Single confronting photo divides nation

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A former political candidate has sparked controversy for suggesting that a “drunk, unconscious Aboriginal” outside his hotel proves the Indigenous Voice to Parliament won’t fix underlying issues of alcohol and drug abuse.

But an Indigenous academic has described the debate as “disingenuous” and said there was “no silver bullet” to address health issues with Aboriginal people.

Daniel Lewkovitz, who ran as the Liberal Democrats candidate for the Sydney seat of Wentworth in the 2022 federal election, posted photos on Twitter last week of a person lying on the ground near a doorway, in the shadow of the InterContinental Adelaide.

“This is a five-star hotel in the Adelaide CBD,” he wrote.

“On the doorstep is a drunk, unconscious Aboriginal to whom I gave assistance. At three in the afternoon. By night the adjacent street is FULL of drunken Aboriginals. Can everyone drawing yes on their palm tell me how #yes23 will fix this?”

He added, “I didn’t enjoy what I saw and I didn’t enjoy writing this tweet. But if [Anthony Albanese] is going to talk about ‘truth-telling’ let’s start with this. I cannot see how the Voice is going to do a damned thing about alcohol and dysfunction which is destroying black communities.”

Former Labor Party president turned Liberal candidate Warren Mundine, who is leading the ‘no’ campaign committee, lent his support to the tweet.

“Exactly. It won’t,” he wrote.

A spokeswoman for the ‘yes’ campaign declined to comment.

The photo that has been described as ‘disingenuous’.The photo that has been described as ‘disingenuous’.

‘No silver bullet’

But Dr Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman and senior lecturer in Indigenous health at the University of Wollongong, described the debate as “disingenuous”.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health disparity or disadvantage more broadly,” she told

“The Voice is set up to provide input on things that impact us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I think it’s a bit disingenuous to expect the Voice to do all and sundry, but also think it’s disingenuous to claim it won’t have a positive impact.”

Dr Finlay said “systemic and entrenched issues” like alcoholism would “take time to address”. “We can’t expect an overnight solution,” she said.

“We’ve had long-term disadvantage in this country because of ongoing oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Historically we haven’t had a say in things that impact us. [With the Voice] we will start to see a shift in the way things are done, much like we have with the Closing the Gap framework.”

She cited income management schemes such as the compulsory basics card introduced under the Howard government’s Northern Territory intervention, or the more recently scrapped cashless welfare card trial, as “problematic” and ultimately unsuccessful measures that would have been stopped by the Voice.

Dr Finlay added that the Voice was just “one element” of the Uluru Statement from the Heart that must be implemented, together with “treaty and truth-telling”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Picture: Jeremy Piper/NCA NewsWirePrime Minister Anthony Albanese. Picture: Jeremy Piper/NCA NewsWire

‘Feel-good measures’

Writing on Twitter, one person replied to Mr Lewkovitz, “Can you tell us how continuing current arrangements would change outcomes?”

Mr Lewkovitz replied, “It won’t. However difficult problems require difficult solutions and often these are totally unpalatable to do-gooders. For example removing Indigenous children from violent, abusive households gets vetoed because ‘stolen generation’. So instead we get feel-good measures.”

But his tweet drew fierce backlash from a number of social media users.

“Wonder if this racist POS has any pics of suited-up white guys doing cocaine in them five-star hotels,” one person wrote.

“You’re trying to make out like your some sort of good guy here who helped out an Indigenous person, but then took a pic to depict Aborigines as only hopeless drunks. Then you tenuously linked this to the Voice. Your concerns are specious and veil the racism.”

Another person posted a photo of a man lying on the ground at the Melbourne Cup.

“This photo was taken the first Tuesday in November!” he wrote. “White caucasian unconscious 4pm broad daylight! YES or NO, won’t change the fact that [there’s] rules for some but not [others]! Privileged!”

A third woman said, “Five-star hotel on Stolen Kaurna Land! Our issue is the alcohol was brought in by [English] boats. I see heaps of DRUNKEN WHITE PEOPLE too now in Adelaide. VOICE will change the RACIST system and attitudes like YOURS who need educating!”

Speaking to, Mr Lewkovitz, who runs a security firm, said it was “disgusting” that some people on social media had “summarily dismissed me as a racist”.

“If we don’t talk frankly about a problem we’re never going to solve it,” he said. “There are major problems with drugs and alcohol [in Indigenous communities], but anyone who mentions it will be called racist.”

Mr Lewkovitz said none of the people criticising him could answer his question, “What will voting yes do to solve this?”

He argued “constitutional changes, more bureaucracy and more money down the drain” were not the solution.

“I asked the same question in 2007 — what will Kevin 07’s apology do to get drugs and alcohol out of black communities? As a business owner I like to solve real problems.”

Nyunggai Warren Mundine and Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price. Picture: TwitterNyunggai Warren Mundine and Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price. Picture: Twitter

Crucial vote

Australians will vote later this year in a referendum on whether to alter the Constitution to embed an Indigenous Voice.

The draft amendment — which is yet to be finalised — would allow the advisory body to make representations to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Last month, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese encouraged the nation’s leaders to not miss the chance to back the Voice.

The federal Liberals are yet to reveal their position on the Voice, which has the support of Coalition state governments in Tasmania and NSW.

The federal Nationals announced last year they would oppose the Voice.

Cape York Institute founder Noel Pearson last week warned that if the Voice to Parliament is rejected, it will be up to a new generation of Indigenous leaders to find a new path to reconciliation.

“I will fall silent — that will be the end of it,” he told ABC’s 730.

“A whole generation of Indigenous leadership will have failed because we will have advocated a coming together in partnership with government and we would have made an invitation to the Australian people that was repudiated. I don’t think we have anything left after that. It will be up to a new generation to chart a new course because we will have been rejected.”

In response to Mr Pearson’s comments, Mr Mundine hit back on Twitter, “Owning more than 40 per cent of the country is nothing? Multi-millions $ of income from projects on their country is nothing? Record numbers of Indigenous learning their language and culture is nothing? Record numbers attending university and graduating is nothing?”

Last month, Mr Mundine likened the Voice to a “Trojan horse” that would “radically up-end Australia’s parliamentary and government systems”.

“Arguably, the Voice will have a constitutionally mandated right to advance notice of all proposed parliamentary and government decisions relating to Indigenous people (being everything, as Pearson confirmed) and time and resources to scrutinise and advise before a decision can be taken,” he wrote in an op-ed for The West Australian.

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“That’s parliaments and governments beholden to the Voice in everything they do.”

— with NCA NewsWire

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