DISORDER ensued in the nation’s Parliament last week, after Liberal MP Christopher Pyne (pictured) accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of trying to equate climate change denial with Holocaust denial.
Gillard wasn’t the only party leader though to be criticised in recent days over environment issues. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also came under fire for addressing an anti-carbon tax rally in Canberra attended by extreme right-wing groups.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s labelling of Abbott as a “climate change denier” last Tuesday, Pyne – the Manager of Opposition Business in the House – said that under a parliamentary standing order they were “offensive words”.
“We all know the connotation that the Prime Minister is trying to bring about by using the word ‘denier’. We know that she is trying to allude to the Holocaust. It is offensive and it must stop,” he said.
But House Speaker Harry Jenkins brought Pyne to order. “I think that the construction that the Manager of Opposition Business has placed at this point in time is stretching it,” he said.
To which Pyne replied, “After 18 years in the Parliament, I do not think there is anybody in this place who would ever accuse me of making light of the Holocaust or any issue to do with the State of Israel.
“I was 11 years as chairman of the Parliamentary Friendship Group on Israel. I find it offensive and I am sure the Leader of the Opposition finds it offensive, and in that spirit, I would ask you to ask her [Gillard] to withdraw it.”
After calling for order, Jenkins again rebuked Pyne. “No matter how my learned colleague, the Member for Sturt, wants to put his case, I think that it is stretching the bounds of the way in which this House has conducted its business for a member to put his construction on a statement and forcing a withdrawal,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Abbott said he had been unaware of the attendance of extreme right-wing groups such as the League of Rights at last Wednesday’s anti-carbon tax rally.
Last Thursday, the Daily Telegraph reported that some of the Opposition Leader’s own MPs were among those shocked to learn he had addressed the rally, given some of its unsavoury supporters. But his spokesperson said, “This was a grassroots protest against Labor’s carbon tax, which was well attended by thousands of ordinary Australians who are rightly concerned about the impact of this tax on their already skyrocketing cost of living.
“It is a shame that a tiny number of people from any group linked to anti-Semitic views would attend such a rally, tarnishing the great work of everyone else who attended.
“Mr Abbott strongly opposes anti-Semitism and any person or group who promote such views.”