AFL legend Leigh Matthews has copped backlash after defending embattled acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who sparked outrage for his remarks on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Michael McCormack has been heavily criticised for saying ‘all lives matter’ while refusing to apologise for comparing the raid on the US Capitol with last year’s BLM protests.
He said Trump supporters’ raid on the Capitol as politicians met to affirm Joe Biden‘s election win was ‘unfortunate’ and ‘similar to those race riots that we saw around the country last year’.
The remarks were widely condemned for making light of black struggles, but Matthews, a former Hawthorn star and four-time premiership winner, rushed to his defence.
Michael McCormack has been heavily criticised for saying ‘all lives matter’ as he refused to apologise for comparing last week’s raid on the US Capitol with Black Lives Matter protests last year
Matthews called the criticism of the deputy prime minister ‘bewildering’ on Twitter
The 68-year-old called the criticism of the deputy PM ‘bewildering’.
‘Sometimes you just scratch your head with what you hear, being outraged about a simple uttering that all lives matter is bewildering as is the view that violent riots are ok if you support the underlying cause, beats me,’ he tweeted.
Matthews’ post divided opinion online, with many Twitter users taking the opportunity to explain the BLM movement to the Aussie sporting legend.
Sports journalist Richard Hinds explained ‘all lives matter’ is used as ‘a disingenuous response to Black Lives Matter used by white supremacists trying to undermine that cause’.
Greg Jericho from The Guardian said Matthews’ comments showed ‘a level of ignorance’.
Human Rights group Amnesty International said comparing a violent raid on the Capitol that killed five to the mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter movement was ‘deeply offensive’ and asked Mr McCormack to withdraw the comment.
Michael McCormack has been heavily criticised for saying ‘all lives matter’
But the acting Prime Minister refused to apologise and sparked further outrage by saying the controversial phrase ‘all lives matter’, which is used by far right groups to diminish the struggles faced by black and Indigenous communities.
‘I appreciate that 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 those lives matter too. All lives matter. People shouldn’t have to go to a protest and lose their lives,’ Mr McCormack told the ABC.
Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen said the comments were ‘beyond disgusting’.
‘Australians of colour 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,’ he said.
A study by the US Crisis Monitor found that more than 93 per cent of 7,750 Black Lives matter protests following the death of black man George Floyd who was knelt on by a policeman were peaceful.
Labor’s Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers said comparing the movement with a violent raid where windows were smashed and 50 people were injured was a ‘failure of leadership’.
Michael McCormack failed to condemn the extraordinary violence in Washington DC (pictured) on Thursday and instead likened the mob to Black Lives Matter protesters
‘It beggars belief that the acting Prime Minister is drawing his equivalence,’ he said.
‘This is a stupendous and outrageous failure of leadership. When leaders all around the world are rightly condemning the violence in Washington, DC we have members of the Australian government trying to legitimise it or draw false comparisons.’
Mr McCormack refused to withdraw his comparison, saying the movement ‘involves violence. It involves the destruction of property. It involves deaths of people, and any violence of that form is condemned.’
During his first two days as acting PM, Mr McCormack also called unemployed people ‘lounge lizards’ and refused to condemn government MPs Craig Kelly and George Christensen for spreading misinformation peddled by Trump supporters.
Mr Kelly has also claimed in a social media post that asking children to wear face masks amounts to ‘child abuse’.
But instead of condemning the post, Mr McCormack said in a press briefing: ‘Facts are sometimes contentious and what you might think is right, somebody else might think is completely untrue, that is part of living in a democratic country.’
Mr Bowen said: ‘Craig Kelly is a menace and at every turn, Scott Morrison and now Michael McCormack have failed to call him out.’
Earlier Mr McCormack said unemployed Australians need to ‘turn off Netflix’ and get a job in the bush.
He said JobSeeker recipients, many of whom lost their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic, were earning ‘more than they ever dreamed of’ on the taxpayer dollar.
The Nationals leader said the Regional Australia Institute found almost 50,000 jobs up for grabs in country Australia, and the unemployed should go get them.
He made the ‘lounge lizards’ gaffe during an interview on Monday, and doubled down when grilled about it on Nine’s Today show on Tuesday morning.
‘I say to those people, who have perhaps done reasonably well off JobSeeker – given the fact they might have been earning more than what they could have ever have dreamt of – it’s time to turn Stan and Netflix off and come out to regions,’ he replied.
Australians are seen lining up at a Centrelink office in Melbourne at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic
‘You can have a better life. You don’t actually have to stick in congested traffic in the capital cities. You can get out to regional Australia.’
Today host Allison Langdon asked whether it was ‘slightly insulting’ to label unemployed residents ‘lounge lizards’
She argued not everyone has the ability or freedom to relocate, particularly during a pandemic when they are subject to lockdowns and hotspot declarations.
Mr McCormack replied ‘there’s not much Covid out here’, speaking from Townsville in North Queensland.
‘Many communities in regional Australia have hardly had a case of Covid if at all and they are craving for people from the city to come out and experience the bush,’ he said.
The acting prime minister said there were a variety of available jobs – beyond working on a farm.
‘They’re not just jobs picking fruit, they’re not just jobs in meatworks. They’re jobs in all sorts of good endeavours and certainly good well-paying jobs,’ he said.
‘It’s fun to pick fruit, it’s good and well-paying work to work in a meatworks and goodness knows we need them.’