“We must face the fact that the preservation of individual freedom is incompatible with a full satisfaction of our views of distributive justice.”
F.A. Hayek

Let’s recap.

In 5 Dangerous Blind-Spots In ‘Yes’ Arguments (Part 1), I addressed Duncan’s self-described ‘indifference’ to the Voice as an issue and that the ‘Yes’ case really acquiesces to systemic racism.

This is:

  • Blind-Spot #1: Systemic Racism

In 5 Dangerous Blind-Spots In ‘Yes’ Arguments’ (Part 2), I then tackled his leading two arguments, exposing the flaws in each:

  • Blind-Spot #2: Can’t Get Much Worse
  • Blind-Spot #3: Concede or Else

This is the third and final instalment, in which I’ll conclude with two more blind-spots which, I suggest, no libertarian would accept:

  • Blind-Spot #4: Bureaucratic Expansion
  • Blind-Spot #5: Government Is Harmless.



If the former Senator had diverted us from the libertarian freeway by this point, he next drives us into a philosophical traffic-jam with “The passing of the referendum would require the indigenous bureaucracy to be reshaped, and would likely increase it in the short term.”

Not likely. Definitely. Not short-term. Long-term.

Consider the half century bureaucratic history just on this issue alone:

1967 – Council of Aboriginal Affairs

1972 – National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

1973 – Department of Aboriginal Affairs

1977 – National Aboriginal Conference

1981 – Aboriginal Development Committee

1988 – Mabo (No. 2)

1990 – ATSIC

1991 – Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation

1992 – Wik case

1993 – Native Title Act

He’d have you believe a politically-charged, constitutionally-enshrined Voice would be ignored

1995 – National Inquiry into the Separation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Children

1999 – Preamble Referendum

2006 – Reconciliation Action Plan

2008 – National Apology to Stolen Generation

2010 – National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Expert Panel on Constitutional Reconciliation

2012 – Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island People

2013 – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People Recognition Act

2014 – Act of Recognition Review Panel

2015 – Referendum Council

2017 – Uluru Statement From The Heart calling for Voice, Treaty and Reparations

2023 – Voice Referendum

It’s a novel argument. I’ve never heard of a libertarian accepting an increase in the size of bureaucracy, short or long term.

My simple fig farmer mind is more attracted to the libertarian satirist, P.J. O’Rourke, who wrote:

Libertarian satirist, P.J. O’Rourke

“The growth of government is like the spread of a dense jungle, and the average citizen can hack through less of it every year.”

I’m still grappling with NDIS budgets growing from $4 billion in 2016 to $49 billion in 2023. I’m imagining that’s what the Voice will be, plus of course the $450 million just to run this Referendum!

Further, what the former Senator dismisses as a ‘slippery slope’ argument in the next step to Aboriginal treaties is a stated ambition in the Uluru Statement From The Heart.

I suspect he believes No campers are jumping at conspiracy shadows. You know, if our opponents write a 26-page mission statement called the Uluru Statement and conduct national roadshows talking about their plans for treaties, I listen.

“Treaty” very clearly on the agenda. However, treaties are between countries. Yes camp separatists?

And, ignoring this, if we do have a Voice, what would the logical argument from the former Senator be then: ‘They’re jumping at conspiracy shadows with reparations. Vote ‘yes’ to treaties.’

Step by methodical step, we move in the wrong direction towards an expanding bureaucracy.



Then there are the worrying one-line snippets which suggest very little by way of libertarian thinking, all downplaying the impact government has. In his language, he implies government is somehow harmless or innocuous.

In one example, the former Senator says the Voice will have “little bearing on lives of individuals”.

Then why push it? Libertarians are pro individual. Let’s not push the collective.

The former Senator blithely continues, “the passing of the referendum would do nothing to reduce the existing ability of anyone to make representations.”

I’d turn that line back on the good Senator as an argument against the Voice. If the Voice does nothing to reduce existing abilities to make representations, great. Let’s keep that benefit without yet another bureaucratic expansion.

