It comes as the controversial former One Nation and Katter’s Australian Party parliamentarian insists he won’t repay almost $3000 he charged taxpayers to attend a weekend Melbourne rally organised by right-wing extremists, arguing he was ‘doing his job’.
The Independent senator charged taxpayers $2852.80 for his flights to Saturday’s event, which he says he attended as he’s concerned violence by “Sudanese gangs” is spreading across Australia, including to Queensland.
An online petition urging him to repay the airfares, launched yesterday, has attracted thousands of signatures, but Anning says he was representing his state.
“My job is to represent my constituents. That’s exactly what I did,” he told ABC Radio National’s AM this morning.
But his attendance and subsequent rhetoric drew a sharp social media response from the Opposition Leader this morning.
There is no excuse or explanation that justifies Anning’s attendance at this rally, and his views have no place in the parliament. When you’re siding with neo-Nazis, you’re on the wrong side. He disrespects the memory of Australians who fought to defeat this evil ideology. https://t.co/g52cxeIkFp
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) January 6, 2019
Anning said his evidence that there was a problem comes from the media and some police reports and that he would protest against any criminal gangs.
When approached for comment, Queensland Police pointed media to a press conference from December following a stabbing and armed robbery allegedly involving men of African appearance.
“What we’re seeing in terms of these young African men, is we’re not seeing gangs,” Detective Superintendent Tony Fleming told reporters at the time.
“We want to make it really clear we’re not targeting the whole African community, this is all about behaviour and those who are committing those offences.”
The senator – who now sits as an independent after being booted from the Katter party following his defection from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation – attended the right-wing event at St Kilda beach alongside its organisers, convicted criminals Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson.
Several hundred people attended the rally, which Cottrell and Erikson have claimed was a response to recent incidents in which youths have mugged people along the bay.
Anning is adamant he was among ordinary, working Australians at the rally he attended, rather than radicals or skin heads.
“There were no Nazi salutes and there was nothing to do with Nazi racist remarks,” he said.
Media coverage has shown protesters giving Nazi salutes, with Anning insisting the footage came from a counter-protest staged by anti-racism campaigners, and slamming coverage of the event by the “left-wing media”.
Great to see the turnout at St Kilda today! The Vietnamese community has been attacked time and time again by the African Gangs so it was good to see them turn up in protest of the Victorian Government. Thanks to all who came and organised it. pic.twitter.com/rdjqYBjhMq
— Senator Fraser Anning (@fraser_anning) January 5, 2019
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek yesterday said the senator’s attendance at the rally was “disgusting”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also took to Twitter to blast the protests.
[2/2] Australia is the most successful migrant country in the world. This has been achieved by showing respect for each other, our laws and values and maintaining sensible immigration policies. Let’s keep it that way, it makes Australia stronger.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2019
I always loathe to validate racist bullies with attention, but the ugly protests in St Kilda yesterday should be condemned. Australia is a country for everyone who shares our commitment to a pluralistic liberal democracy anchored in mutual respect. 1/2
— Tim Wilson MP (@TimWilsonMP) January 5, 2019
Anning replaced One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts after he was disqualified by the High Court for holding dual citizenship, despite garnering just 19 first preference votes at the last federal election.
Asked about his chances of re-election, Senator Anning said he had “not a lot of chance”, but he isn’t worried about that “in the slightest”.
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