Jacinta Nampijinpa Price is the new Country Liberal Party (CLP) senator for the Northern Territory1. She is 41 years of age, having been born in May 1981 to an Aboriginal mother and an Anglo-Celtic father2. The CLP is the conservative party operating in the Northern Territory. Price will sit with the opposition Liberal, National and Queensland’s Liberal National parties on the opposition benches3.
One thing that floored me was the fact that she, as an Aboriginal senator, was quite happy to be photographed smiling with Warren Mundine with “every Indigenous Australians’ spokesperson of choice” the leader of the One Notion Party, Pauline Hanson4. Because of this, I was interested to read the interview she had with Peter FitzSimons. After a question about her background, on which she elaborated, FitzSimons asked her when she was politicised and asked if she supported Australia becoming a republic. She did not know when the republic referendum happened and stated that she probably wasn’t thinking about it as she had her first child at 17 and had two more by the time she was 225.
Price has three children, but separated from the father of her three kids, and suffered domestic violence at the hands of another partner2. That sounds like a story characterising the beginnings of lifelong disadvantage for so many. However, Price didn’t let that happen to her. She may have been helped by the fact that her parents were both teachers and later, her mother was a Northern Territory parliamentarian and CLP government minister. From 1995, Price played a character in a preschool children’s television program (Yamba’s Playtime) broadcast by Imparja Television, which is based in Alice Springs and services a large part of remote Australia6.
Price has also been a town councillor and deputy mayor of Alice Springs and was most recently, while deputy mayor of Alice Springs2, associated with the ultraconservative libertarian Centre for Independent Studies. Reading bits of its website is hilarious; but I digress.
Price is insistent that Australia Day should remain on January 26, which left FitzSimons gobsmacked, and he asked her why she supported that position. She replied: “Well, I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for that white settlement. For me, it’s not about the impact of colonisation on us black fellas. It’s about how we’ve since come together as people from all different backgrounds. So many of us are of mixed race, and if that hadn’t occurred, we wouldn’t exist.” This is an idiotic argument. If it hadn’t been for Australia being colonised by the British, I wouldn’t exist either. It is not because I have some Aboriginal heritage, but because my ancestors emigrated from two different parts of the UK and happened to arrive in the same part of Australia, albeit about 60 years apart.
FitzSimons retorted by stating that it was devastating for the Indigenous population of Australia, and so it was. It has been estimated that between 1788 and 1900 the Aboriginal population was reduced by 90% mostly by disease, but also by hundreds of massacres7. Yet Price seems to think Aboriginal people should just grin and bear it.
Perhaps the most bizarre part of this interview by FitzSimons was her reply to his question “Does it ever bother you, however, to look around you and see that among your supporters are people with little to no respect for the Aboriginal people? I cite particularly Pauline Hanson who devoted much of her own maiden speech to attacking Aboriginal people. … Does it not bother you that she is the most vocal critic of First Nations people in the country, and …she cites you as proof she’s right? Price replied: “No. I look further and a bit deeper than what is on the surface. And look, I know Pauline can certainly come across as though she is racist. But I don’t think that she is. I think she cares deeply for Indigenous Australians, and that her concern is more about taking more practical approaches towards solving some of our problems.”
Reading Hanson’s 1996 maiden speech is an effort rewarded mostly by eye-rolling. She speaks of “reverse racism” and states, in part “Present governments are encouraging separatism in Australia by providing opportunities, land, moneys and facilities available only to Aboriginals. Along with millions of Australians, I am fed up to the back teeth with the inequalities that are being promoted by the government and paid for by the taxpayer under the assumption that Aboriginals are the most disadvantaged people in Australia.” She quotes a 1955 speech by Minister for the Territories Paul Hasluck who, she says “When he gave his speech he was talking about the privileges that white Australians were seen to be enjoying over Aboriginals. Today, 41 years later, I talk about the exact opposite–the privileges Aboriginals enjoy over other Australians.” Funny how not many Australians seem to be clamouring to claim Aboriginal heritage so they can bathe in that privilege. Other parts of this speech include the famous dogwhistle “we are in danger of being swamped by Asians”8. At the beginning of Hanson’s second stint in parliament, in 2016, she stated that Australia was in danger of being “swamped by Muslims”9. How Price could assert that Hanson is not racist is beyond me. It is what Hanson trades on.
Price seems to resent her heritage insofar as she cannot understand why other Aboriginals cannot pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and ‘succeed in life’ as she has. In part it may have been because both of her parents were teachers and understood what was important for that ‘success’. My parents were very important in my relative ‘success’, although neither were teachers. They did, however, understand the importance of education, something they were both denied by circumstance and attitudes.
One feature which seems glaringly obvious to me is that Price seems not to realise that she has been lucky, and apparently had the intelligence to take advantage of that luck. She also seems not to realise that others are not so lucky and also lack the motivation or the ability to drag themselves out of the quagmire of disadvantage. Price seems to resent those who lack her ability but she also is incapable of realising that not everyone is like her. In short, she lacks empathy. This may explain why the ‘modern’ Howard-inspired Liberal Party is such a relatively good fit for her, as was the cosy relationship with Pauline Hanson.
The concept of empathy is alien to ultraconservatives like those now dominant in the Liberal and National parties. They simply cannot understand why everyone is not like them; lying, grasping, venal, authoritarian, snouts-in-the-trough, god-botherers that so many of them are. I wonder how well Jacinta Nampijinpa Price will fit in.