I’ve never heard of a libertarian accepting an increase in the size of bureaucracy

He rails against “arguments against a body whose advice needs to be waited for and listened to, when no such body is being proposed”. Oh, it won’t be listened to? Why have it then?

Further, he’d have you believe a politically-charged, constitutionally-enshrined Voice would be ignored. Come on. Look at the oxygen it’s already sucking from the public square. Look at the money suck over the last 50 years.


There are other points to raise, but I suggest this is enough to dispatch the Yes case.

Five blind-spots in the ‘yes’ camp arguments:

Let me know in the comments whether you agree or disagree.

And finally, I want absolutely nothing in my response to the former Senator to suggest disrespect. He is an honourable man. Rather, I began this three-part response quoting John Milton, so I’d like to conclude with what he wrote on the importance of playing the ball not the man:

“ … to dwell at large upon the arguments, and to insist upon the reasons, and not to insult or domineer”
John Milton

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  1. Can we agree on “the Voice does nothing to reduce existing abilities to make representations”?

    (It also doesn’t add any abilities; in fact the Voice will have a restricted ability to make representations, compared to the averag citizen).

    This makes most of both the Yes argument and the No argument (including a lot of what you have written) irrelevant arguments based on emotion, not any logical base.

    The costs of the referendum are sunk costs, so the actual for/against bolls down to:
    * The government will need to create an additional new body in the short term; of course the government can already do this (even if the referendum fails; as there is no law that prevents them); longer term I don’t think it will make a difference, i.e. zero cost, as it doesn’t fundamentally add any consequential new powers or obligations.
    * It might help a disadvantaged section feel listened to (even though it actually gives them no new powers; the placebo effect is real, even when you know it), and this could indirectly improve outcomes. The positive effect would be very minor.

    A very minor positive, at zero cost.

    I agree that treaty doesn’t really make sense; but most libertarians are strong advocates of private property rights, so the concept of (appropriate) reparations should be something that is supported (Question: do you support strong private property rights?).

    There are many complexities, like the statute of limitations, burden of proof, identification of parties, and good faith purchase, but surely the core concept (if you something is taken by force or fraud, then compensation is due) is something that libertarians should support (and has nothing to do with race).

    • No.

      The purpose of the constitution isn’t to make some people feel good because you feel sorry for them.

      Creating a new bureaucracy at the highest level of law is clearly a massive expansion of government. It is reasonable for not only the powers of this bureaucracy to expand but for new ‘voices’ to be created for other marginalized groups. Environment Voice, Women’s Voice etc.

      Expansion of government is a constant pressure that needs to be resisted.

    • Sly,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments in contribution to the discussion. I’m delighted to engage and welcome all citizens of goodwill here.

      You repeat the original author’s point “the Voice does nothing to reduce existing abilities to make representations” so, in effect, what’s the problem?

      Well, what it does it create a two layered system of representations. The one we all enjoy now through our respective members of parliament in the House of Representatives and the Senate. And about 880,000 Australians then gain a separate body on the basis of their DNA, affiliation, political leaning (we are not told) and this is constitutionally-embedded in its own chapter no less. All can make representations, some with more clout than others. This latter part is illiberal to the core.

      You suggest that the Voice will have a restricted ability to make representations. Yet question after question in parliamentary committee yields a “Detail will be decided by parliament if the Yes case wins”. We just don’t know how unrestricted it will be.

      I prefer to listen to technical experts than hectoring politicians. Former High Court Justice Ian Callinan is clear that because this proposal includes the words “executive government”, the scope of the Voice will be widespread if implemented, with the likely consequence of a litigious log-jam to the High Court. Leading constitutional lawyers Emeritus Professor Greg Craven and former professor of law The Reverend Frank Brennan AO (son of Sir Gerard Brennan, former Chief Justice of the High Court) are also of this view.

