'Horrible to watch': Mathias Cormann calls protesters 'selfish' and 'self indulgent'

An earlier version of this story wrongly attributed comments to West Australian Federal MP Anne Aly. The remarks were made by NSW Federal MP Linda Burney.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says those who took part in the Black Lives Matter protests across Australia on Saturday were "incredibly self-indulgent".

More than 20,000 protesters flooded Sydney CBD on Saturday in a show of solidarity for the US Black Lives Matter movement and to call for an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody and greater police accountability.

Crowds of thousands rallied in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, as well demonstrations in regional towns despite public health warnings.

"I think it is incredibly selfish, it's incredibly self-indulgent and it does impose an unnecessary and unacceptable risk on to the community," Mr Cormann told Sky News Sunday Agenda Program.

The minister said the protests were “hard to watch”.

Mathias Cormann (L) said the Black Lives Matter protests were 'incredibly selfish' and 'incredibly self-indulgent'. Source: AAP

The Senator said the protests were insensitive to the families of those who were unable to attend funerals due to social distancing restrictions.

"My heart just goes out to them as they see people recklessly going to these sorts of demonstrations, that must be just awful for them to watch," he said.

Labor MP Linda Burney responded to Mr Cormann’s comments, suggesting his state of WA is part of the problem of police brutality against aboriginal citizens, saying he needs to “look at what the reality is in the state that he represents”.

“I spoke publicly, as did many others in the Labor Party and across the board, about people being clear about what the health issues were and what the legal issues were with the protests yesterday,” she said Sunday.

“But I also understand the anguish, the frustration and the anger that people are experiencing. I think many people saw the issue of death in custody as something that is important to speak out about now in Australia."

Protesters display posters at the rally in Brisbane on Saturday. Source: AAP

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the rallies that broke social distancing rules could lead to a new wave of infections.

"We don't know whether people will be infected," Mr Hunt told ABC radio on Sunday.

"But if there is someone who is infectious in the midst of a crowd like that, that can have a catastrophic impact."

Mr Cormann defended his comments on Sunday afternoon after they were described by his political opponents as tone deaf.

“I'm just making the point. The point is that there are very strict rules in place across the rest of the community and those rules should be abided by everybody,” he told reporters this afternoon.

Although significantly smaller, previous protests against lockdown measures as well as conspiratorial anti-5G protests have also taken place in recent weeks. Both events went uncriticised by federal and state governments.

Thousands have taken to the streets across the country to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Source: AAP

Meanwhile, Victorian health authorities said they won't know for at least a week whether there will be a spike in coronavirus cases as a result of Saturday's mass Black Lives Matter protest in Melbourne.

“In terms of potential outbreaks related to the protest, it really will be at least a week and probably closer to two weeks before we have an idea of whether there's been any transmissions or outbreaks related to that,” Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen said on Sunday.

Dr van Diemen didn't attend the rally, and refused to comment on the cause.

"Our advice has been that people don't attend gatherings of greater than 20 as per the current directions," she told reporters.

Four new cases of coronavirus in Victoria were reported on Sunday, taking the state's recorded total to 1685.

There were no new cases reported in NSW in the past 24 hours.

with AAP

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