NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has apologised for using the term “white flight” to describe what he saw as an exodus of Anglo-Saxons from certain suburbs in Sydney, declaring he will not use the term again.
Speaking to the ABC after criticism from both sides of the political spectrum today following the comments, which made the front page of Sydney’s News Corp newspaper, Mr Foley said he was sorry and described the term as “inappropriate”.
“I won’t use the term again, some people find it offensive,” he said.
In the story Mr Foley said “Anglo families” were being forced to move out of struggling suburbs across Sydney, particularly in the city’s West.
Mr Foley outlined suburbs such as Fairfield, where he said governments had pushed huge intakes of refugees into regions without matching jobs and education resources.
He said some areas were now struggling under the strain of a wave of new refugees.
“I’m particularly concerned about suburbs around Fairfield because they’re carrying just a huge burden when it comes to the refugee intake from Syria and Iraq,” he said in the article.
“Something like three quarters of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees are settling around Fairfield. It’s alright to come up with a grand gesture of ‘we’ll take 10,000 Syrian or Iraqi refugees’ but where’s the practical assistance?”
“I’m saying, what about that middle ring of suburbs that have experienced, if anything, just a slow decline. In terms of employment, in terms of white flight — where many Anglo families have moved out?”
The comments were praised by One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who said “she had being saying this for years”.
“I said it 20 years ago,” Senator Hanson said on commercial television.
“I said there’ll be places in Australia that we won’t even recognise as being Australian … I said they’re forming ghettos,” Senator Hanson said.
The Opposition Leader copped a range of feedback on social media for the comments, from dismay to support.
He said he was not told to apologise by his colleagues in the Labor Party, but rather qualified the comments by describing it as an “international phenomenon”.
“I think it has much more to do with class than with race,” he said.
“My focus is on more job creation and better schools and education opportunities in our multicultural communities.
“I want no suburb and no group left behind.”