Tony Abbott has slammed Black Lives Matter protesters as ‘copycats’ and argued there is nothing ‘fundamentally racist’ about Australia.
The former prime minister claimed marches are ‘out of place’ in Australia after the movement swept over from the United states in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Mr Abbott’s criticism of the movement comes ahead of Black Lives Matter protests planned for Sydney next Tuesday.
At least 4,000 are expected to take to the streets to demand justice for David Dungay junior, an Indigenous man who died in custody in 2015.
‘Obviously what happened to George Floyd in the United Sates was absolutely abominable, absolutely abominable,’ the former Liberal leader said on a podcast with Institute of Public Affairs John Roskam.
‘I don’t like the copycat culture to start with but I particularly think that it’s out of place here.’
Mr Abbott said the idea that there is something ‘fundamentally wrong, illegitimate and racist’ about Australia ‘does not stand up to serious scrutiny’.
‘I say to everyone unhappy with Australia, what country would you rather live in? Anyone who thinks that we are in some way racist, sexist, whatever, what country is better?’
‘And the truth is it’s almost impossible to identify one.’
Mr Abbott labelled the movement’s presence in Australia as ‘a cry of rage against everything’ and urged people not to ‘destroy the good’ for the sake of finding ‘mythical perfection’.
He also said Australians aren’t educated enough about the nation’s history, and should learn about the ‘broad Western canon’.
‘The fact that so many people have almost zero knowledge of our cultural underpinnings, such as the new Testament for instance, is collectively a failing of Australia’s leadership class,’ he told Mr Roskam.
‘If you don’t understand the things that have shaped the culture in which you live, it’s very hard to navigate properly.’
His comments come a day after Scott Morrison said Sydney’s planned Black Lives Matter protest next week is ‘appalling’ and should be cancelled.
Police want to ban the protest because it breaks NSW coronavirus restrictions which limit gatherings to 20 people in a public place – but organisers have insisted it will go ahead.
Asked what his message is for the protesters, the Prime Minister said: ‘I just think that’s appalling.’
‘Where the police and where the state government has said that there’s a mass gathering that can’t go ahead, well, people should obey the law,’ he told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday morning.
‘I mean there’s no special rule for people to not obey the law. I mean, what gives people a ticket to not obey the law?’
NSW has suffered double-digit cases of coronavirus almost every day since 13 July after a freight worker from Melbourne spread the disease at a pub in south-west Sydney.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian told the protesters to express their views ‘in a different way’.
‘Irrespective of the issue, we need to follow the health advice. Large crowds are a huge concern. We cannot allow that march to continue unfortunately,’ she told the ABC on Wednesday morning.
‘If people feel strongly about that issue, they’re welcome to express their views in different ways, but it’s just not sensible at this time to expose yourself and others to the spread of the virus.
‘We’re at a critical point in New South Wales and we don’t want to see the virus spread and actions like that are a huge health risk.’