“Learn to speak Australian” was bellowed across the floor of the Australian Senate on Wednesday – and it was permitted.
Outspoken Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald was pressured to apologise for the comment, after a heated exchange during Question Time.
The jibe was directed at Scotland-born Labor Senator Doug Cameron, well-known for his thick Glaswegian accent, and saw Opposition Senate leader Penny Wong demand it be withdrawn.
“In a multicultural society, that thing ought not be said in the national parliament,” she said.
There are three broad rules that govern language in the Australian Senate, including a paragraph about “disrespectfully” referring to the Queen, the Governor-General or a Governor of a state.
But the most commonly invoked is the third, which considers the use of “offensive words” against the Parliament and its members “highly disorderly”.
Senator Macdonald shot back at the objection, saying: “On the point of order, I said ‘learn to speak Australian, mate’.”
Scottish Australian Heritage Council president Malcolm Buchanan told The New Daily the comment was likely made without much thought.
“It is a bit of a quip in passing, but perhaps an inadvisable quip at that – I wouldn’t take total offence,” Mr Buchanan said.
“It is rather interesting because they were both at the Parliament’s Scottish dinner a few months ago and it was all very friendly.”
Senator Cameron was born in Bellshill, Scotland, and migrated to Australia in 1973 as a “10 pound Pom”, he told SBS earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Senator Macdonald is a fifth-generation Scot.
“This is political correctness to the Nth degree – I was saying it to Doug Cameron, and poor old Dougie got hurt and ran to Penny,” Senator Macdonald told Daily Mail Australia.
“If I took offence to everything anyone said that could be upsetting to me, I’d have slit my wrists 25 years ago.
“Anyone saying I said it to Penny Wong is entirely wrong and that is likely being spread by Labor.”
Senate president Stephen Parry ruled the remark wasn’t “unparliamentary language”.
The New Daily has contacted Senator Wong for comment.
The exchange can be seen below.