Shaquille O'Neal crashes PM's presser: 'Not sure this has been thought through'

·3-min read

One of the world's most famous NBA stars is lending his support to the campaign for an Indigenous voice to parliament.

Former LA Lakers centre Shaquille O'Neal met with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney on Saturday.

"Whatever you need from me, just let me know," he said during a brief media appearance with the pair in Sydney.

"Shaq loves Australia."

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal on Saturday. Source: AAP
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal on Saturday. Source: AAP

O'Neal's support will form part of a broader strategy to engage people in the lead-up to a referendum on enshrining an Indigenous voice in the constitution.

"Shaq has agreed to do some (videos) and to have a chat about the importance of bringing people together, and that's really what the voice to parliament and constitutional recognition is about," Mr Albanese said.

"He is a global figure, he's a big figure in all ways."

O'Neal requested a meeting specifically to inform himself about the voice proposal, the prime minster said.

While the NBA legend briefly crashed the press conference in front of the cameras, he did not take any questions from assembled media.

Despite the PM's explanation, some viewers were left wondering what Shaquille O'Neal had to do with greater Indigenous recognition in Australia.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney  and Shaq.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney gets a dramatic greeting. Source: AAP

The voice is designed as a means for better consultation with Indigenous Australians about matters affecting them including housing and health, and gives the parliament a better chance for positive policy outcomes, the prime minister said.

"It is about how we see ourselves but it's also about how Australia is seen in the world," he said.

"Australia will be seen more positively when we demonstrate our maturity as a nation by having our birth certificate recognise our full history."

Mr Albanese admitted there is a risk the referendum will fail but said there was no chance of advancing the voice without a vote.

"I certainly don't have a view that my election as prime minister represents an opportunity to just occupy the space," he said

"It's how do you do things for the better and that requires a risk."

A central part of the campaign is to create space for people to get involved with the process in the hope of securing a wide base of support.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney presented the NBA legend with a boomerang. Source: AAP
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney presented the NBA legend with a boomerang. Source: AAP

"We're not being prescriptive here deliberately. When we come down to the legislation being considered in the parliament, then that will be the time when the specific wording is agreed to," he said.

Practically, it's hoped the voice will help to close the gap between Australia's Indigenous people and the wider community on issues including life expectancy, incarceration and education, Ms Burney said.

Asking First Nations people how potential laws will effect them is an act of "common decency and good manners", she said.

Ms Burney presented O'Neal with a boomerang during his visit.

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