Thursday, February 18, 2016

More Australian racism

How racist is Australia? They deny indigenous Australian MPs the right to use their own languages in their own Parliament:

A Northern Territory Aboriginal Minister has been denied permission to freely speak in her first language of Warlpiri in Parliament.

The failed request from Local Government Minister Bess Nungarrayi Price came after the central Australian MP was warned over disorderly conduct after she interjected in a parliamentary debate in Warlpiri, prompting NT Speaker Kezia Purick to declare that "the language of the assembly is English".

"Should a member use a language other than English without the leave of the assembly it will be ruled disorderly and the member will be required to withdraw the words," Ms Purick said in Parliament last December after receiving complaints from Labor MPs about Minister Price's Warlpiri interjection.

Late last week — in part prompted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaking an Aboriginal language in Parliament during his Closing the Gap address — Minister Price wrote to the Speaker challenging the Parliament's interpretation of its standing orders.

The Speaker refused the request, claiming that providing translators would be costly and the the Parliament followed the (racist, colonial) practice of all other Australian Parliaments in requiring business to be transacted only in English. Which is pretty much what racists here in New Zealand argued when people wanted to speak te reo in Parliament. But the use of indigenous languages in parliaments isn't about cost - its about dignity, about recognising that indigenous peoples are citizens and that their languages are valuable and have a role in public life. In New Zealand, we now have simultaneous translation, and te reo has become a regular part of our Parliamentary debate. Sadly, Australia still seems to be stuck in the colonial age.