Famed singer Kamahl has lashed out at The Project host Hamish Macdonald after a fiery stoush with the presenter over Indigenous funding.
The 88-year-old appeared on the show on Sunday night to talk about why he was voting No in the upcoming referendum to deliver an Indigenous Voice to parliament — his second backlip on the Voice in just two days.
Kamahl wrote on social media on Friday that he would “vote YES” on October 14, citing a meeting with Indigenous comedian Dane Simpson and constitutional lawyer Eddie Synot which saw him pledge support.
Yet two days later, the Malaysian-born singer came out against his own stance, telling The Project that he will be voting no.
“If you do the Voice this way, it becomes a racist issue. You’re putting a whole race of people separate from the rest of the country,” he said.
“I apologise, call me a hypocrite or uninformed but I am informed now,” he continued.
Kamahl proceeded to butt heads wtih Macdonald after the singer began quoting a $40 billion figure that he believed was paid to the Indigenous community by the government — a figure the journalist “fact checked”.
“If this comes to be it becomes based on race, the Indigenous people already have a Voice, it’s purely an opportunity of making an effort to find out what they want to say and what should be done for them,” he said on the program
“And at the moment it is $40 billion a year … what is the money going to?”
Kamahl was immediately pulled up by Macdonald, who asked him where he was “getting that figure from”.
“The $40 billion? I saw it in — somebody told me. Do you think I am making it up?”
The interview steered away from the topic, before Kamahl brought up the figure again, saying “ … all I know is that they’re spending $40 billion”.
“I feel like we should just probably fact check the $40 billion figure because you’ve used it a few times and I know a lot of people are listening to you,” Macdonald responded.
“I think there was a claim made by Tony Abbott some years ago, that the National Indigenous Australians agency spent $30 billion a year.
“That’s been fact checked as false. The government agency says it’s never administered funding of $30 billion a year on Indigenous programs, it’s total budget for 2022-23 was $4.5 billion.”
After a bit more back and forth between the pair, Kamahl admitted he had “made a mistake” on the figure but was still choosing to vote no.
Kamahl told news.com.au he believes he didn’t get a fair hearing by The Project hosts.
“They are all Yes voters,” he declared.
“How can they be not biased? Hamish didn’t want to hear about the truth.”
Kamahl said Hamish was doing his best “sublimally” to change his vote to Yes again.
He described the Voice as “drowning in bureaucracy” and stood by his figures on Indigenous funding.
Entertainment reporter Peter Ford told 3AW he had been advising Kamahl all week over his interactions with the media.
“It was a pre-recorded interview and he was not happy with the way it was cut,” he said about The Project.
Ford said over the past week he has spoken to Kamahl over 20 times to provide advice but the singer has ignored his impassioned pleas to stay out of the Voice debate “every single time”.
He said Kamahl was privately fuming about the exchange with Macdonald and “wants an apology for making him look like a fool”.
But he said Kamahl was “loving” being back in the spotlight”.
“Like all performers, he wants to be loved,” he said.
“This has put him back on the map,” but acknowledged some of the backlash had been “vicious”.
Social media lit up about Kamahl’s backflip on the Voice.
One person described him as the “highlight” of the referendum.
“Got to love him. He probably reflects more realistically the journey most of us have been on,” another said.
While others joked he would be back on Aussie TV soon after his performance over the last week. “Kamahl: Coming soon to I’m a Celebrity 2024,” one wrote.
Others called for calm.
“Elder abuse incoming! Poor Kamahl. 88 years old. Give him some leeway.”
“Kamahl needs protection from himself. This is pitiful,” wrote another.
-with Eli Green, NCA Newswire