How a row over ‘virtue-signalling’ to Indigenous Australia has has become VERY personal between Aboriginal politicians – as what the two sides really want is revealed
- New NT senator Jacinta Price is opposed to welcome to country ceremonies
- She is also a fierce opponent of having an Aboriginal voice to Parliament
- Senator Price has previously clashed with new Labor MP Marion Scrymgour
Conservative senator Jacinta Price has made enemies of other Aboriginal politicians by campaigning against what she deems tokenistic virtue-signalling.
Her maiden speech to the Senate this week has exposed the stark divide between Indigenous MPs and community leaders, particularly over those who want a ‘Voice to Parliament’ enshrined into the Constitution.
A Voice to Parliament is an idea put forward in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, and would be a body of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people set up in Canberra to advise parliament on policies and projects.
While some left-leaning Labor lawmakers – and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – say the scheme would help improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, others have slammed the idea as ‘patronising’, saying it would do little to lift thousands out of poverty.
A cultural gap is widening, with conservatives denouncing symbolic gestures that do nothing to tackle issues such as domestic violence and alcohol abuse, and left-leaning advocates who emphasise Australia’s colonial and racist past.
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Conservative Indigenous senator Jacinta Price has made enemies with other Aboriginal politicians by campaigning against what she calls symbolic gestures (pictured making her maiden speech this week)
Like her Indigenous mother Bess Price, a former Northern Territory Country Liberals minister, the NT’s newest senator has been a fierce critic of welcome to country ceremonies and is opposed to the idea of an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament.
Jacinta Price has used her new national platform to campaign against the prime minister’s plan, being unveiled this weekend in Arnhem Land, for a referendum to be held to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the Constitution.
‘Perhaps a word of advice, since that is what you are seeking: listen to everyone, not just those who support your virtue-signalling agenda but also those you contradict,’ she said.
Professor Marcia Langton, a co-author of the Uluru Statement from the Heart who is also speaking at the Garma Festival, argued this voice was necessary to protect Aboriginal people from genocide and questioned if critics ‘can read and write’.
Senator Price, who sits with The Nationals as a member of the NT’s Country Liberal Party, used her maiden speech to the chamber this week to deride the now ubiquitous acknowledgement to traditional owners, with federal Parliament now having 10 Indigenous members.
‘Throughout Australia, the reinvention of culture has brought us welcome to country or recognition of country, a standard ritual practice before events, meetings and social gatherings by governments, corporates, institutions, primary schools, kindergartens, high schools, universities, workplaces, music festivals, gallery openings, conferences, airline broadcasts and so on and so forth,’ she said.
Australian Parliament’s 10 Indigenous MPs
JACINTA PRICE: Nationals senator for the Northern Territory
MARION SCRYMGOUR: Labor member for Lingiari
JANA STEWART: Labor senator for Victoria
LIDIA THORPE: Greens senator for Victoria
LINDA BURNEY: Labor Minister for Indigenous Australians
PAT DODSON: Labor senator for Western Australia
MALARNDIRRI McCARTHY: Labor Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians
GORDON REID: Labor member for Robertson
DORINDA COX: Greens senator for Western Australia
KERRYNNE LIDDLE: Liberal senator for South Australia
‘I personally have had more than my fill of being symbolically recognised.’
The former deputy mayor of Alice Springs used her maiden speech to condemn Mr Albanese’s promise for a referendum.
‘This government has yet to demonstrate how this proposed voice will deliver practical outcomes and unite, rather than drive a wedge further between, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia,’ Senator Price said.
‘And, no, Prime Minister, we don’t need another handout, as you have described the Uluru statement to be.
‘No, we Indigenous Australians have not come to agreement on this statement, as you have also claimed.
‘It would be far more dignifying if we were recognised and respected as individuals in our own right who are not simply defined by our racial heritage but by the content of our character.
‘We’ve proven for decades now that we do not need a chief protector of aborigines.’
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal woman elected to the House of Representatives, and her Liberal predecessor Ken Wyatt, the first Aboriginal member of the lower house who lost his seat in May, are both supporters of an Aboriginal voice to Parliament.
Senator Price, who has Warlpiri and Celtic ethnicity, has previously clashed with Labor’s new member for Lingiari Marion Scrymgour, a former deputy chief minister of the Northern Territory.
Her mother Bess Price in January 2018 slammed Ms Scrymgour for criticising her daughter Jacinta’s campaign to keep Australia Day on January 26, after she described her as a ‘dud’ on Facebook who ‘our mob can see through’.
Her mother Bess Price (pictured) in January 2018 slammed Ms Scrymgour for criticising her daughter Jacinta’s campaign to keep Australia Day on January 26, after she described her as a ‘dud’ on Facebook who ‘our mob can see through’
‘The hate that has been directed at my daughter for having a different opinion to those who want to remain in their victimhood mentality is disgusting and I’m appalled,’ Ms Price said.
‘There is a dark side that has come to surface and Australia is now witnessing this up close.’
