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An outspoken Victorian Liberal MP has been criticised by her party leader for “hurtful” comments to Indigenous people.
Upper house MP Bev McArthur, an opponent of the voice to federal parliament, issued a statement last week denouncing Geelong council’s decision to cancel Australia Day.
In the release, she wrote people should be grateful for the “wonderful things that have been enabled via colonisation”.
“Firstly—democracy itself. The arrival of communists instead of the First Fleet would no doubt have created a different outcome,” she said.
“Should we also say sorry for hospitals, roads, mobile phones, ready food at supermarkets, homes, running water, electricity for light and warmth, indigenous-only medical centres, aged care and court processes?
“There is one word that is rarely heard in this discussion, and it is a simple word. Thank you.”
Victorian Liberal leader John Pesutto is yet to speak with McArthur but said the comments were hurtful to Indigenous Australians as national debate ramps up ahead of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum.
“I don’t know what’s driving the way she said that, but I do not accept that as a fair statement,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Pesutto declined to say whether he would counsel or warn her over the remarks or if she would face any punishment.
“It’s incumbent on every Victorian to engage in debates about Indigenous Australians and the great contribution our First Nations people have made to our country in a very respectful way,” he said.
“There are ways to conduct this debate without causing hurt or offence.”
The Victorian Liberals have opted not to adopt a formal position on the voice after giving MPs a non-binding vote on the issue, in contrast to the federal parliamentary party.
Their junior coalition partner, the Victorian Nationals, fell into line with their federal counterparts and voted to formally oppose the voice at a party conference in Ballarat on Saturday.
Tuesday marked the first parliamentary sitting since Mr Pesutto was heckled and booed at a Liberal state council conference in Bendigo over the Moira Deeming expulsion saga, prompting leadership challenge speculation.
Earlier this month, Ms McArthur voted against the motion to expel Ms Deeming for bringing discredit to the party after she threatened defamation action against Mr Pesutto.