Indigenous Country Liberal senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has told Q+A she will “probably not” be working to support a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
- Yolngu elder Yiniya Mark Guyula says his people are ready for a Voice to Parliament
- NT Senator Jacinta Price says she would likely not support the referendum
- Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney says information will be readily available before any vote
On Monday night’s episode, which was pre-taped from Garma Festival and hosted by Stan Grant, Senator Price was asked by an audience member if she would work to support the referendum.
She said there were more pressing issues facing Indigenous communities.
“I’ll be completely honest: there are more pressing issues,” Senator Price said before listing promises about education funding for the Yippinga School in Alice Springs and issues about alcohol making its way back into Indigenous communities.
“I have listened to and spoke to the Yippinga school in Alice Springs,” she said.
“The commitment I made to them if I were to get into government was to build a facility for student and staff accommodation.
“That school looks after Aboriginal kids in the surrounding town camps, and they come from very difficult backgrounds … some of them have to spend a three-hour round trip to go to school.”
Senator Price also said she felt little was being done about alcohol issues in Indigenous communities, describing “rivers of grog” being allowed to flow at present.
“We know that right now alcohol is being let back out into communities, and this is huge,” she said.
“We know that the voices of the organizations that have been speaking out against allowing the rivers of grog back in have said, ‘Please don’t do this.’ but that’s fallen on deaf ears.
“[I’d rather] get the work done. So no, I probably won’t be supporting a referendum.”
The comments would have come as a blow, albeit an expected one, after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during the weekend he was willing to take an Indigenous Voice to Parliament to a referendum.
Senator Price had earlier on the show railed against enshrining an Indigenous Voice within the Australian constitution, stating she had misgivings about bureaucratic processes and what would happen if things went wrong once it was in the constitution.
“I don’t feel as though something like this needs to be constitutionally enshrined,” Senator Price said.
“I look at the success of the Gumatj.
“What they have done with their country, the way they educate their young people, have industry up and running—they have their own bauxite mine.
“All those things have already happened and it’s all successfully occurred without the need for enshrining a voice to parliament to do so.
“And my biggest concern with this idea of a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament is it’s another bureaucracy.”
Senator Price then added she believed a Voice would marginalize Indigenous Australians.
“I wouldn’t want to see us divided up along the lines of race in that regard, and I don’t want to continue to pour money into an industry that has been driven on the back of the misery of Indigenous Australians and propping up another bureaucracy,” she said.
“It’s not something new. It’s just enshrining a bureaucracy into the constitution.
“And if there are bureaucracies that have failed and [people] have not been accountable, how are we going to adjust this, which will exist in the constitution and can’t be dismantled should it fail?”
burney hits back
It was an argument that did not sit well with Minister for Indigenous Affairs Linda Burney, who was steadfast in her support for an Indigenous Voice.
“What we are talking about here is a permanent voice that no government can get rid of, that’s why enshrinement is so important,” Ms Burney said.
“And when it comes to another bureaucracy, it is going to be a body that we will consult with — you and everyone else on what it will look like and how it will operate.”
Ms Burney also shot down any suggestion it would not be clear what people were voting for at a referendum.
“The design of the Voice will happen after respectful, extensive consultation with First Nations people and the Australian community,” she said.
“It will happen before the legislation will take place.
“It won’t be me deciding, that would be so wrong, it will be people that we consult with and build a consensus with that we will listen to.
“There will be a lot of information out to the community about what people are voting on. It would be nuts for that not to happen.”
Asked whether it was a concern the proposal could be shot down, Ms Burney said she felt the time was right, backing the PM’s statement: “If not now, when?” She also said she felt both sides of politics were on board.
“We want to build consensus across the parliament, and I am so happy to see Peter Dutton is open to this, David Littleproud is open to this and the Australian people are ready,” she said.
“We wouldn’t be embarking on this exercise if there was not a belief the tide wasn’t with us.”
Treaty became like ‘writing in the sand’
However an Indigenous Voice has been floated before and independent Member for Mulka, NT and Yolngu elder Yiniya Mark Guyula remembers when treaty was discussed in the 80s.
Now a politician, something he admitted he did not love being, he said Aboriginal people were more than ready.
“My people here in the East Arnhem land have been ready for a long time,” he told Grant when asked by the Q+A host.
“We have been ready for a long time, because I can talk about the example of the 1988 Barunga petition.
“There were two land councils…. that brought all our elders from both Center and from the East, we were ready for the recognition of our Indigenous identity, but the government wasn’t ready.
“All their promises about ‘there will be treaty’, and that echoed all along and nothing ever happened.
“At that time, it was a new promise that we had got and everybody was happy, but as time went on we waited and waited and waited, and it became like writing in the sand.
“We are ready for this one.
“If that referendum was called now, we would be gathering our people and we would go for it, go for it as soon as we could.”