The Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister has told sporting organisations to "stay out of politics" ahead of the Voice to Parliament referendum. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
The Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister has told sporting organisations to “stay out of politics” ahead of the Voice to Parliament referendum

The Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister has told sporting organisations to “stay out of politics” ahead of the Voice to Parliament referendum, claiming supporting the Yes campaign is “a huge virtue signalling exercise”.

Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has hit out at sporting organisations looking to achieve a “massive tick in the box of their reconciliation action plan” as the Voice to Parliament debate heats up.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Labor government have been working with Australia’s major sporting codes to widen the reach of the Yes campaign in a move that has attracted criticism for mixing sport with politics.

Senator Prince, who was among the critics, appeared on 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Thursday where she claimed the efforts were a “huge virtue signalling exercise”.

“I seriously think that sporting codes should absolutely stay out of politics, especially when they aren’t across the detail (of the Voice), they don’t know what the circumstances are for a lot of Aboriginal people on the ground,” she said.

“It’s not for them to promote something in this capacity.

“To me, it’s like a huge virtue signalling exercise; it’s like the big massive tick in the box of their reconciliation action plan because it’s been suggested by the government this is the only way forward. But sports should stay the hell out of politics.”

Senator Price said a lot of Australians wanted to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians but the Voice to Parliament was not going to change the issues.

“There’s a lot of good will out there from Australians, and they’re saying, ‘we’ve got to do something’, without really understanding what the needs are on the ground, what’s going on in remote communities, and upending democracy as we know it as we know it, I would suggest is not the answer going forward,” she said.

Mr Albanese last month told Sky News Australia many sporting codes had been “very supportive of Indigenous recognition for a long period of time”.

“Even before then, we will have the Indigenous rounds in both of the sports which will be a celebration of Indigenous Australians and their contribution to those sports,” he said at the time.

This week all 18 AFL clubs were recently sent a memo requesting them to form a position on the proposed constitutional changes.

“As the AFL will be considering this in the coming weeks, your advice on this will be gratefully received,” part of the memo said.

“This information is supplied to provide guidance regarding language to support building awareness of the Referendum during Sir Doug Nicholls Round in 2023.”

Even before the memo was sent out the Collingwood Magpies announced the club’s board was in support of the Yes vote.

Since the memo the West Coast Eagles announced they would be joining the Pies in throwing their support behind the Voice to Parliament.

Several of the nation’s other major sporting codes including the NRL, Rugby Australia, Netball Australia, Football Australia, Cricket Australia and Tennis Australia have also been working with the government in its Yes campaign, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Albanese government is reportedly looking to hold the referendum in mid-October, just two weeks after the NRL and AFL grand finals with both events potentially having a presentation to show their support for the Yes vote in front of the millions watching on.

Meanwhile, Cricket NSW told it was “not looking to make a comment” at this stage.

Australia’s most high profile Indigenous sporting stars are also on the Prime Minister’s hit list to front his Yes campaign.

Mr Albanese admitted he would be “surprised” if a range of public figures do not come out in support of the referendum.

“I know, from speaking to a number of the NRL and AFL players both past and present, that they will be active in putting their views in support of constitutional recognition,” he said.

“And I expect that not just them but Tennis Australia have been supportive. Cricket Australia, all of the sporting codes.”

NBA star Patty Mills, Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman, NRL star Jonathon Thurston, AFL legend Adam Goodes and tennis stars Evonne Goolagong-Cawley and Ash Bartyare reportedly on his list, the Daily Telegraph reported

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