Wednesday 15 November 2017. The results are in. 61.6% said Yes, 38.4% said No, .02% were invalid, 79.5% turned out, 20.5% were not interested. 133 Commonwealth electorates said Yes, 17 said No.
The question of whether we are citizens or foreigners has been answered. To everyone who voted Yes, a great big THANK YOU. I feel I can once again begin to become part of our commonwealth.
To those who voted No, please don’t succumb to despair. We are not going to go away, but we can all try and share this place without rancour. Draw upon our shared traditions of valuing intimate relationships, of the importance of being with the ones we love. These are common traditions we define by our actions, and which institutions can support – not the other way around.
As I return home on my daily commute the train crawls through the surprising heartland of the No vote, Western Sydney. I watch as the suburbs pass by, and wonder if this is now a foreign country? No 38% here, but 70%, and more … do they all really despise us that much, I wonder, all too ready to Manus or Nauru us if given the chance?
But I resist. That’s too simple. It is time to end of this ‘foreigner’ bullshit. What began with the political classes failed attempt to cast the Queen as a nasty foreigner in the 1990s has descended into a sort of cannibalism as the same political class eats itself in the current citizenship fiasco. Their brazenness in claiming today’s victory as theirs is breath-taking, but true to form.
If there is any hope of redemption among our elected, it lies with Dean Smith, Penny Wong, Louise Pratt, Janet Rice, all from the supposedly red-neck outer states of Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland. The centre of gravity is moving.
61.6% of you said Yes, we are fellow citizens. We do have a right to this commonwealth. We do belong. That is powerful. Even if you voted No, there will be space and time to reflect and maybe see things differently. But now, it’s time to for all of us open our arms to all the other excluded, to undo the foreignising of the past 30 years. For that, we all need to come together as equals in our diverse commonwealth.
Wednesday 15 November 2017 shows we can do that, if we choose to.