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Elected as a Green, but only interested in black policy – should this woman be in parliament?

Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe’s decision to turn her back on the party that put her in Parliament reeks of political expediency and should be disallowed, writes Madonna King

Senator Lidia Thorpe. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Senator Lidia Thorpe. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

A Parliament House brimming with opinionated one-issue Independents could lead to spectacular policy debate. Or it could be the recipe for political chaos.

But the path to taking up a plush Parliamentary seat as an Independent is not by sneaking through the back door – or on the coat tails of the party who put you there.

That’s exactly what Senator Lidia Thorpe has done – and she should leave Parlaiment.

And we should assist her by ensuring that the Constitution is changed to forbid politicians from being elected on a party platform, and then immediately switching their allegiances.

Voters have provided Lidia Thorpe with a secure job, and a pay packet to match, until 2028. But the issue here is that the job she now covets is not the job to which she was appointed.

Imagine if you won a big job in a private company, and took on all the remuneration and perks on offer – while you squatted in the boardroom and competed with the organisation that recruited you!

This is no different, and differences in the Greens over the Voice are a distraction to the issue of whether an MP should be allowed to breach their employment contract with voters, and defect once elected.

Lidia Thorpe was gifted the number one spot on the Greens’ ticket in Victoria. Voters backed the Greens Party in that race (and that’s particularly the case when it’s a Senate ballot, as opposed to a House of Representatives’ vote).

By virtue of that support, she’s now sitting in Canberra, with a vote on where Australia heads, and what policies might transport us there. But the position she holds belongs to the Party, not her, and her contribution outside the Greens should be muted.

And that’s what she’s missing. Thorpe claims that she is being demonised, when her aim is to give Indigenous people a say and that she drew her support from a grassroots collective of sovereign black people.

That’s simply not true. Her support comes from grassroots Green voters, and her stance is because she didn’t get what she wanted. It’s a political tantrum, over her party’s stance on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

University of Queensland Professor of Politics and Public Policy Professor Katharine Gelber says Thorpe holds a unique position, because the entire ticket she led was Indigenous. But that had to be weighed up against the strong support for the Greens at the last election.

“My view is that if they’re going to leave the party, they should leave Parliament, and that they should be replaced by the next person on their Party’s list.’’

That makes sense – but will not happen under current rules.

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Of course Thorpe isn’t the first to jump ship, when machinations inside a party room are not going a particular MP’s way.

Peter Slipper quit the LNP to become House Speaker. Mal Colston resigned from the Labor Party to sit as an Independent. Cory Bernardi. Craig Kelly. The list goes on.

They should have all left Parliament. Perhaps the exception is Jacqui Lambie, a former Palmer United Party Senator. And that’s because Clive Palmer’s party was new and didn’t have a clue, let alone a political platform.

And she’s remained remarkably true to her promises.

Lidia Thorpe, who was the party’s First Nations spokesperson, is a different story.

She does not speak for all Indigenous people. Her role, as elected, is a single vote within the Greens Party, which has now signalled that it will support the Voice to Parliament.

Thorpe could have stayed inside the Party that employed her, and exercised a conscience vote. She decided not to, and should now not have a say within Parliament at all.

“I will be announcing some plans in the coming weeks to bring more people to the table and allow those sovereign people to have a say,’’ she says.

But on whose authority? Because it’s certainly not the voters who elected her.

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