Lidia Thorpe: The Greens were dumped

Yet a referendum, by definition, undermines “stay-in-your-lane” orthodoxy. All of us, Indigenous or otherwise, are being asked our opinion on tinkering with the Constitution to recognise an Indigenous Voice. Non-Indigenous Australians are being asked to weigh the conflicting views of Indigenous Australians – of Yes advocates Marcia Langton, Noel Pearson and Linda Burney, against No campaigners Warren Mundine, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and most likely Thorpe – and their respective and compelling life experience, and the views of many others besides, in deciding how to vote.


The Voice, if passed, would not be the last word on policy; the body’s view would be persuasive but not decisive. Government would still be the final arbiter. In both process and substance the Voice proposal sits uneasily with the Greens’ absolutism on identity politics.

And whatever Thorpe’s appeal to the moral high ground on sovereignty, she was advocating for a morally dubious outcome: a blunt “No” to the question of whether Indigenous Australians should have a right to be heard through a mechanism that a critical mass of Indigenous representatives have endorsed.

This cognitive dissonance was hurting the Greens, whose voters reportedly support the Voice in even greater numbers than Labor’s. Thorpe’s resignation was born of the realisation that even within her party she could no longer assert exclusive ownership of the debate.

None of this should let the Greens off the hook for having walked both sides of the street on the Voice debate, a posture every bit as cynical as the Liberals’ soft undermining of the proposal by calling for more “detail”. Which brings us to the left’s second pathology: its hard-wired hostility towards steady-as-she-goes social democratic reform. We’ve come to anticipate the Greens’ ritualised ambit claim, which positions the party as striving towards an ideal just beyond reach. Yes, we can bring it up again: the Greens failed in 2009 to support Kevin Rudd’s less-than-perfect Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. And nearly 15 years on, this country still has no durable mechanism, perfect or otherwise, for cutting emissions.


Many of the party’s supporters may gravitate towards Thorpe’s radical chic. The inconvenient truth is that outflanking Labor from the left remains the Greens’ core mission, if not its raison d’etre. This remains true even if on this occasion the contradictions became unmanageable and the party now throws its support behind the Voice.

Greens leader Adam Bandt labours how “sorry”, how “truly sad” he is that Thorpe up and split. And that says it all. In the end, Thorpe dumped the Greens, and not, to the party’s lasting shame, the other way around.

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