Racism Rampant on Twitter Following Coalitions Official ‘No’ Stance on Voice Referendum

Racism Rampant on Twitter Following Coalitions Official ‘No’ Stance on Voice Referendum
Image: Image: Peter Dutton/Facebook


Several Twitter users have called out an increase in racism on the platform amidst the upcoming Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum.

Debate over the referendum, which was announced on the 23rd of March, resumed on Monday with Coalition leader Peter Dutton making the Liberal Party’s stance exceedingly clear.

“This voice, as proposed by the prime minister, promotes difference,” Dutton said, touting the  referendum as “a symptom of the madness of identity politics”.

Dutton also claimed the Voice would “have an Orwellian effect where all Australians are equal, but some Australians are more equal than others.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney opposed Duttons comments, saying “We have just heard in one speech, every bit of disinformation and misinformation and scare campaigns that exist in this debate.”

Now, it seems Indigenous Australians are facing the repercussions of Dutton’s comments online.

“It was obvious to me that something different was happening on social media (mainly twitter) against the Yes campaign,” Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions said on Twitter.

“All of a sudden 100s of accounts I had never seen before popped up with curated content & far right racist division,” she continued, “This was different to the ‘normal’ trolling.”

This was backed up by Thomas Mayo, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander author and Yes Voice campaigner, who said, “I’ve never been abused online as much as I am now & it has coincided with the Coalitions official ‘No’ stance.”

“The trolls run the exact same lines as Dutton did yesterday,” he continued.

“It’s like Dutton let a whole lot of racists off the leash to sew doubt, confusion and fear amongst voters,” Mayo said.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Tracy Westerman, Nyamal woman and winner of the Australian of the Year award 2018, retweeted Mayo, adding “I literally could count on half a hand the abusive comments I received on Twitter 8 months ago; the last week I’ve blocked around 100 a day.”

“Twitter has become a cesspit of hate.”

“It’s like a tidal wave directed to anyone Aboriginal and or who mentions racism in their tweets,” Dr Westerman later tweeted.

“I think Peter Dutton should take a bow for this” another twitter user said.

What will the Voice mean?

The Voice referendum has been controversial not only among right-wing groups but among First Nations activists as well. Signs reading ‘Vote no to Referendum’ and ‘We Deserve More Than a Voice’ were held proudly at the annual Invasion Day protest earlier this year.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) has summarised the design principles of the Voice as follows:

  • The Voice will give independent advice to the Parliament and Government

  • The Voice will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on the wishes of local communities

  • The Voice will be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, gender balanced and include youth

  • The Voice will be empowering, community-led, inclusive, respectful and culturally informed

  • The Voice will be accountable and transparent

  • The Voice will work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures

  • The Voice will not have a program delivery function

  • The Voice will not have a veto power.

The referendum is set to be held this year between October and December. The question posed to the Australian people will be:

“A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

You can follow the progress of the Constitution Alteration Bill, which is currently being debated in parliament, here.

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