Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has been slammed for labelling the legitimacy of Syrian asylum seekers as “opportunistic” in the Senate on Monday.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop seemed to stand back from the comments in an interview on Tuesday morning, while Labor MPs outwardly condemned the Liberal Senator.
On Monday, Senator Bernardi said a recent image of the body of a Syrian toddler on a beach in Turkey was the result of an “opportunistic cycle”.
“The father sent them on that boat so the father could get dental treatment. They were in no fear, they were in no persecution and they were in no danger in Turkey,” Senator Bernardi said.
He also accused Greens leader Richard Di Natale of using the images to ‘evoke emotion’ on the humanitarian crisis.
Ms Bishop stopped short of defending Senator Bernardi in a television interview with Sky News, saying he could not have been speaking of legitimate asylum seekers.
But Liberal MP Ewen Jones, who is currently proposing Australia take up to 50,000 refugees, was not as forgiving.
“Do you really expect anything other than that from someone like Cory?” he said to reporters, according to Yahoo News.
“We have to understand what’s at stake here… this is a long term thing, not a short term thing.”
Meanwhile, Labor MP Anthony Albanese was scathing of Senator Bernardi’s labelling him an “embarrassment to this parliament”.
“[Cory Bernardi] should really have a good look at himself and the implications of some of the things that he says,” Mr Albanese told reporters at Parliament on Tuesday.
“Probably the best response to Cory Bernardi is to treat him with the contempt that those comments deserve.”
Several state governments said on Monday they would be willing to take Syrian refugees.
NSW Premier Mike Baird suggested on ABC TV that the intake of asylum seekers should be increased past the proposed 10,000.