Voice sparking racism, should be called off: Lidia ThorpeAugust 16, 2023
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Independent senator and prominent anti-Voice campaigner Lidia Thorpe has called on Anthony Albanese to ditch the referendum because it is doing nothing other than embolden racists and spark division.
Thorpe backflipped on her commitment to avoid campaigning for a so-called “progressive No” and used a speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday to rail against what she labelled a powerless and patronising Voice being pushed by Australians with “white guilt” and elite Indigenous figures with little connection to grassroots communities.
Lidia Thorpe addressed the National Press Club on her 50th birthday.Credit: Mick Tsikas
Instead, Thorpe said her “black sovereign” movement, which she flagged would run candidates at the next election, wanted a treaty led by the federal government. The appropriate level of compensation for Aboriginal people would send Australia broke, she argued, urging the Commonwealth to come to the table to negotiate a settlement.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in an interview on Tuesday he was against paying reparations to Indigenous Australians. He has previously said the referendum will not be called off.
In response to Thorpe’s comments on Wednesday, Albanese said he respected her genuine passion on the issue of deaths in custody but noted the Indigenous community overwhelmingly supported the Voice proposal.
“I fail to see how other issues will be advanced if a No vote is reported,” he said.
Branding herself an “infiltrator”, Thorpe failed to answer a question on whether she had played a part in securing any policies that benefitted Indigenous Australians in her time in politics, and said she opposed Australia’s first treaty process – in Victoria – because the Andrews government was not conducting negotiations in the manner she had hoped.
“The Voice cannot give us what we need. It has no power to return land, deliver services, distribute resources, enact laws or even block racist laws,” she said.
“This is why we should call off the referendum. It has caused nothing but harm and division.
“And, for what? There won’t be change until this society changes. Until this society’s thinking, values, attitudes and systems have been revolutionised in order to ensure real self-determination.”
A key aim of the Yes campaign is convincing Australians that Indigenous people back the proposal. This argument is made more difficult due to the opposition by prominent Indigenous figures including Thorpe, Coalition senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine.
Thorpe, who quit the Greens earlier this year over its support for the Voice, claimed there was a “continued cultural genocide” in Australia, and said the British monarch should be involved in treaty negotiations.
The radical activist claimed she told the prime minister last week that she may support the Voice if the government implemented the recommendations of a royal commission into Indigenous deaths in custody.
“The Voice is the window-dressing for constitutional recognition. We have rejected constitutional recognition before. It is a 20-year-old Howard-era policy, created with the explicit purpose of undermining sovereignty,” she said.
“There’s an outright racism like the racist No, and there’s this underlying racism with the Yes… You know how many whitefellas have told me, ‘This is going to be so great for me’. It’s so patronising,” she said.
Thorpe suggested she would also quit at the end of her term, which has five years to run.
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