Events which have unfolded across the United States over the past week have been nothing short of horrifying.
Five people have lost their lives, civil unrest is at an historic high and hope has been replaced by division in an increasingly fragile nation. Why? Because the country’s President– a man solely motivated by ego and personal gain– incited a violent insurrection with no concern for the cost.
Countless world leaders have spoken out in the days since to condemn him.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven tweeted that “President Trump and several members of Congress bear substantial responsibility for developments”, adding that “the democratic election process must be respected.”
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued a similar sentiment, tweeting that “Democracy– the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob.”
Even the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a vocal supporter and ally of Trump and his administration, said during a press conference that “the President has consistently cast doubt on the outcome of a free and fair election”, deeming his conduct “wrong” and condemning him for encouraging Americans to storm the Capitol.
So what about Australia’s response? Did we join the global condemnation chorus?
Not so much.
Scott Morrison’s response could be described as mealy-mouthed at best. Labelling the situation as “very distressing”, he stopped short of criticising Donald Trump directly, and in fact bordered on praising the president for instructing rioters to return home peacefully in the aftermath. “I hope that’s what people are doing,” he said.
But while Morrison’s words were grossly inadequate, they were nothing compared to the ignorant and damaging bile spouted by the leader of the National Party and Acting Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.
Comparing the riots on the Capitol to the Black Lives Matter movement, McCormack told the ABC’s RN program that it was “unfortunate that we have seen the events at the Capitol Hill that we’ve seen in recent days, similar to those race riots that we saw around the country last year.”
His statement drew immediate outrage from Amnesty International, with the organisation’s Indigenous Rights Lead Nolan Hunter saying he “must be condemned in the strongest terms”.
“The Acting Prime Minister must immediately withdraw his deeply offensive comments that compared the violent attacks on the US Capitol to the historic and important Black Lives Matters movement that swept the world last year,” Mr Hunter said. “To call the Black Lives Matters movement ‘race riots’ proves that the Acting Prime Minister ignored the incredibly important message that it shared.”
The Aboriginal Legal Service also slammed the comparison, tweeting: “It’s a disappointment (to say the least) to see the Acting PM mischaracterise our fight for justice as ‘race riots’.
“Our demand that Black lives be valued and defended against state-sanctioned violence is in no way comparable to attempts to violently overthrow an election.”
McCormack also criticised Twitter’s decision to permanently ban Donald Trump’s account last week saying he didn’t believe in that sort of censorship.
“There’s been a lot of people who have said and done a lot of things on Twitter previously that haven’t received that sort of condemnation or indeed censorship. But I’m not one who believes in that sort of censorship,” he said, failing to note that the President’s free rein on Twitter had led to several lost lives and national unrest.
With Morrison on leave for the week, it was McCormack’s opportunity to show some leadership and convey some integrity– something he’s found difficult to do in the near three years he’s been Deputy PM. It shouldn’t be surprising, but he missed his moment in a big way. And he proved how ill-equipped he is for the job.