Jacinta Price says Indigenous Voice could drive a wedge between Australians

Calling out “pointless virtue-signalling”, Price called for “real solutions” to the high rates of domestic violence and alcoholism among Indigenous communities in the NT and dismissed “false narratives that suggest racism is the cause”.

Price is one of 11 Indigenous Australians in the 47th parliament, the most diverse in the nation’s history. Her views could be influential inside the Coalition partyroom, where there is no consensus position. Opposition leader Peter Dutton has not ruled out bipartisanship on constitutional recognition but wants Labor to provide detail on the proposal, while Liberal backbencher Andrew Bragg has long-backed a constitutionally enshrined Voice.

Price’s speech was in stark contrast to those given by Indigenous Labor women, Lingiari MP Marion Scrymgour and senator Jana Stewart, who also made their first speeches to parliament on Wednesday.

Scrymgour, who was a facilitator in the dialogues that led to the Uluru Statement, said “I know full well that that initiative is not mere symbolism. I am proud to be part of a government which is going to take long overdue action on this front”.

Lingiari MP Marion Scrymgour delivers her first speech.

Lingiari MP Marion Scrymgour delivers her first speech.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

In the lower house, Scrymgour, whose electorate spans 99 per cent of the NT, used her speech to note the paradox of her joining a layer of government that once regulated her parents’ lives through the Aboriginal Ordinance Act.

“My pride in commencing my formal role in this House of Representatives is tinged with sadness. I am essentially becoming part of the same government which designated both my parents as wards of the State, the ‘State’ being the Commonwealth of Australia,” she said.

Stewart in her speech spoke of the historical genocide of Indigenous Australians and “the weight of collective shame and guilt we carry because of our history” being a barrier to Australia’s success as a rich, multicultural nation.

“We carry this because we haven’t been able to reconcile, and we haven’t been able to reconcile, because we’ve skipped a critical step as a nation – telling the truth,” she said.

Earlier on Wednesday, One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson stormed out of the chamber as Senate President Sue Lines gave the official acknowledgment of Country recognising the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people as traditional custodians of the Canberra area.

Hanson interjected, yelling: “No, I won’t and never will.” She then exited the chamber.

She later said she would reject the acknowledgment, which happens at the start of every sitting day, from “this point forward”, calling it “divisive” and saying she considered Australia belonged to her as much “as it does belong to any other Australian, Indigenous or otherwise”.

She also opposed a motion to raise the Indigenous flag in the Senate chamber, saying “I will never pay respect to [that flag]. I find this flag divisive.”

Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, a DjabWurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman, criticised Hanson’s decision to reject the acknowledgment of Country as “disrespectful”, tweeting “racism has reared its ugly head”.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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