Coalition backbencher Andrew Laming has been accused of making “racist” remarks in a Facebook post about Australia Day where he said “petrol-sniffing” and truancy were issues in remote Australia.
The comments were made in a post discussing Cricket Australia omitting references to Australia Day from its Big Bash League branding.
“Deny it’s Australia Day. That’ll help petrol sniffing and school attendance in remote Australia. #MorePracticalLessSymbolism,” Mr Laming wrote on his verified Facebook account on Thursday.
Queensland’s deputy premier Steven Miles on Saturday slammed the federal MP’s statement as “grubby” – but Mr Laming doubled down saying he would not apologise.
“January 26 is Australia Day or Invasion Day depending on who you are. Oh hang on, those wanting the latter want to liquid paper out the former. Intolerant much?” he wrote in another post on Friday.
“Is marching on January 26 how you ‘virtue-signal’ your way out of that culpability,” a post on Saturday read.
The posts prompted Mr Miles to accuse Mr Laming of sinking to a new low.
“These racist comments are grubby and disgusting and below the standards that we should expect to the elected officials in our country,” he said.
“It would also be appropriate for the prime minister to pull Andrew Lamming into line.”
But Mr Laming told NCA NewsWire that calling Australia Day cricket ‘ January 26’ wouldn’t close the gap for Indigenous Australians.
“No apologies,” he said.
“Noone could objectively call these comments racist – that’s because they’re not.”
Mr Laming said little progress had been made to improve living standards since the 2007 national apology, and that his post was an “uncomfortable reminder” for people advocating for justice around January 26.
He said as a former medical specialist he had worked in communities where they struggled with school attendance and substance misuse.
“I use them as two good examples of Indigenous health and education that we need to do better on,” Mr Laming said.
“There is good and bad in our nation’s history. When we change the date, the bad is still there.”
Mr Laming’s Facebook page was temporarily offline on Saturday prompting speculation it had been shut down for the remarks.
But Mr Laming said he “unpublished the page” because when there was a “hot issue like this” he needed to moderate the content.
“I’ll always unpublish it if I can’t monitor or respond on the page in real time,” he said.
Scott Morrison was called out during the week for saying the arrival of European settlers “wasn’t a particularly flash day” for convicts on board, during his defence of Australia Day.