Indigenous senator quits party after Australian referendum
CANBERRA, Australia: — An Indigenous senator from Australia quit the small Green party on Monday over disagreement over a referendum to be held this year that would create an Indigenous voice in Parliament.
The resignation of Senator Lidia Thorpe illustrates deep divisions among Indigenous Australians over the referendum and increases the difficulty for the government to push legislation through the Senate.
The Greens have suggested they would support a referendum likely to take place this year that would enshrine in the constitution a body representing indigenous peoples to advise parliament on policies that affect their lives. It would be known as the Indigenous Voice.
Thorpe had argued that Australia should first sign a treaty with its original inhabitants acknowledging that they had never ceded their sovereignty to British settlers.
She said after leaving the Greens that the party’s support for Voice was “at odds with the community of activists who say treated before Voice”.
“This country has a strong grassroots black sovereign movement full of loyal and committed warriors and I want to fully represent that movement in this Parliament,” Thorpe told reporters. “It’s become clear to me that I can’t do this from the Greens.”
Another high-profile Indigenous senator, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, also spoke out against the vote, saying it would divide the nation along racial lines. His conservative party, the Nationals, took an official stand in November opposing the referendum, prompting senior lawmaker and Voice lawyer Andrew Gee to quit the party.
Bipartisan support has long been considered a prerequisite for a successful referendum. But despite the divisions, an opinion poll published by The Australian newspaper on Monday found 56% of those polled in favor of the Voice. Opponents made up 37% and 7% were undecided.
The survey of 1,512 voters nationwide was conducted from February 1-4. She had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Indigenous people made up 3.2% of Australia’s population at the 2021 census. Indigenous Australians are Australia’s most disadvantaged ethnic group. They die younger than other Australians, are less likely to be employed, reach lower levels of education and are overrepresented in the prison population.
Greens leader Adam Bandt and his deputy Mehreen Faruqi said they regretted Thorpe’s decision to quit their progressive party.
Bandt said he told Thorpe the party constitution allowed him to take a different stance on the voice of his colleagues.
Pakistan-born Faruqi said she and Thorpe worked together as “strong allies against white supremacy and racism in all its forms.”
“I know we will continue to work together, this decolonization work, as well as work for climate justice,” Faruqi said.
Thorpe said she would continue to work with the Greens on their climate policy. The Greens want Australia to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 75% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
The centre-left Labor government legislated a 43% target after it was elected in May last year.
Labor has relied on the 12 Greens senators to push legislation through the upper house which the opposition Conservative party opposes.
With the backing of the Greens, Labor only had to secure the vote of a single unaligned senator. With Thorpe gone, Labor will now need the support of two non-aligned senators.
Bandt said the government would continue to rely on the Greens to push its legislative agenda through the Senate.
“The situation now remains more or less the same in the Senate. The Greens are at the center of the balance of power in the Senate,” Bandt said.
Thorpe proved a radical and divisive element in the Senate. She was criticized for referring to the then British monarch during a Senate swearing-in ceremony in August last year as “the coloniser, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II”.
She resigned as deputy leader of the Senate Greens in October over what Bandt called a “significant lapse in judgment” in failing to disclose an intimate relationship she had with a former gang gang president. bikers.