Opposition indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has claimed there are “no ongoing negative impacts” of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, only a “positive impact”.
Price has also cast doubt on the suggestion that some Indigenous people might have suffered intergenerational trauma, saying that, if that were true, descendants of British and Irish convicts would also suffer such trauma.
Nationals leader David Littleproud and frontbencher Bridget McKenzie applauded that statement.
In her final address to the National Press Club before the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum, Price said Yes proponents had left Australians with “falsehoods, misleading information, and promises that can’t be kept, and that should never have been made”.
“For all the moral posturing and virtue signalling about truth-telling, there is no genuine appetite in Canberra to tell the truth, or to hear the truth,” she said.
“The Voice is flawed in its foundations. It is built on lies and an aggressive attempt to fracture our nation’s founding document, and divide the country built upon it.”
Asked whether she believed the history of colonisation impacted modern Indigenous Australians, Price replied: “No. I will be honest with you. No, I do not think so”.
“There is no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation ... A positive impact? Absolutely. I mean, now we’ve got running water. We’ve got readily available food ... if we keep telling Aboriginal people that they are victims, we are effectively removing their agency and then giving them the expectation that someone else is responsible for their lives,” she said.
“That is the worst possible thing you can do to any human being, to tell them that they are a victim without agency. And that is what I refuse to do.”
A host of her colleagues, including Littleproud and McKenzie, then applauded when Price - who has Warlpiri and Celtic heritage - responded to a question on intergenerational trauma by likening the impacts of colonisation on Indigenous people and the descendants of British and Irish convicts.
“I guess that would mean that those of us whose ancestors were dispossessed of their own country and brought here in chains as convicts are also suffering from intergenerational trauma. So I should be doubly suffering from [it],” she said.
The majority of British and Irish convicts remained in Australia after serving their sentences. Unlike their Indigenous contemporaries, they were able to own land - many were given it for free - and some were appointed to key government positions.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney told NITV that Price’s comments were “completely offensive” and flew in the face of “what has been recognised academically, scientifically, medically”.
“We only have to look at the Stolen Generations and the impacts that that has had down the generations,” she said.
“There are people from the Stolen Generations that are still alive. They can tell you about what it means. And I think it is a betrayal of those people.”
Speaking to ABC News later, Littleproud did not answer directly when asked whether colonisation has ongoing negative impacts on Indigenous Australians.
“We cannot deny there are generations of the past that have made mistakes towards Indigenous Australians,” he said.
“But I’m proud of the fact that modern Australia, for some time, has had a generosity of spirit and financial support in making sure where there’s disadvantage that we come together, and that we rectify that disadvantage. There has been significant advancement that we should be proud of.”
Price says Australians being asked to vote with no detail
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says key details over how the Voice would function will be worked out by Parliament after any successful referendum.
Price argued Labor was leaving voters to decide on a major change without knowing who would be on the Voice, what it could make representations on, and how the High Court could interpret its advice.
“The government has repeatedly promised equal representation, gender balance, and youth representation. But these are not promises the government can make.
“The reality is that they don’t know what form the Voice may make in the future. They don’t know.
“What we do know is that many of the most senior advocates of the Voice have very different views than that of the government. They talk a bit about it as the first step toward establishing treaty, reparations, compensation.”
Price, who has repeatedly argued the Voice would racialise the constitution, did not answer directly when asked whether she supported removing references to race in the country’s founding document.
Under Section 51, the Commonwealth is permitted to make special laws for people of any race, and Price said the future of that clause would come down to “the conversations that need to take place among the Australian people, Indigenous [and] non-Indigenous”.
Mundine would consider Voice role
Hours earlier, fellow leading No campaigner Nyunggai Warren Mundine said he would consider running for a position on the Voice if Australians vote to enshrine it in the constitution.
Mundine told reporters in Canberra that he would respect the outcome of the referendum, and would work to heal the “polarised” Australian that wakes up on 15 October.
“If Yes gets up, sure [I would consider running for it],” he said.
“I’ll be there to make sure that we do fix the issues that are plaguing Aboriginal communities.”
AFL legend completes 660 km walk for the Voice
AFL legend Michael Long finished a 660 km walk between Melbourne and Canberra on Thursday, urging Australians to back the constitutional change.
The 19-day journey replicated a trip he made in 2004, when he walked to the capital to protest the scrapping of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
Speaking alongside Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Parliament House, Long said the Voice was about “giving Indigenous people power over their destiny so that their culture can be a gift to this country for everyone”.
“We’re asking this country to see and listen to Indigenous people, just as Australians we’ve met on the road have done,” he said.
“That is the promise of the Voice. The words of the Uluru Statement from the Heart: When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds. Their culture will be a gift to their country.”
Albanese said Australians were being asked to “walk just a few short steps” with Indigenous people over the next few weeks.
The prime minister accepted referendums faced an uphill battle to succeed but warned progress was impossible if the public succumbed to fear.
“Fear is a powerful emotion. Fear is a powerful emotion, but it’s not one that advances a country. What advances a country is bringing people together and a positive message. And I want a positive message to be out there.”