Indigenous Senator Jacinta Price has responded to an attack from Ken Wyatt, labelling the former Liberal MP’s criticism as “sour grapes” from the Yes campaign.
Mr Wyatt served as Indigenous Affairs Minister under the Morrison government, but the Western Australian has been highly critical of the Liberal Party’s opposition to the Voice to Parliament, resigning his membership in April.
On Tuesday he accused his former party of having “lost contact with the mainstream” before singling out Jacinta Price, as well as fellow No campaigner Warren Mundine.
“Jacinta had a significant role in local government in a town that has got so many sorry elements to it, and yet I didn’t see proactive action from her in local government that turned around and addressed the needs of the town camps or the Indigenous people living in that area,” Mr Wyatt told The Australian.
Speaking to Sky News Australia’s Peta Credlin, Senator Price said she found it “absolutely remarkable” that Mr Wyatt was “showing an interest in a place like Alice Springs.”
“There wasn’t much interest in Alice Springs previously in his previous role,” the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians said.
“He also evidently doesn’t understand the role of local government – the core business of rates.
“Or the fact that the town camps in and around Alice Springs were the responsibility of Tangentyere Council, that are federally funded as well as funded by the territory government.”
Senator Price said it was evident the Yes campaign “must be on the back foot” because Mr Wyatt had come out to attack her and Warren Mundine without evening knowing any of the work she had done during her time on the Alice Springs council.
The Indigenous Senator cited a program she had initiated to divert young people away from the criminal justice system and into apprenticeships and traineeships as something she was particularly proud of, before claiming that as Indigenous Affairs Minister Mr Wyatt had simply “sought to empower bureaucracies” such as the Coalition of Peaks “as opposed to the people.”
“I mean, it was asked of me what sort of legacy I thought he’d left behind, and I really couldn’t think of anything of significance,” she said.
“Apart from supporting the Coalition of Peaks. Which, really, I haven’t seen them create any headway either in this particular space.”
Senator Price said she had always found it “difficult to gauge” Mr Wyatt on the issues she was concerned with when he was Indigenous Affairs minister, citing the issue of traditional owners being able to have real access to their own land for economic development as an example.
“Evidently it’s my fault… But, you know, I’m not going to wear that,” the shadow minister said.
“I’m here to fight on behalf of all Australians. I’m here to be realistic about the issues that indigenous Australians in remote communities – that I’ve certainly got close relationships with – are concerned with.
Senator Price also said Mr Wyatt could “absolutely” have avoided the damage caused by the lapsing of the grog bans in Indigenous communities – including Alice Springs – but he had done nothing to extend them.
“He could have avoided all of that, knowing full well the consequences of lifting those grog bans, knowing full well, the inadequacy of the Territory Labor government. There are so many things that he could have put in place,” she said.
When host Peta Credlin asked why confident and strong aboriginal women like her get applauded by people around the country by not from men inside the Aboriginal community, the Northern Territory Senator said it was “perhaps it’s because we challenge their beliefs”
“All I can say is I’ve tried to be very honest about the circumstances confronted by those living in remote communities,” the Country Liberal Senator said.
“And yeah, I get I get flack for that, but that’s the truth. No one can argue the truth.
“I’m getting in the way of Ken Wyatt and Noel Pearson and what they’re attempting to do, to constitutionally enshrine a bureaucracy that’s going to divide us along the lines of race but will effectively empower more individuals like themselves.”
Senator Price said she had “never liked bullies” and would “always stand up to those that present themselves that way.”
“There’s that element about me, that I don’t back down, I guess, and that upsets some people. And if that upsets them I think they need to have a look at themselves,” she said.
Senator Price has long been a vocal opponent of the Voice to Parliament and is a leading figure in the No campaign.
Ms Price said she was not surprised the Yes23 campaign was now trying to recalibrate, pointing out she had been traveling to countless remote communities that had been neglected by advocates of the Voice.
“You know, they thought that they could win the hearts of Australians by imposing the sports people and celebrities and that sort of thing and getting them to tell Australians how to suck eggs,” Senator Price said.
“And basically Australians are like, No, no, we’re everyday people. We want to know what the reality of the situation is. We want to know what’s going on. We want to be informed. And we also want to be heard and we want to be one people in this country.
“That’s the bottom line, I think. You know, it’s about being realistic and talking to people on a human level.”
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