Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has accused the nation of “dancing on our graves” by celebrating Australia Day as she warned a treaty must deliver dedicated seats in Parliament for First Nations people.
Refusing to say whether she will vote ‘Yes’ to constitutional recognition, Senator Thorpe said that only a treaty could address Australia’s dark history with colonisation.
“You can’t (just) change the date of dancing on our graves, you’ve got to deal with the impact of colonisation,’’ she said.
Lidia Thorpe on the ABC’s Q&A. Picture: ABC
“Have a treaty so the day we have a treaty in this country is a day that we should celebrate.
“We have to settle the country first before we go talking about the Republic. So we need a treaty. An advisory body won’t do that.”
She also appeared to suggest that if Australians subsequently voted for a Republic it could wipe out the Voice to Parliament.
“If you go the Republic, then out goes everything that you are voting for this year,’’ she said.
“If you go for a treaty, that lasts – that can last as long as we choose it to last.”
Speaking on the ABC’s Q&A program, the Greens MP delivered a fiery speech insisting that the Voice proposal on constitutional recognition would deliver more words rather than actions.
“Treaty can bring us Senate seats with real power, not advisory,’’ she said.
“We’re sick of asking the Government, we’re sick of standing like poor people saying, “Can you give us some money? Can you help us? We’re sick of it.”
But as Aboriginal elder and Professor Tom Calma interjected, “a lot of people aren’t doing that,” Senator Thorpe continued.
Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe takes part in the Treaty Before Voice Invasion Day Protest on January 26. (Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
“We’re sick of it and we’ve got to the point where we’re at a climate catastrophe, this country needs Indigenous knowledge and the only meaningful way to get that is through a treaty,’’ she said.
“The last time that something in the Constitution was overturned to benefit the Government was the Race Discrimination Act, so how safe is the Voice being in the Constitution when our racial discrimination laws can be lifted so the Government can be racist? It is the same thing.
“We’ve told the Government that we don’t want to cede sovereignty. We’ve told the Government to implement the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths into custody, the Bringing Them Home report which are 30 and 20-year-old reports, and we see the Closing the Gap Report every year.
“Where are they failing? Incarceration and child stealing.”
During the program, Senator Thorpe was pushed on whether she would vote yes or no to constitutional recognition.
“When you stand there on that day, which way would you vote, yes or no?,’’ ABC host Stan Grant asked.
Beachgoers ride inflatable thongs as they celebrate Australia Day at Bondi Beach. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
“Well, it depends how many lives we can save between now and then, in implementing the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,’’ she said.
“If all the states and territories can agree to a Voice, then why can’t they agree to raise the age of legal responsibility so we can let our children out of these prisons which you look in the Northern Territory right now are full of our children and our people.
“So, unless I see Labor move on those and include sovereignty into the Australian Constitution that we are sovereign, all your legislation, then I’m not saying where I’m going. I want to see action, not words.”
“I’m not saying which way I’m going until I see action.”
“We are the sickest, poorest, dying every day – nothing is going to change by an advisory body.
During the program, Senator Thorpe repeatedly clashed with the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Malarndirri McCarthy.
However, an audience member, Paul Towney, backed Senator Thorpe’s position.
“Closing the Gap – it’s getting worse,’’ he said.
“I was a young fella in Australia growing up when they brought in Closing the Gap, and, you know, I was kinda, “Oh, OK, this sounds good. The Government is going to actually, you know, work with us or do something for us.”
The Greens are expected to thrash out an official position on the referendum during a two-day party room meeting to be held over Wednesday and Thursday.
The majority of MPs are expected to endorse the referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. However, they will not stand in the way of Senator Lidia Thorpe opposing it.
What’s not clear is whether Senator Thorpe can continue in the role as the party’s indigenous spokesperson if she takes an opposing view to the party on the referendum.