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Keen for vote? Well, yes and no


Keen for vote? Well, yes and no

Jane Stephens believes the inability of many people to agree to disagree is what is really dividing our nation at the moment.

Acrimony and rancour. Animosity and crankiness. These abound right now and I blame the referendum on Constitutional recognition of the First Australians and an Indigenous voice to Parliament.

The yes/no divide has meant conversation with anyone is fraught, with the feeling akin to walking on eggshells each time more than a simple hello is exchanged.

Some people are clearly, loudly in the ‘no’ camp. You know this because they write it in capitals on social media and they forcefully forecast a divided nation if our Constitution is changed to be more inclusive. Others shout ‘yes’ from the rooftops, expounding the virtues of official recognition of our First Nations and adding another element in the layer cake of government. They will often name-call the naysayers as ‘racists’, ‘sticks in history’s mud’ and ‘stubbornly myopic’.

There are those who might not be loud, but who will reveal views that are varying degrees of informed if they are given the chance to share them. And there are so many who are simply mad that we are being made to think and talk about it at all.

Perhaps because it has been hanging around like smoke for so long, the referendum has become what former prime minister John Howard would have called a ‘barbecue stopper’. An impediment to connection. A chat ender. Any conversation has become like landmine hopping. The tension is palpable. Blood pressure is elevated. Without getting all touchy feely, what is now in short supply are a little kindness, the intention to listen and the desire to understand a different view. These have been replaced with walls of judgment of each other from surprising quarters.

I don’t care if a person is fat with riches or on the bones of their bottom, there is never an excuse to be rude and no person should ever enter a perfectly normal exchange with their proverbial dukes up, ready to punch on. Just because you do not agree with someone doesn’t mean you hate them. Just because you love someone, doesn’t mean you must share their position on every issue. We do not have to agree to be kind or compassionate.

We are in this moment in history together and are legally compelled to choose. Let’s aim for a bit more decorum in the lead-up to executing that civic duty and democratic privilege. Bring on October 14.


Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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