Linda Burney has defended the rights of Black Lives Matter protesters to demonstrate despite the coronavirus risk, saying that she would not tell people whose loved ones had died that they should not protest.
Organisers plan to hold a Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney for Tuesday July 28. The protest has drawn criticism on the grounds that it could cause the coronavirus to spread.
Ms Burney, a federal Labor MP and Wiradjuri woman, was asked on ABC News 24 on Wednesday morning whether she would advise protesters to stay home.
"I will not be telling people who have lost loved ones not to demonstrate," she responded, while urging protesters to follow health advice.
The shadow minister for families and social services stopped short of endorsing the rally, suggesting there were other ways for protesters to making their feelings known, including approaching their local member.
"There is absolutely no way that it is OK that something like 400 people have died in custody since the royal commission and that continues to happen and the incarceration rates of Aboriginal people and Aboriginal young people are completely unacceptable," Ms Burney said. "Those issues will not go away whether there's a Black Lives Matter rally or not."
Earlier on Wednesday morning, prime minister Scott Morrison told 2GB's Ben Fordham that the planned protest was "appalling".
"Where police and the government have said that there’s a mass gathering that shouldn’t go ahead then they should obey the law ... what gives people a ticket to not obey the law?" he said.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian also spoke out strongly against the protest on the ABC on Wednesday morning. "We cannot allow that march to continue unfortunately," she said.
"If people feel strongly about that issue, they're welcome to express their views in different ways, but it's just not sensible at this time to expose yourself and others to the spread of the virus....We ask everybody to take the health advice and express their views through different means which follow the health advice."
NSW recorded 16 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.
Despite criticism from police and politicians, there is no evidence of any coronavirus transmission at earlier Black Lives Matter rallies in Sydney and Melbourne.
NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller has attempted to block the event, claiming the protest could "put NSW back five or 10 years economically".
The family of David Dungay Jr, who died in Long Bail Jail in 2015, has accused Fuller of trying to silence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.
"Police always want to stop these protests regardless of any pandemic or what's happening in the world," Paul Silva told NITV News.
"They don't want the First Nations people to be heard."