Australia’s Acting Prime Minister has doubled down on comparing last week’s assault on the US Capitol with Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice.
Michael McCormack insisted there were similarities and there was no need to withdraw his comments.
“It involves violence, it involves destruction of property, it involves deaths of people, and any violence of that form is condemned,” Mr McCormack told the ABC on Tuesday.
He has received heavy criticism from human rights groups, including Amnesty International, who described his comparison as deeply offensive and called on him to withdraw.
Mr McCormack accused Amnesty of “feigned indignation”.
“If I’ve affected their precious feelings, well I’m sorry that they are so visibly upset by it, but seriously?” he told Sydney radio 2GB.
“I’m concentrating on rebuilding the economy and the health outcomes of Australians, not worrying about what is a bit of a circus in America.”
Attempting again to draw comparisons between the deadly storming of the Capitol to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Mr McCormack said all acts of violence were to be deplored.
“If Amnesty International can’t cop that, well too bad.”
He has also been criticised for refusing to censure government MPs including George Christensen for spreading misinformation about last week’s siege on the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters.
Mr Christensen has also been pushing conspiracy theories and unproven treatments throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“George Christensen is a free spirit,” Mr McCormack told the Nine Network.
“While George might sometimes push the boundaries of controversy on social media, he also sticks very much up for communities.”
Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten urged senior government ministers to pull rogue backbenchers into line.
“Our own leaders need to stamp down on the conspiracy rubbish – not everything on the internet is true,” Mr Shorten told Nine.
The US siege has prompted a wider discussion about freedom of speech after Facebook and Twitter took down Donald Trump’s accounts over fears his words were inciting violence.
Mr McCormack said he did not believe censorship should be used by social media companies.
“Facts are sometimes contentious and what you might think is right, somebody else might think is completely untrue,” he said on Tuesday.
“That is part of living in a democratic country.”
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers also weighed in, describing the comments as dangerous.
“It’s been very disappointing to hear the Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, try to draw some sort of similarity between Black Lives Matter protests and the insurrection we saw in recent days with the storming of the US Capitol,” he told the ABC.