In 2012, she received a prestigious U.S. International Women’s Courage Award from then U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012 for her work tackling domestic violence.
In her 2018 Facebook post, she slammed traditional smoking ceremonies as symbolic acts that did nothing to address issues like domestic violence against Aboriginal women.
‘All the “Welcome to Country”, all the “Smoking Ceremonies” and all the made up bulls*** rituals about “pay our respects to elders past and present” is just one big lie.
‘Shame shame shame.
In her 2018 Facebook post, she slammed traditional smoking ceremonies as symbolic acts that did nothing to address issues like domestic violence against Aboriginal women
The former deputy mayor of Alice Springs used her maiden speech to condemn Mr Albanese’s promise, reiterated on Friday at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, for a referendum to be held
‘No wonder we Aboriginal people can’t get ahead. No wonder Aboriginal women experience the highest level of violence against us.’
Meanwhile, their critic, Ms Scrymgour, used her maiden speech this week to compare the sudden lifting of alcohol bans in Indigenous towns to US president Biden’s disastrous withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
‘It is like pulling your forces out of Afghanistan but leaving the local workers and their dependents in harm’s way on the ground without an escape plan, but that is what has happened,’ she said.
Meanwhile, Professor Marcia Langton – who was a co-author of the Uluru statement – has also warned the Indigenous Australians face ‘genocide’.
‘How do we ensure that Indigenous peoples in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, have security against, well, let’s put it plainly, genocide,’ she told Radio National broadcaster Patricia Karvelas on Friday.
Professor Marcia Langton, a co-author of the Uluru Statement from the Heart who is also speaking at the Garma Festival, argued the voice to Parliament was necessary to protect Aboriginal people from genocide
‘How do we ensure that our people survive into the future with all the existential threats against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples against our languages, our cultures, and our safety and wellbeing.’
In 1967, 91 per cent of voters taking part in a referendum voted yes to allow the Commonwealth to make laws affecting Aboriginal people and include them in the Census.
But Professor Langton argued racist provisions still remained in the Constitution that meant governments could enact harmful policies against Indigenous people and survive any High Court challenge.
She argued, however, that Indigenous people were not just a race and needed to be directly consulted about policies and government programs that affected them.
Senator Price (pictured with her son), who has Warlpiri and Celtic ethnicity, is also an opponent of an Aboriginal having a voice to Parliament enshrined in the constitution
‘We’re not a race, we are over 600 cultural groups in this country with their own language traditions,’ Professor Langton said.
‘We are the people who are descended from our ancestors who came here through thousands of years, dated back to 65,000 years.
‘This was our land until 1788 and this is where all of our traditions and culture come from.
‘We’re the people’s of this land and there’s a huge diversity but all of us share one thing in common: we’ve all been victims of a long process of colonisation and racist discrimination and here we go again.’
Professor Langton said the fact federal Parliament now had 10 indigenous MPs did not change the fact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders needed direct representation beyond their electorates.
‘Indigenous people’s around the country will live in electorates where they don’t have an Aboriginal member of Parliament,’ she said.
In her maiden speech this week, the new Labor member for Lingiari Marion Scrymgour (pictured) likened the sudden lifting of alcohol bans to US president Biden’s disastrous withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan
‘They want a formal guarantee that the government will make decisions in conjunction with them over matters that affect their daily lives, such as essential services, potable drinking water, housing, schools, health clinics, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.’
Professor Langton also slammed conservative critics of the voice within the Liberal Party, including Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.
‘I see this demand for more detail as mischief making sowing confusion,’ she said.
‘I do wonder if some of them can read and write.’
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission was established in 1989 but abolished in 2004, with bipartisan support, following a spate of mismanagement.
Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy, a former ABC-TV newsreader, told Parliament the Labor Party had a united position on the Voice.
‘Our government and First Nations caucus is very, very clear on our position on a Voice to Parliament,’ she said.
‘We will work wholeheartedly and inclusively with all parliamentarians and, indeed, all Australians so that there can be overwhelming support in a referendum that we wish to take to the Australian people in this term of the parliament, asking for a voice to the parliament for First Nations people.’
Shortly before Senator Price spoke, Labor senator for Victoria Jana Stewart, who is also Indigenous, started her maiden speech with an acknowledgement to country. Despite their political and cultural differences, Jacinta Price hugged Senator Stewart in the chamber of Parliament
Shortly before Senator Price spoke, Labor’s new senator for Victoria Jana Stewart, who is also Indigenous, started her maiden speech with an acknowledgement to country.
‘My name is Jana Stewart, and I’m a Mutti Mutti and Wemba Wemba woman with links country all along the Murray River,’ she said.
‘I start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the country where I stand today, the Ngunawal and Ngambri people.
‘I acknowledge your peoples’ continual connection to this land and place that now houses our national parliament.
‘I acknowledge all traditional custodians throughout our nation and their unceded sovereignty to country and waters.’
Despite their political and cultural differences, Jacinta Price hugged Senator Stewart in the chamber of Parliament after her speech.