O’Neal’s support for Australian gov’t indigenous reform sparks outrage
Sydney, Australia, Aug 29 (EFE).- American basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal’s appearance in a campaign by the country’s prime minister to promote a indigenous advisory body enshrined in the constitution has caused outrage among some politicians and on social media.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese came under fire after O’Neal appeared on stage with him and Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney for the start of a Saturday news conference in Sydney to discuss a referendum on creating an Indigenous Voice to Parliament (The Voice), with some questioning the relevance of O’Neal.
On Monday, Greens Aboriginal senator Lidia Thorpe joined the condemnation.
“Labor met with an American celebrity before speaking with First Nations politicians from this Country. Not once has Labor reached out to me to discuss the Voice. Still waiting, Labor,” she wrote on Twitter.
The controversy comes as the government pushes to hold a referendum on the modification of the constitution to include an indigenous body to advise parliament and government on matters of national significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The conservative senator of the Country Liberal Party senator, the Celtic-aboriginal Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, also criticized the press conference, saying it was “clueless and out of touch.”
She added that “Aboriginal Australians historically have more in common with Native Americans then African Americans.”
On Saturday, O’Neal made a brief appearance at the start of the press conference and did not specifically address the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
“I’m here in your country, whatever you need from me, just let me know,” he said. “We all know Shaq loves Australia.”
Albanese said O’Neal had “wanted to inform himself about what this debate was about.”
The Australian leader plans to call a referendum, expected to be held before the 2025 elections, to decide whether to change the country’s constitution.
The proposal to create the First Nations body – which has the support of the majority of Australians, according to a recent ABC poll – arose from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a consensus instrument signed in 2017 in order to recognize the rights of minorities.
The previous conservative government refused to implement the proposal, which critics say would make the indigenous body act as a third legislative chamber with the power to block laws. EFE