Queensland Senator Fraser Anning has confirmed taxpayers will foot the bill for his flights to a far-right protest marred by Nazi salutes and racist abuse.
The independent senator had told The New Daily the event represented “official business” – but he denied any of the extremists were involved in pro-Nazi salutes, instead claiming anti-racism protesters were responsible.
Senator Anning, who sparked condemnation when he referred to the “final solution” in his maiden speech in Parliament and then claimed he did not realise it was a reference to the genocide of millions of Jews by Adolf Hitler, said he would never “be a part of that”.
“It’s official business. I am a Senator. I didn’t go there for a picnic,” Senator Anning said.
“It’s an airfare down and back. There was no accommodation.”
He insisted that many of the same issues with crime and Sudanese gangs that Victoria has experienced are now happening in Queensland, claiming this justified his flights to attend the event.
— Melis Layik (@MelisLayik) January 5, 2019
However, Senator Anning insists there was no “Nazi salutes” from the crowd he was in, blaming the behaviour on “left-wing protesters”.
“That’s actually the BS that the left-wing media reported,” he said.
“Absolutely no Nazi salutes. I wouldn’t be a part of that. I am very pro-Israel.
“It was a beat-up. I saw the photos. But that was down the road. They were the ones doing the Nazi salutes and screaming out the Nazi stuff.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek are among those who have slammed the senator’s attendance.
“Fraser Anning’s appearance was unacceptable and he should not have participated in this divisive event,” Mr Frydenberg said at a press conference on Sunday.
Ms Plibersek said she believed most Australians would be “disgusted” at the use of their taxpayer funds.
“…Their taxes are paying for an Australian senator to attend an event which seeks to divide, not unite our country,” she told a Sydney press pack.
Senator Anning was photographed at the event with Blair Cottrell, a convicted criminal who was fined by a magistrate in 2017 for inciting contempt and ridicule of Muslims by making a video involving a dummy being decapitated with a toy sword.
Mr Cottrell has appealed against the conviction.
“Our country is under attack. Africans are 77 times more likely to commit home invasion. That’s not racism. That’s a fact,” Mr Cottrell told the rally.
Last year, 24-hour news channel Sky News invited Mr Cottrell to discuss immigration, prompting widespread condemnation and the Victorian government to ban Sky News from Melbourne train stations.
The backlash forced Sky News to issue an apology and ban Mr Cottrell from appearing on the pay-TV channel.
Senator Anning’s Twitter account urged people to attend the rally, comparing Sudanese refugees with “stalking jackals”.
Great to see the turnout at St Kilda today! The Vietnamese community has been attacked time and time again by the African Gangs so it was good to see them turn up in protest of the Victorian Government. Thanks to all who came and organised it. pic.twitter.com/rdjqYBjhMq
— Senator Fraser Anning (@fraser_anning) January 5, 2019
“These grubs only hunt in packs like stalking jackals, if the numbers are equal they won’t be seen anywhere,” he wrote.
He also called for Australians to be able to carry “Tasers, pepper spray and firearms” to defend themselves against “Islamic terrorists and African gangs”.
Senator Anning’s attendance was also condemned by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who called on the government to not accept his vote in the Senate.
The Government should refuse to take Fraser Anning’s vote in the Senate after he has shown again he is unfit to be in the Parliament. Hanging out and supporting with neo-nazi who are inciting violence is inexcusable.
— Sarah Hanson-Young💚 (@sarahinthesen8) January 5, 2019
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday condemned the “ugly racial protests” but has not said he will refuse to accept Senator Anning’s vote.
“Australia is the most successful migrant country in the world. This has been achieved by showing respect for each other, our laws and values and maintaining sensible immigration policies,” Mr Morrison said.
[1/2] I thank Vic police for their efforts dealing with the ugly racial protests we saw in St Kilda yesterday. Intolerance does not make Australia stronger.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2019
“Let’s keep it that way, it makes Australia stronger.”
“I thank Vic [Victoria] police for their efforts dealing with the ugly racial protests we saw in St Kilda yesterday. Intolerance does not make Australia stronger.”
Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi told The New Daily he did not condone the protests.
“Not edifying for anyone to be involved,” Senator Bernardi said.
However, he added that Australia did need to have a sober discussion about the nation’s immigration levels.
“These events only undermine the need for a serous and rational discussion about immigration,” Senator Bernardi said.