A political fight is brewing over whether the Aboriginal flag should be a permanent fixture on the Sydney Harbour Bridge alongside the Australian flag.
NSW Labor Opposition leader Luke Foley, who has backed an online campaign for the flag to be flown 365 days a year, has come under fire from Sydney radio shock-jock Alan Jones who said he had dug his political grave.
Mr Foley had backed young Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka’s online campaign, which has attracted almost 75,000 signatures, to have the flag flying on top of the famous icon all year rather than the current 15 days.
Mr Foley’s announcement drew criticism from Jones who said the Labor leader was representing the concerns of the “piddling minority”.
“Luke Foley told my program there are eight million people in NSW … 70,000 people have signed a petition calling for an Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge … That’s fewer than one per cent … Why is Mr Foley representing the concerns of the piddling minority?”, Jones said in a tweet on Friday.
The broadcaster said the suggestion was the “most divisive thing” he had heard from a political leader, referring to Mr Foley as the “alternative NSW Premier”.
Luke Foley told my program there are 8 million people in NSW. 70,000 people have signed a petition calling for an Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge. That's fewer than 1 per cent. Why is Mr Foley representing the concerns of the piddling minority? #nswpol
— Alan Jones (@AlanJones) February 1, 2018
Ms Toka, who met with Mr Foley earlier this week, wants to discuss the matter with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian but her four requests for a meeting have been rejected.
Mr Foley says the Aboriginal flag is an Australian flag that should fly alongside the National Flag and the State Flag at the top of Sydney’s most recognisable landmark.
“We should all be proud of 60,000 years of indigenous history here,” said Mr Foley, who will make it a permanent fixture if Labor wins the March 2019 election.
“Flying the Aboriginal flag on the great arch that defines Sydney around the world is an appropriate expression of that pride,” he said in a statement on Friday.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for the largest representative group of Aboriginal people in western NSW says it’s a good idea as it would generate a constructive conversation about reconciliation.
“There is a lot of positive stuff that can come out of it that can help take reconciliation forward,” Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation chief executive Paul Newman said.
“Most importantly it generates a conversation … Historically as a nation, we haven’t had a constructive conversation”.
The recognisable red, yellow and black flag currently flies for 15 days of the year during NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Week and on Australia Day.
“Flying the flag is a sign of respect and can help foster a greater sense of community,” said Labor Aboriginal Affairs spokesman David Harris.
NSW Labor has also pledged to establish a treaty recognising traditional indigenous ownership of the state while acknowledging the wrongs of the past.
Comment has been sought from the NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Sarah Mitchell.