Australia’s acting prime minister has declared “all lives matter” after doubling down on equating the assault on the US Capitol with Black Lives Matter protests.
Michael McCormack also defended colleagues peddling lies and conspiracy theories, claiming some facts could be subjective.
The federal Nationals leader used the inflammatory “all lives matter” slogan after copping criticism for comparing Trump supporters storming the Capitol with racial injustice protesters.
He said 19 people died in America’s anti-racism demonstrations and refused to apologise for arguing there were similarities between the two events.
“I appreciate there are a lot of people out there who are being a bit bleeding heart about this and who are confecting outrage,” Mr McCormack told reporters in north Queensland on Tuesday.
“They should know those lives matter too. All lives matter. People shouldn’t have to go to a protest and lose their life.”
Mr McCormack said he abhorred violence in any form but refused to condemn Donald Trump for inciting last week’s riot.
“All lives matter” is used as a counter-argument to Black Lives Matter by Pauline Hanson and other far-right figures around the world.
Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said Mr McCormack should apologise for comparing violence designed to undermine democracy with peaceful anti-racism protest.
“Australians of colour deserve to know that the government thinks more of them than that,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.
“To have the acting prime minister spout the words all lives matter to diminish the Black Lives Matter movement was beyond disgusting.”
Mr McCormack has 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 pushed conspiracy theories and unproven treatments throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr McCormack said people who didn’t like Mr Christensen’s social media posts should “toughen up”.
“You might look out there and say the sky is blue and I can see from here that it’s grey. If we go out from this rotunda there are probably blue patches,” the acting prime minister said.
“There are a lot of subjective things.”
The Australian Medical Association is urging the government to invest in long-term, robust online advertising to counter health misinformation on the internet.
AMA president Omar Khorshid said people in positions of power could deliver online misinformation which people could easily absorb.
The US siege has prompted a wider discussion about freedom of speech after Facebook and Twitter took down Mr 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.