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Linda Burney slams Pauline Hanson’s ‘insulting’ remark as reflection of ‘No’ campaign

Burney outlines more details for Indigenous Voice

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney has called out Pauline Hanson and the media over racist rhetoric she says is being deployed freely by the campaign against an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

In a landmark speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Ms Burney, the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives, said offensive remarks made by Senator Hanson in a recent interview showed racially charged language was going unchecked.

Senator Hanson on Canberra talkback station 2CC last month, cited an account of a conversation she said took place “years ago” as evidence that a Voice to Parliament would fail to reflect the concerns of Indigenous people.

“I had a, I’ll call her a true Black –  but beautiful – woman (in my office),” Ms Hanson recalled, before summarising the extent of her political concerns: “All we want is our land.”

Ms Burney called the remarks “unimaginably insulting” and noted they had not been mentioned or condemned by any reporters covering the referendum.

“What she was saying is that some Indigenous people are less deserving of our identity,” she said.

“To say it was an insult is an understatement. It was not called out by one media outlet. It was not written about by one media outlet.”

Ms Burney said the lack of condemnation was a reflection of a ‘No’ campaign employing the same tone and tactics seen in American politics under former president Donald Trump, whose frequent resort to falsehoods overwhelmed the media.

‘Post-truth’

“It is post-truth and its aim is to polarise – to sow division in our society by making false claims,” Ms Burney said.

Reporters covering Mr Trump slowly tried to adapt the conventions of journalism in response to his inflammatory remarks over the course of his presidency. His political opponents also struggled.

Even months before the bill to hold the referendum passed the Upper House, official events for the ‘No’ campaign, featuring some of its leading spokespeople, dealt in racially charged politics.

Marriages between Indigenous Australians and people of other races were proof that reconciliation was progressing well without a Voice to Parliament, Gary Johns said in a campaign speech.

Defiant Hanson

Senator Hanson was present on stage for that speech, as was former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.

On Wednesday, Senator Hanson did not back away from the remarks she made on radio last month.

“True indigenous Australians keep telling me something has to be done about identity fraud in this space,” she said.

“It’s one of the reasons I’ve tried to legislate a more objective definition of an Indigenous Australian: To prevent people from falsely claiming Indigenous heritage for personal financial gain.”

Rising discrimination

Last month former attorney-general George Brandis warned against condemning ‘No’ voters because, he warned, it could energise them.

On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton again pitched himself as an opponent of “elites” in the business community – which supports the Voice overwhelmingly – in the lead up to a crucial byelection next week.

A yearly survey from the Diversity Council Australia released on Wednesday meanwhile recorded a nine-point jump in the number of Indigenous Australians saying they had been discriminated against in the workplace in the year to June.

UTS Professor Nareen Young, the council’s former CEO, said the results reflected the effect of “racist social media campaigns on our devices during the day [and] the challenges to our identity as Indigenous peoples on the news at night”.

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