Observing the deliberations of Malcolm Turnbull's Indigenous Referendum Council, Aesop might have said: A mountain emitting terrible noises was said to be in labor. But as people watched to see what would happen, all they saw come out of it was a mouse – or, we might add, a pup.
This is not to decry the sincere efforts of those involved in seeking to come up with a formula that would both satisfy legitimate Indigenous claims to be acknowledged as the first Australians and the wider community's willingness to embrace this historical circumstance.
To be fair, the council wrestled mightily with all the contradictions inherent in arguments for and against constitutional change that would have removed what, for some, are offending references to race in the constitution.
In the end, it is hard to escape the conclusion the council squibbed its obligations by formulating proposals that skirted constitutional complexities, and settled on a diversion that could be regarded as symbolic, or substantive, depending on your point of view.
It made two recommendations.
One, it proposed a constitutional amendment that would establish in the Australian constitution a body giving Aboriginal and Torres Islander First Nations a voice to the Commonwealth Parliament.
This body would recognise the status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of Australia.
Two, it recommended an "extra-constitutional Declaration of Recognition" be enacted by all Australian parliaments to complement the constitutional change envisaged above.
The council also addressed – but made no recommendation since it was outside itsterms of reference – the establishment of a Makarrata Commission to "facilitate a process of local and regional truth telling".
Makaratta is an Aboriginal ceremonial ritual symbolising the restoration of peace.
The first thing to be said about the "Voice to Parliament" constitutional change is that it seemed to emerge from a clear blue Uluru sky, virtually unheralded, certainly untested in public discussion.
On the face of it, this is a questionable idea for many reasons, not least the Referendum Council's failure to articulate just what function such a body would actually perform beyond a symbolic role.
Would all legislation – since it could be argued that just about everything the Commonwealth does has implications for all Australians – be referred to this proposed representative body.
Once shudders to imagine how constipated such a process could become, leaving aside opportunities for a lawyers' picnic at the expense of the Australian taxpayer.
Then there is the question of how a "Voice to Parliament" would be constituted: by election, by appointment, or by some other means not yet envisaged?
It might be noted that in jurisdictions comparable with Australia's where indigenous populations have been accommodated, no such supra-parliamentary body has been established.
In Canada's case – where the Inuit people number about 50,000 and live mostly in the Arctic Circle – self-government was recognised in the Constitution Act of 1982. The government of the Northwest Territories was moved from Ottawa to Yellowknife in 1967.
In Australia, given numbers involved – some 780,000 Australians are of Indigenous stock – and the disparate nature of Aboriginal communities, no such option realistically offers itself.
Fellow Fairfax Media columnist and Referendum Council member Amanda Vanstone, summarised scepticism about the "Voice of the First Australians" proposal in a several thousand word dissenting opinion.
Vanstone's observation the debate about Aboriginal recognition was "at the start of a new journey" is an understatement.
"The substantive change contemplated is quite different from what had been contemplated by everyone," she wrote.
Aboriginal members of Federal Parliament have also expressed reservations. Liberal Ken Wyatt said a proposed "Voice to Parliament" would better be enshrined in legislation rather than via the treacherous terrain of a constitutional amendment.
Labor's Linda Burney said most Australians would have been "shocked" to learn the Referendum Council had ruled out addressing the race powers in the constitution.
This is debatable.
What seems a fair judgment is that people are not clamouring for change, rather are sceptical of any process that would require a constitutional amendment.
This would be more so in today's political environment of deep distrust for mainstream politicians of left or right.
Would you buy a used referendum from Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten?
In all of this one might have sympathy for Mark Leibler the co-chair of the Referendum Council who laboured hard to achieve a workable compromise.
However, it is far from clear that that his council's formula is the one true path to constitutional reconciliation, as he contends.
"As a nation, we either follow the path set out in the council's report, or we remove constitutional recognition of our first peoples from the current agenda," he says.
That observation may be regarded as one man's opinion. What is the case is the cause of constitutional recognition will falter now that what might have been a workable proposal of inserting reference to the "First Peoples" in a preamble to the Constitution has been foreclosed for the time being.
What a pity.