Acting PM slammed for ‘disgusting’ phrase
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has been slammed for using a controversial phrase on racial injustice, which Labor has blasted as "beyond disgusting".
Mr McCormack told reporters "all lives matter" on Tuesday, a phrase criticised for detracting from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the fight for racial justice.
The Nationals leader, who is filling in for Scott Morrison while he's on holidays, used the phrase as he rejected criticism for comparing pro-Trump rioters' attack on Washington's Capitol to anti-racism demonstrations across the US last year.
The BLM protests were prompted by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in May, but were marred by attacks on private businesses and looting.
But Mr McCormack said he would not apologise for criticising violent protests, regardless of the motivations underpinning them.
He claimed the BLM protests cost 19 lives that "should not have been lost".
"There was destruction. There was uninsured property that business owners then have to dig deep into their own pockets to rebuild. And then of course there's lives lost," he said on Tuesday.
"I appreciate there are a lot of people out there who are being a bit bleeding heart about this, and who are conflicting outrage.
"But they should know that those lives matter, too. All lives matter."
Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen described the comments as "beyond disgusting", saying they were an attempt to diminish the BLM movement.
"Michael McCormack might speak for the government. He does not speak for Australians," he told reporters on Tuesday.
"People around the world who engaged in peaceful protests in the Black Lives Matter movement deserve better than to have their acting leader, their Acting Prime Minister, compare them to the violence and thuggery we saw at the US Capitol last week.
"Australians of colour deserve to know that the government thinks more of them than that. To have the Acting Prime Minister spout the words 'all lives matter', to diminish the Black Lives Matter movement, was beyond disgusting.
"Michael McCormack has a responsibility to fix this."
Amnesty International demanded Mr McCormack be "condemned in the strongest terms" for the comparison.
"The Acting Prime Minister is continuing to show his ignorance about what Black Lives Matters mean, and how it affects our mob right here in Australia," Amnesty International Indigenous Rights Lead Nolan Hunter said.
"Ignorance of the issues that affect Indigenous people in Australia is why we are behind the rest of the world.
"Instead of backing up President Trump, the Acting Prime Minister should be backing up Indigenous people in his own country and take the lead in addressing these issues."
In June, the government teamed up with Labor and the Greens to block One Nation's Pauline Hanson from putting forward a motion in the Senate advocating that "all lives matter".
"Asserting black lives matter isn't saying that other lives do not matter," Labor senator Penny Wong told the Senate at the time.
Acting Greens leader Nick McKim said by invoking the phrase, Mr McCormack had given racists a subtle green-light.
"Last year, the Senate united to block Pauline Hanson from using the racist dog-whistle in Parliament," he told NCA NewsWire.
"Now, the acting PM is using it in press conferences to defend his own racist dismissal of black deaths.
"Michael McCormack knows what he's doing by using this phrase. He's telling Australian racists that he is taking their side.
"The facts are simple. The Black Lives Matter movement is a pushback against racist policing and politics. In contrast the Capital riots were because the far right didn't want to accept the results of a fair and democratic election."
In 2018, the government walked back its support for a motion put forward by Ms Hanson asserting it was "OK to be white".
Coalition senators voted for the motion in a move publicly endorsed by Attorney-General Christian Porter.
But the government retracted its support, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison describing the saga as "regrettable".
Originally published as Acting PM slammed for 'disgusting' phrase