Peter Dutton, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Kanishka Raffel and ‘the voice’

Larissa Minniecon on QandA (with her father Ray on the left)

An Obadiah Slope column.

Obadiah is curious to know if Peter Dutton was away the week they studied 1 Kings or 2 Chronicles at his alma mater, St Paul’s Anglican School, Bald Hills.

But Dutton would have learned a valuable political lesson if he was listening. It goes like this. Rehoboam, son of King Solomon, had just come to the throne of a united Israel. Jeroboam led a delegation that asked the new king, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now, therefore, lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.”

The old counsellors said to lighten the burdens, but a peer group of young men gave Rehoboam shockingly bad advice to double down and be a strong man. As a result, Rehoboam responded to the people by saying, “Whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”

Rehoboam could not break out of the position he had inherited from his father, Solomon.

Rehoboam was left with one tribe, and the northern tribes broke away and made Jeroboam their king.

Sometimes a leader has to reject the advice of his mates, his friends his caucus. Peter Dutton has inherited a Liberal party tilted to the right by the combined success of the Teals and Albanese Labor. Can he reach across the divide? On the issue of the Voice, it seems not.

Opposing the Voice is smart short-term politics for Dutton; it locks in his parliamentary party support and offers him a chance to wound the Albanese government badly. That’s politics, as usual.

An overwhelming majority of the liberal party room voted to support a “no” position shadow minister for home affairs, Karen Andrews told the ABC. He’s rejected the old men’s advice, like 71-year-old Ken Wyatt, the first Aboriginal cabinet minister who has resigned from the Liberal party. Echoes of Rehoboam here, perhaps.

Speaking for the first time since his resignation from the party he served. Wyatt brought up the memory of an indigenous Christian leader on the ABC’s 730: “William Cooper, when he was on many campaigns, asked for the same thing, a voice to government.”  Cooper organised the protest that we now remember as NAIDOC week.

He was listening to his caucus. That’s what a party leader is meant to do, right? But like John Howard on gun control, sometimes a leader has to stand against loud voices in the party.

Anne Twomey, the constitutional lawyer, has written a piece that suggests that the two major parties have much in common: constitutional recognition, local and regional voices, with a voice either legislated or built into the constitution. The issue appears to Obadiah whether the Uluru statement from the heart is received with grace or downplayed.

Could there be a “Dutton surprise” with the announcement of radical policies to close the gap decisively? That would turn things around, but sadly, Obadiah does not believe that is about to happen. 

Meanwhile, a member of Anglican Archbishop Kanishka Raffel’s own caucus, the Sydney Synod (church parliament), asked him a tough question on QandA.

“My question is for Archbishop Kanishka,” Larissa Minniecon asked. “I am a member of the Sydney Diocese and the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman to sit as a member of Synod. Since the launch of the no campaign from the Liberal Party and their constant manipulation of their democratic powers in regards to the Voice to Parliament, will the Church respond to the Liberal Party’s no campaign, and will they support the Voice to Parliament?”

It put the Archbishop in a tight spot. Here is his first answer, referencing an essay that TheOtherCheek reported on this week.

“Thank you, Larissa. And I want to acknowledge Larissa, as she has said, the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the Sydney Synod, and with her, Uncle Ray and Auntie Sharon, who have been such fantastic contributors to the life of the Sydney Anglican Church in so many ways. And so I just want to honour and acknowledge you all in that way. Well, as you know, Larissa, in fact, moved a resolution at our Synod last year in September, which was adopted by the Synod, welcoming the conversation about the Voice, recognising that it was an important step in reconciliation, that it was for the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and committing to learn about the Voice and encouraging Sydney Anglicans to give generous consideration to voting yes. And so, as part of that process of education and taking the lead of the Synod to engage in a generous way with this question, which is a serious matter about our Constitution, I’ve contributed an essay to a recently published book of essays by faith leaders from a very broad range of religions. And, again, speaking from the position of the Sydney Anglican Church, we’re very conscious that, as an institution, we were amongst the first to benefit from the dispossession of Aboriginal people. Arthur Phillip landed in 1788, and by 1792, the first grant was made to the Church in Sydney. And so we continue to benefit from that dispossession, which continues to cause trauma to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Statement of the Heart…from the Heart was a generous invitation to walk together, and so, as Sydney Anglicans, we’re committed to doing that. Our own Theology Commission has produced a paper on this…and the concept of reconciliation, of course, is central to the Ministry of Jesus, and it’s clear, in Scripture, that reconciliation with God produces an imperative for reconciliation between people.” 

Stan Grant (after some cross-talk): “Can I come back to you, Larissa? Do I take it from the tone of your question that you don’t feel you’re being supported by the Church or the Archbishop right now?

Larissa Minniecon: “That’s correct. I think one of the things that we committed at St John’s in Glebe, and as part of Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries, is to promote this yes campaign, as the motion was put forward. But it has landed on us as…the three of us, you know, in our little church, to be, you know, out there talking to our Sydney Diocese and to be promoting it, doing it for free. And to be honest, I’m exhausted.”

Stan Grant: “So, what do you say to…?”

Larissa Minniecon: “I’m exhausted from the conversation.”

Stan Grant: “What do you say to the Archbishop?”

Larissa Minniiecon: “Help! “(LAUGHS)

Stan Grant brings the conversation back to the issue.

“We’re going to come to the politics in just a moment, but I don’t want to finish this without getting an answer from the Archbishop because we haven’t had one yet. Why are you not doing enough?”

Kanishka Raffel: “Look…if we’re not doing enough, we’ll do more. We’re not… We’ve encouraged a conversation. We’ve initiated that. I’m hearing Larissa say she’s exhausted and she needs resourcing, and we want to do that. I do think that, in many parishes and many organisations, these conversations are happening. I think there is a great generosity of spirit towards it. I think it is true that constitutional reform is a very big topic. It’s a lot for people to get their heads around. And Sydney Anglicans are not in the habit of being told what to do by their Archbishop. But they are being… They are open to information, to education, I think, overwhelmingly, a desire to walk along with Indigenous people.”

Obadiah will be interested to see if the Archbishop manages to help Larissa. Of course, he is not about to tell his flock how to vote. But Obadiah hopes he can devise a way to get help to Larissa.

Here’s an almost joke from Obadiah. Who has the most Popes?

The Coptics have one,

The Catholics had two until Benedict 16 was prompted to glory.

But the Sydney Anglicans have 300 plus. And that’; just the senior ministers. So the Archbishop has tricky terrain.

As the voice debate becomes ever more urgent, the police of Christian leaders in it will become more and more critical in Obadiah’s view.


  1. Nonsense how wrong you are. Where were you when they handed out commonsense? Your virtue singling rather than strong forthright discussion is why the western world is in so much trouble. The voice will not improve things for aboriginal folk but help destroy our democracy. No point reading your nonsense any more

    • If we disagree, all the more reason for you to continue to read this blog or other pro voice stuff, and for reasoned disagreement to be present here. Would love to hear more about why you think democracy would be destroyed.

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