For literalists, burn the place down is a rhetorical tool, a metaphor for a complete shake up in Indigenous policy not an incitement to arson. I might have mentioned Year Zero but that would have had readers frothing at the mouth as they imagined, Close the Gap Pol Pot style.
On May 26 2017, months of nation-wide consultation culminated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, proposing a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. While some leaders saw it as a toothless, advisory body with limited scope, most believed it was an imaginative way to have the Indigenous voice heard at the highest levels, a once in a generational chance for meaningful change.
"So if the Australian people are not on board with it, then that's about where it stops."
Three days later, well before it had been finalised by the Referendum Council and then formally submitted to government, the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce killed it off, telling NITV News, "If you overreach and ask for something that will not be supported by the Australian people, such as another chamber in politics or something that sort of sits beside or above the senate, that idea just won't fly. So if the Australian people are not on board with it, then that's about where it stops."
How Barnaby was able to know what the Australian people might support without a finalised blueprint is as mysterious as his private life.
There you go, Indigenous Australia asking for something that you might want instead of just accepting what white Australia believes you deserve. You would think after 230 years Aboriginal people would know their place!
On Q&A actress, Shareena Clanton nailed it...
"We want to be the voice because we are tired of non-Indigenous Australia thinking they know what is good for us and thinking that they can be the voice for Aboriginal Australia.”
With Barnaby Joyce so opposed to the idea, it was impossible for the Prime Minister to do anything else but walk away.
Malcolm Turnbull formally received the Referendum Council’s final report in July and in October he rejected its key recommendation of a Voice to Parliament.
The Prime Minister has been walking away from Aboriginal affairs ever since, most obviously at the Close the Gap event in Canberra. Sure his staff had forewarned organisers of his early departure but what a bad look when he stood up with just 15 minutes to go and left taking a gaggle of media with him!
Then a week later he stood outside the 10th anniversary Apology to the Stolen Generations Breakfast, chatting to former political leaders, Kevin Rudd and Brendan Nelson only to disappear again.
So now Barnaby Joyce will stand down as leader of the National Party and consequently as Deputy Prime Minister.
A silenced Voice to Parliament is part of his legacy and Indigenous Australia might have to wait decades for another chance to be heard in Canberra.