Thorpe storms out of Senate hearing after Labor MP calls her a ‘disgrace to her people’

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Senator Lidia Thorpe has walked out of a parliamentary hearing after being called a disgrace to the Indigenous community by Labor’s assistant minister for Indigenous Australians.

Thorpe and Malarndirri McCarthy, who is also Indigenous, shouted over one another during a Senate estimates conversation about the National Indigenous Australians Agency’s funding of Northern Territory police.

Thorpe repeatedly asked the federal body’s bureaucrats whether what she called “Black money” was being spent on police at the same time youth organisations in the territory lacked funding.

When told about $14 million provided to police to administer community safety programs, Thorpe said: “Disgusting. I am so violated from that answer, I am so disgusted.”

“How can you let this happen Senator McCarthy?” Thorpe said.

Labor’s senator for the NT said the government had provided more than $25 million for youth services and took issue with Thorpe’s aggressive questioning, which left bureaucrats visibly taken aback.

“How dare you when we have First Nations people working in the police force?” McCarthy said.

“I am telling you we have First Nations police who are doing their best to improve the situation across the Northern Territory. So you obviously don’t want to see things improve.”

The senators both yelled “shame on you” as Senate colleagues and a room full of public servants watched on.

McCarthy repeatedly called Thorpe a disgrace who brought shame upon her community.

“You bring disgrace not only to the Senate but to your own people. You are an absolute disgrace,” McCarthy said.

Thorpe, referring to the 2019 police shooting of Kumanjayi Walker, said: “You tell that to Kumanjayi Walker’s family.”

“How dare you?” McCarthy responded. “Look at you. Rubbishing everyone for your agenda.”

After the exchange, which went on for minutes, former Coalition minister Richard Colbeck suggested both senators withdraw their comments.

“One of the more untidy changes I’ve seen in a committee,” he said.

After some discussion, both agreed to take back their remarks.

“I was personally attacked by the senator,” Thorpe said.

As the hearing moved onto other matters, Thorpe walked out of the committee room.

“Just look after the cops,” she said in a raised voice as she walked past McCarthy. “Absolute disgrace. No wonder the NT is a mess. Been in power too long.”

Thorpe has repeatedly been involved in incidents in which tempers flare, both inside and outside the parliament.

After she called someone a “marked man” and a “racist dog” at 3am outside a Melbourne strip club in April, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he hoped Thorpe received appropriate support to manage her behaviour.

“ I think that that level of behaviour is quite clearly unacceptable. And I think there are obvious issues that need to be dealt with in terms of her health issues. These are not the actions of anyone who should be participating in society in a normal way, let alone a senator,” Albanese said.

“And Lidia needs to be very conscious of the way in which this behaviour has been seen. They are repeat exercises now.”

Thorpe called Albanese’s remarks racist.

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