1102 GMT January 18, 2021
Rejecting calls from Amnesty International to retract the comparison, McCormack referred to lives lost in violence associated with Black Lives Matter protests in the US, telling reporters on Tuesday, “I appreciate there are a lot of people out there who are being a bit bleeding heart about this, and who are confecting outrage, but they should know that those lives matter too. All lives matter,” the Guardian reported.
The federal opposition’s health spokesperson, Chris Bowen, said Australians of color “deserve to know that the government thinks more of them than that, and to have the acting prime minister spout the words ‘all lives matter’, to diminish the Black Lives Matter movement, was beyond disgusting.”
McCormack has been widely criticized for comparing a protest against racial inequality and the death of George Floyd to the uprising by Trump supporters seeking to overturn a fair election. But the Nationals leader said both involved violence.
“Any form of violence, any form of protest that ends in death and destruction is abhorred,” he said.
“The United States goes through great change but any form of protest, whether it is a protest over racial riots or what we have seen on Capitol Hill in recent days is condemned and abhorred.”
Paul Silva, the nephew of Aboriginal man David Dungay Jr. who died in police custody in 2015, said it was a “disgrace” for McCormack to compare a protest for racial justice to the storming of the Capitol building by “fascists”.
Australian Black Lives Matter marches in 2020 called for justice for Dungay who said “I can’t breathe” 12 times before he died while being restrained by five prison guards.
“It’s a disgrace that the acting prime minister would compare Black Lives Matter protesters to Nazis who invaded the Capitol building,” Silva said. “We are protesting for racial justice and an end to the killing of black people by police and law enforcement officers. They [in the US] are fascists who want to bring about a white supremacist regime. There is really no comparison.”
Silva said the phrase “all lives matter” was a well-known “racial slogan that gets around the world to push back at the Black Lives Matter protestors”.
“But we are going to stand strong,” he said. “Despite McCormack saying last year that the Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne spread coronavirus which is completely untrue. He is only interested in dividing us and trying to intimidate Black Lives Matter movements here on our own soil.”
Silva said as an Aboriginal activist fighting for justice he wanted the acting prime minister “to publicly make an apology.”
The acting leader of the Australian Greens, Nick McKim, said McCormack’s actions over the past two days were “an attempt to take Australia down the dangerous path of post-truth politics.”
“The facts are simple,” he told Guardian Australia on Tuesday. “The Black Lives Matter movement is a push back against racist policing and politics. In contrast, the Capitol riots were because the far right didn’t want to accept the results of a fair and democratic election.”
The Greens senator said the “cost of the Liberals and Nationals making up their own facts will be the degradation of Australian democracy”. He said it appeared to be linked to a desire to secure votes at the next federal election from a “rabble of far-right nationalists, racists and conspiracy theorists”.
McKim in a statement called on McCormack to apologise.
“Last year, the Senate united to block Pauline Hanson from using this racist dog whistle in parliament,” he said. “Now, the acting PM is using it in press conferences to defend his own racist dismissal of black deaths in America. Michael McCormack knows what he’s doing by using this phrase. He’s telling Australia’s racists that he is taking their side.”
The acting Greens leader said adopting Trump-style politics was “poison to democracy”. “If this is the direction the Liberal party is heading, it bodes terribly for the future of Australian politics,” he said.
Morrison last week condemned the Capitol rioters in Washington for the “terribly distressing” violence and he called for a peaceful transfer of power to election winner Joe Biden. But he refused to be drawn on Trump’s own role in inciting the mob that stormed the US Capitol building.
Morrison also defended his MPs’ right to “freedom of speech” in the context of misinformation about the US election result, including George Christensen’s unfounded claims that Biden benefited from “dodgy votes”.