Environment minister apologises for saying Australia has only been inhabited for 200 years

The federal environment minister has apologised after saying Australia has only been inhabited for 200 years during a radio interview.

Sussan Ley was speaking with the ABC’s AM program on Friday about steps the government is taking to address concerns surrounding the survival of native species.

She was asked if more action was needed to be taken on climate change.

“Look, it’s certainly the case that 200 years of human settlement in this relatively young continent is catching up with us,” Ms Ley told AM.

“Koalas are an example. We like to live where they live on the coastal plain and we have introduced an extraordinary range of invasive species - not just animals, but cats and rabbits.”

Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley speaks during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra.
Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley has come under fire after an ABC radio interview. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

However, listeners were quick to criticise the minister for suggesting Australia has only been inhabited for two centuries - seemingly overlooking the existence of indigenous Australians before European settlement.

‘So rude’

On Twitter, people have accused Ms Ley of “stunning ignorance”.

“So rude,” one woman said.

The Extinction Rebellion, a group of activists pushing for action on climate change, also shared Ms Ley’s comments on Facebook.

“This government is a joke,” the group wrote.

One woman added the “ignorance is both astounding and insulting” to indigenous Australians.

Another woman said Ms Ley is in need of a history lesson.

“Unbelievable,” another woman wrote.

Minister apologises

Ms Ley took to Twitter after the interview to defend herself.

She said she later re-listened to her comments and is sure she meant to say “European settlement”.

“A complete mis-speak on my part,” she tweeted.

“Sincere regrets.”

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.