      Small scope? More like a Pandora’s Box. And, no, I don’t regard these technical experts as offering their opinion in a gush of emotion. Even the ABC has respectfully reported their opinion: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-24/constitutional-experts-divided-on-voice-referendum-legal-/102136900

      Libertarians prickle at the term ‘sunk costs’. It’s almost as if $450 million is easy come, easy go. That’s $450 million stolen from hard working Australians with the full, ultimately-violent apparatus of the state to enforce it.

      Further, the idea that any government body will be zero cost in the long term is fanciful. Are you suggesting it will be self-funding? The onus is on the Yes camp to suggest how this magic occurs. Not even the former Senator is suggesting that.

      My ears pricked at “It might help a disadvantaged section feel listened to”. Having earlier suggested the arguments for and against the Voice are rife with emotion, I smiled at word word ‘feel’. You’ve gone and added to the emotion there.

      Constitutional change is a serious matter. It goes to the nation’s very operating system. I’m reminded of that sensational Australian film, The Castle, and the suburban lawyer haplessly making submissions to a superior court with arguments like “it’s the vibe of it, Your Honour.”

      Further, when you assert ‘a disadvantaged section’, again, this is collectivism. The aboriginal community hold diverse opinions on this issue. We’ve seen elder after elder rail against the Voice for the lack of detail, practical impact and lack of consultation.

      When you write “it actually gives them no new powers” and “the placebo effect” and “The positive effect would be very minor”, then you concede from the start as to its ineffectiveness. Agreed. It’s window-dressing, but at a cost.

      Yes. I’m glad we agree that the treaty doesn’t make sense. Treaties are between sovereign countries. To have a treaty with aboriginal people, we need to cede our sovereignty. We’d need to say, “I was born in Australia. I am Australian. But I cede my country to one ethnic group.” Where would the borders be drawn? The CEO of an aboriginal land holdings company was on Sky News the other night and revealed that there are 40,000 pending land claims in NSW alone. Imagine trying to draw the borders.

      Yes, libertarians support private property rights and I am a libertarian. What private property rights do you believe I am denying? Private property rights are a Western concept. I think here of John Locke’s ‘life, liberty and property.’ Pre 1788 aborigines did not have private property rights. They never thought in those terms. They operated in tribal collectives and semi-nomadic at that as opposed to being fixed to a quarter acre block. Further, they had not written language to prove private property title. When Governor Philip took Bennelong for an eye-opening tour of Britain, Bennelong didn’t sell his house or freehold pastoral holdings. He didn’t ‘own’ in that sense.

      You write from a social justice point of view when you say “if you (sic) something is taken by force or fraud, then compensation is due”, you’re assuming the liberal democratic, free market preconditions were in place. They weren’t. This was the European Enlightenment – the full flourishing of science and exploration after the feudal Middle Ages – meeting semi-nomadic hunter-gathers with 250 different exclusively oral languages.

      Treaty is their precondition for reparations. It is wholly anti-libertarian to collectively hold one ethnic group responsible for their ancestors actions 235 years ago. (Lets put aside the overwhelmingly positive impact of modernity on aboriginal people and the relatively benign way that occurred compared to, say, the Belgians).

      Since the Prime Minister has forced us to talk about race, I am a Cornish Celt. It is absurd to me that I should make reparations claims against the Italians for their Roman ancestors. It is laughable that I should make a claim against the Danes and Germans for my grievances against the Anglo-Saxons. Yes, I agree there are complications. Where does one draw the line.

      Libertarians believe in human flourishing. In the here and now, we want people to live free from economic coercion, we want you to keep your own money which you worked diligently for, we want you to have personal freedom to live and let live whilst doing no harm to others. We want you to succeed.

      The Prime Minister would have us all talk about race, a crumbling sovereignty of this relatively rare freedom-loving nation, and payments for things which happened in the distant past.

      I say NO.

      Thanks for dropping by Sly. Feel free to join our mailing list.


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