Waleed Aly Accused Senator Lidia Thorpe Of Ceding Sovereignty By Entering Politics

"But you're ceding it right now by being a Senator aren't you?"

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The Project host Waleed Aly has accused Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe of ceding sovereignty when she entered Australian politics in a fiery interview over Adam Bandt’s decision to remove the flag from press conferences.

It’s no secret that Greens Leader Adam Bandt has avoided the Australian flag in his press conferences since he was elected to lead the party in 2020, but nobody seemed to have an issue with this until Labor recently decided to include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags — as well as the Australian flag — in federal press conferences. And suddenly, Bandt’s ongoing choice to avoid the flag has been thrust into the spotlight.

“I think we’ve got a lot of work to do in this country,” Bandt told a press conference when asked about his decision to remove the Australian flag from the line-up. “It’s time to understand that the history of this country and the symbols that represent this history of this country are very hurtful to First Nations people.”

The decision has been slammed by the media, with Derryn Hinch going so far as to call it “disgusting and almost treasonous”.

To discuss the topic, The Project invited Thorpe — a Senator and DjabWurrung Gunnai Gunditjmara woman — for an interview.

“The Australian flag does not represent me, or my people,” said Thorpe in her opening remarks regarding the flag. “It represents the colonisation of these lands. It has no permission to be here, there’s been no consent, there’s been no treaty, so that flag does not represent me. It has connotations to invasion and dispossession and it’s associated with the mass murders of many Aboriginal women, men and children.”

Aly was quick to press Thorpe on whether the same comments could be made about the Australian Parliament — in which she works.

Thorpe agreed with the statement, asserting that she is there to “infiltrate” the system and make change.

“I entered into the colonial project because I wanted to contribute to renewing this nation,” she said. “And renewing this nation means that everybody in this country should know whose land they’re on, they should understand the stories that are associated with that land. I don’t want people to get upset by what I have to say, I want people to come on a learning journey and a truth-telling journey so that we can unite this country and mature as a nation.”

Aly asserted that Thorpe’s overarching argument questions the legitimacy of Australia altogether, and asked whether this is the “correct starting point” to unifying the nation.

“What we need to come to terms with, as a nation, is the question of sovereignty. We have never ceded our sovereignty as First Nations people in this country, ever, ever,” said Thorpe before being interrupted by Aly.

After cutting off Thorpe mid-sentence, Aly suggested that Thorpe has ceded sovereignty by entering into politics. “But you’re ceding it right now by being a Senator aren’t you? You’re saying “I submit to this, I become part of the system.” I understand that may be your personal politics but that’s what that act means,” said Aly.

Thorpe quickly rejected this notion, adding that her decision to enter into politics wasn’t an easy choice for her or her family.

“I signed up to become a Senator in the colonial project and that wasn’t an easy decision for me, personally, and it wasn’t an easy decision for my family, either, to support me in this,” said Thorpe, adding that voices like hers are needed to question colonisation from the inside. “However, we need voices like this to question the illegitimate occupation of the colonial system in this country. What other Senator is ever going to call that out? So I’m there, and yes, I swore allegiance to the colonising Queen but I had to do that as part of getting into the Senate and getting this job, right?”

In a weird pivot, Aly brought up Derryn Hinch’s opinion on the matter, which is that the flag argument is somehow detracting from progress on Indigenous rights issues. Thorpe was quick to point out that there’s no real comparison between her opinions and his. “You’re comparing a middle-aged, white, privileged guy to a grassroots Black Senator, who comes from the frontline activist space,” said Thorpe. “I think you could answer that question yourself.”

She added that she will leave it up to the audience to listen to either her thoughts or Hinch’s

“You’re going to believe a middle-aged white colonised privileged guy, who thinks he knows best — and that’s part of the problem in this country, right — or are you going to believe a Black Senator, who left school at 14, survived family violence, survived public housing, three kids, five grandkids, who have lived the life,” said Thorpe. “I’ll leave it up to your viewers who they think has the authority to speak on that.”

Throughout the interview, The Project repeatedly stressed that the Australian flag is a national flag. However, it’s worth noting that both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags have also been considered Australia’s national flags since 1995.

Junkee has reached out to Lidia Thorpe for further comment.