Lidia Thorpe backtracks on support for legislated Voice

Lidia Thorpe wants the government to legislate a voice to parliament if the referendum fails.

Lidia Thorpe wants the government to legislate a voice to parliament if the referendum fails. Photo: AAP

Independent senator Lidia Thorpe has backtracked after declaring she would back a legislated Voice to Parliament if Saturday’s referendum fails.

Thorpe, who has become a leading voice for the so-called “progressive no” vote, said on Thursday that if the Indigenous Voice was voted down it would be a win for the Black sovereign movement.

It would mean that Indigenous Australians who resisted colonisation and constitutional recognition would be able to start “a real healing … and truth telling journey”, she said.

“Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want truth telling in this country that after all, was part of the Uluru statement that we’re not hearing anymore as part of this debate,” she told ABC Radio.

“We’re also not talking about treaty … so I think that there is lots to look forward to and rather than think that we’ve been defeated, see this as a victory.”

Thorpe also took aim at Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has said repeatedly he will not try to legislate a Voice if the referendum fails.

“It’s a weak response, it’s like, ‘I throw my bat and run away, I don’t want to play no more,’ attitude,” she said.

Thorpe said her opposition was not to the Voice itself, but using it as a form of constitutional recognition would be “window dressing”.

“We don’t want to go into the constitution on the government’s terms or on 97 per cent of this population’s term,” she said.

She said a Voice to Parliament would still be worth considering.

“If legislation comes into that parliament saying they want to set up another advisory body and it’s going to be fully representative of the people, as long as we’re not in that constitution, I’ll support it,” she said.

“We need all the help we can get in there, we’ve got a Labor government who won’t implement any recommendations to save our lives today.”

Stars unite to back Yes campaign

However, Thorpe’s office issued a statement later on Thursday “clarifying” her earlier comments.

In it, the Indigenous senator said her comments “must be taken in the context of my consistent position that truth and treaty are the first steps that must be taken to bring peace to this land”.

“I want to make it clear that I do not support the Voice proposed by the government and no representative body should be established, in any form, unless it is the product of free, prior and informed consent of the First Peoples of this country,” she said.

Thorpe told ABC radio the referendum had given a platform to racists, and her life was in danger after being targeted by neo-Nazi propaganda.

Federal police are investigating after Thorpe was sent a “disgusting” video last week that showed an apparent neo-Nazi burning the Aboriginal flag and threatening her.

Her comments came as one of the few Liberal MPs to campaign in favour of the Voice made a last-ditch plea ahead of Australians hitting the booths on Saturday, asking them to look at the challenges faced by their Indigenous brothers and sisters.

Former shadow attorney-general Julian Leeser – who quit from the front bench to support the voice and oppose the Liberals’ ‘no’ stance – reflected on perceptions of the referendum debate as “divisive”.

He called on Australians to consider difference as an integral part of democracy and urged them to approach change with hope rather than fear.

“I know there are great pressures on Australians. This is not an easy time with financial pressures, stagnant wages, and wars and conflict in the world,” Leeser said in a speech at the Australian Catholic University on Wednesday.

“In such a time, the temptation is to say no more change.

“But this is a time when we need Australians need to lift up their eyes and see the challenges that our Indigenous brothers and sisters face.”

Saturday’s referendum was a “moment of consequence” after Australia had failed its first peoples for far too long, Leeser said.

Labor senator Pat Dodson – who is known as the father of reconciliation – made a rare public appearance as he battles cancer to urge Australians to vote ‘yes’.

“You can’t live in your own country and not be recognised,” Dodson told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“Are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people going to be at the table or pick up the crumbs as we have been for the last 200 years?”

‘No’ campaigner Warren Mundine told ABC Radio he rejected suggestions reconciliation with Indigenous Australians would not be possible should the referendum fail.

-with AAP

Topics: Lidia Thorpe
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