Nat Barr’s tough question for Anthony Albanese’s government about the Indigenous Voice to Parliament
Senator Price declared that Australia already has a world-class democratic structure and disagreed with claims that the history of British colonisation continues to have a harmful impact on Aboriginal Australians.
‘We’ve got running water, we’ve got readily available food,’ she said at a National Press Club event on Thursday.
‘Many of us have the same opportunities as all other Australians in this country, and we certainly have probably one of the greatest systems running around the world in terms of the democratic structure.’
‘If we keep telling Aboriginal people that they are victims, we are effectively removing their agency and then giving them the expectation that someone else is responsible for their lives,’ she said.
Senator Price said the campaign for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is underpinned by a ‘lie… that Indigenous Australians do not have a Voice’.
‘We have been told by the Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Australians that Indigenous people do not get a say on policies or the decisions being made on our behalf.
‘I am one of 11 Indigenous voices currently in parliament… The patronising suggestion that we cannot focus our efforts on improving the lives of marginalised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders because we are looking after constituents should be rejected resolutely.’
The senator’s comments were still a talking point on Friday morning for Sunrise host Nat Barr when minister Jason Clare and deputy opposition leader Sussan Ley appeared on the program, sparking a fiery debate between the politicians.
‘Jacinta Price says we don’t need a Voice to Parliament because we have a world-class democratic structure,’ Barr began.
‘We have Indigenous MPs, and effectively, they are Indigenous voices in our parliament. What do you say to that?’
Mr Clare hit back to argue there were Coalition MPs who both publicly and privately supported the Voice.
‘I get that Jacinta doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but there are a lot of Liberal and National MPs who say they don’t support it.
‘But privately I know that in four weeks they will vote yes at the ballot box,’ he said.
‘I say that not to out them on national TV but talking to Liberal and Nationals voters who are watching right now to say that this is not a Labor idea, it’s not a liberal idea, this is the idea of Indigenous Australians.
‘In four weeks time, we get a chance to do what we should have done 122 years ago, and that is to recognise Indigenous people in our first document in the Constitution.’
Ms Ley accused the Labor government of not distancing themselves from prominent Yes campaigner Professor Marcia Langton – who accused the No campaign of being based on ‘base racism’ or ‘sheer stupidity’ and previously said Australia was a racist country.
‘I think they really needed to have removed Marcia Langton from that group in the interests of us coming together.
‘But that’s why this Voice is so divisive, led by a Prime Minister who has rushed the timeline, insisted everyone has to vote yes, surrounded by people he is backing in that say Australians are racist,’ Ms Ley said.
However, Mr Clare hit back, saying The Voice is the opportunity to ensure taxpayers’ money is better spent on closing the gap and improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.
‘If you’re an Indigenous Australian today, you’re more likely to die in childbirth, more likely to die younger than the rest of us, more likely to suffer chronic illness, less likely to finish school, more likely if you’re an Indigenous bloke to go to jail than uni,’ he said.
‘By listening, we can make better decisions and get better results, and that’s what this is all about.’
Barr agreed, describing the current statistics for Indigenous Australians as appalling.
Ms Ley argued more needs to be done at the grassroots level rather than by a group of elitists at the top government level.
‘This is the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice,’ she said.
‘Jason describes it as recognition in the Constitution. We agree with that. But he describes it as an advisory panel as if there’s really nothing to see here.
‘When we listen to the members who designed this Voice generate fear and loathing, this is what the Prime Minister is not stepping back from, and you know, it’s talking out of both sides of your mouth, I’m afraid.
Clare fired back: ‘Politicians have been talking about this for decades and we’ve failed.
‘The bottom line is the pollies have failed, and we’ve got to do something different.
Barr agreed change needs to happen as she wrapped by the segment.
Earlier in the show, Barr agreed with the panellist’s calls that everyone’s opinions about the Voice should be respected, regardless of their side.
‘I would say if you do want to vote No, you should not be labelled as stupid and racist,’ Triple M radio host Luke Bona said.
Barr added: ‘Everyone should have their own view, and everyone should respect that.’