Cormann stands by attack on protesters

Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann has been criticised over his comments on BLM rallies.
Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann has been criticised over his comments on BLM rallies.

Senior federal government Minister Mathias Cormann is standing by his comments that people who attended Saturday's Black Lives Matter rallies in Australia were being "reckless" and "irresponsible" at a time of a pandemic.

Twenty thousand people marched in Sydney and crowds rallied in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and some regional cities and towns on Saturday despite public health warnings.

The Australian protests in solidarity with African American George Floyd who died while being arrested in Minneapolis, also a showed support for the Aboriginal community to highlight high levels of indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody.

But Senator Cormann, the federal finance minister, thought the protesters were "quite irresponsible".

"I think it is incredibly selfish, it is incredibly self-indulgent, and yes it does impose unnecessary and unacceptable risks on to the community," Senator Cormann told Sky News' Sunday Agenda Program.

Labor's indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney described Senator Cormann's comments as "tone deaf" and "politically expedient".

"Mathias Cormann should know better than to describe these protests yesterday, this cry from the heart of many thousands of people across the world and in Australia, as self-indulgent and reckless," she told reporters in Sydney.

While Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles was "uncomfortable" about people turning up for these marches, he said he understood why they did it.

"I don't feel like I'm in a position to say to indigenous Australians ... that this is a selfish and indulgent act," he told ABC TV's Insiders program.

"I'm not about to engage in that kind of judgement of those who did it."

Senator Cormann later told reporters in Perth while people had the right to protest over legitimate issues, the country was in a pandemic environment.

"Many, many Australians have lost their jobs as we impose restrictions on the economy in order to save lives, to suppress the spread of the virus, people have been unable to attend funerals of their loved ones to help stop the spread of the virus," Senator Cormann said.

"But we are going to have a mass gathering of tens of thousands of people in complete breach of the rules that apply to everyone else, it is absolutely reckless and irresponsible and it shouldn't be happening."

Australian Associated Press