Part 1 of a series on forces supporting opposing sides of the Voice referendum and the need for unity, whatever the result. It looks at the role of the Business Council of Australia. The second looks explores the growth of far right organisation.
As the Voice referendum approaches, First Peoples have never been more divided. Competing factions within the capitalist ruling class have caused those divisions. The factions agree on fundamentals – that First Peoples’ lands and waters will continue to be exploited for oil, mineral and gas, for real estate profits, for corporate farming, for waste dumps or military bases.
They disagree on tactics. One side prefers soft tactics with some concessions to the struggles led by First Peoples, the other wants to completely crush resistance. In the ruling class-controlled parliament they are represented by their respective servants, Albanese and Dutton.
Over years both factions gutted land rights and replaced them with native title which excluded the vast majority of First Peoples. They pitted traditional custodians against lands councils from which custodians are often excluded. They condoned world-leading incarceration rates, demonised and tortured children as young as ten, and stole others from families, hounded families on Centrelink. They evicted them from public housing. They sat on their hands as children suicided. They still do.
Witness the labelling of traumatised Aboriginal children at the Banksia Park detention centre as “terrorists” by the WA Labor Premier.
They prepared the Northern Territory for deeper exploitation through 15 years of the brutal Intervention: $100 million spent on police centres; forcing the young out of communities and off Country into towns; humiliating elders with allegations and the rest with basics cards; banishing language instruction in schools till late afternoons; dumping community run councils, businesses and employment programs.
And so much more. How has it come to this?
How has it come to this?
In 1988, First Peoples struck a tremendous and united blow against 200 years of colonialism and imperialism. They said to the ruling class, you have thrown every weapon you possess against us but we have survived! It was an extraordinary moment of growing First Peoples’ unity, power and defiance, built upon two centuries of resistance. It struck fear into the heartless, inhuman, profit-driven core of the ruling class.
The Business Council of Australia, set up to unify the largest corporations in the country, knew its outright suppression of First Peoples had failed. It began planning. By the year 2000, it set its vast economic, human, political, legal and cultural resources into an offensive on a wide range of fronts to systematically drive disunity into First People’s communities. It promoted the identity of corporate and First People’s aspirations, although in reality these are diametrically opposed.
In 2017, our comrade Lindy Nolan first documented the process in Driving Disunity: The Business Council Against Aboriginal Community.
One focus was constitutional recognition.
Without grassroots processes of development, what became the well-funded Uluru process was outlined by Noel Pearson at Garma Festival 2016 on a platform shared with the BCA’s Michael Rose. Noel Pearson’s proposal incorporated and praised ‘Australia’s British Institutions’. Garma was full of Business Council of Australia members, 21 from Westpac alone. CEO Jennifer Westacott co-chaired another key forum of three BCA speakers.
Corporations like Rio Tinto and other US-controlled mining giants support the Voice, but it’s nothing more than self-interest. They want to blackwash their image. Whether the referendum is won or lost, it’s nothing to them. Driving division was their true aim.
Peter Dutton calls the Voice divisive. But it’s precisely what the ruling class intended.