fantasy…a counterpoint is “If selected by the current Government from the architects of the Voice it is almost guaranteed that the body will consider the collective ahead of the individual” (see multiple recorded statements by the self same architects for evidence of left leaning politics).
    The example of the Loans Council insertion in the Constitution in 1928 also serves as a very good reason NOT to have the Voice included in a change…that is its likely permanence beyond relevance.
    A No vote creating a disengagement of Aboriginal leaders to be replaced by activists- my counterpoint to this is that those pushing for the Voice are the activists already, maybe not militant certainly NOT moderate.
    . “…think ourselves lucky…”
    I nor my children nor my ancestors need think ourselves lucky to not be having rockets launched at us by “displaced persons” – what a trite and flawed view of Australian history. There are matters of British settlement and indeed Federation that may be cause for disagreement, debate and disendorsement without doubt- but to blithely claim all is/was bad in context of 21st century mores being applied to sins of yesteryear is intellectually lazy.
    The emotive side of the general Yes argument about improving the circumstances of ATI people is further wishful thinking without any constructive aims. I have yet to hear any advocacy of changes that may be desirous in endeavours to “close the gap”- what improvements have been ignored, brushed aside or under funded in the last 30 years of striving for this worthy aim across Australia that would magically be bettered by the creation of the (Constitutionally included) Voice? What mechanisms are being deployed to ensure the Voice does not repeat the tragedy of ATSIC?
    I’m disappointed by the YES vote advocacy expressed by Duncan Spender, as much for the reasons raised as with the view itself but as with all (I hope) attracted to this page, will absolutely defend his right to hold, express and champion those freely held views.

  5. “Other arguments against the Voice referendum represent a cavalcade of fallacies….There are slippery slopes: arguments against separate things, like treaties and a different Australia Day, that will be argued for regardless of the referendum result.”

    Are you kidding?

    The process is Voice-Treaty-Truth Telling.

    It’s all laid out in black and white in the Uluru Statement From The Heart. They are quite open about this, in fact they are proud of this.

    Voting No to the Voice is a vote against The Uluru Statement’, and thus a vote against the establishment of blood sucking parallel quasi ‘sovereign’ nations within Australia, it’s a vote against reparations aka ‘paying the rent’, and it’s a vote against even more division in our one country.

  6. Like seemingly all opinions promoting the Voice, this article completely fails to present any material benefits; nor does it even provide any concise, intelligible explanation of any material outcomes the Voice is supposed to achieve? The argument to vote ‘yes’ essentially boils to it probably not being too bad and not making much difference anyway. In other words, she’ll be right; how bad can it be?
    If, as this article infers, the Voice is simply a mechanism for harmless, impotent “representations” to be made to Parliament, there are already myriad such mechanisms in place, open to all Australians. But if these “representations” are – as many of us suspect – more akin to the “representations” that Mafia standover thugs make when requesting “protection payments”, then voting ‘yes’ would be voting for an(other) institutionalised extortion racket. And, given the secrecy, opacity, censorship, name-calling, dubious box-ticking debacle, and obscene financing of those pimping the “Voice”, it certainly looks and smells extremely Mafioso. Far from providing a compelling reason to vote ‘yes’, this article simply confirms that it would be naive and ignorant to do so.

  7. Will the Voice help the 20% of aboriginal people who live in isolated communities living in disadvantage and distress. Currently the National Indigenous Australian Agency is funded to the amount of $4.3 billion, will it be dismantled when/if the Voice is set up.


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