Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison drew strong criticism after he said that “there was no slavery in Australia” during a discussion of the early days of British settlement, which he acknowledged was “pretty brutal.”
He told Sydney radio: “While slave ships continued to travel around the world, when Australia was established, sure it was a pretty brutal settlement ... but there was no slavery in Australia.”
Historians, First Nations activists and a number of lawmakers called the PM out on the factually incorrect comments.
Sharman Stone, a former federal lawmaker turned politics professor at Monash University said, “Slavery of Indigenous, men, women and children is well documented in a series of State government inquiries, in particular in the WA Royal Commission into the conditions of Natives, 1904, but also in 1913, 1929 in SA and Commonwealth parliamentary papers.”
Slaves in Australia were made to work in the pearling, fishing, the pastoral industries or provide domestic labour.
“The capturing of labour from the Pacific to work in Queensland cane fields is also well documented,” Stone said.
“Denial of slavery in Australia is akin to denial of the Stolen Generations. Now is the time for all Australians to learn, understand and acknowledge its history.”
Rapper Briggs scoffed at the PM’s statements.
“Blackfullas worked for free, for the love of it. Bit of sun, bit of air, bit of a chain around your neck, bit of a stolen wage,” he Tweeted.
There wasn’t Slavery in Australia. Blackfullas worked for free, for the love of it. Bit of sun, bit of air, bit of a chain around your neck, bit of a stolen wage.— Senator Briggs (@Briggs) June 11, 2020
Labor Senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri McCarthy told ABC News Breakfast on Friday that the PM needed to get out more.
“This is a big country and there are so many things that need to be understood. And truth-telling begins with telling all those stories,” she said.
Meanwhile Bruce Pascoe, the award-winning author of “Dark Emu” condemned Morrison’s comments.
“When you capture people, and put chains around their necks, and make them walk 300 kilometres and then set them to work on cattle stations, what’s that called?”
Many others on Twitter called out Morrison with some inviting him to sugar cane regions of Queensland to work for free.
“There was no slavery in Australia.” Scott Morrison, 11.06.2020.— Mike Carlton (@MikeCarlton01) June 11, 2020
What would you call this, then ? pic.twitter.com/gUfFnQbskj
Morrison said on 2GB slavery has never existed in Australia. Wow, he obviously doesn’t know his history. Aboriginal slavery, foreign workers, sex slavery, it still exists today. Open your eyes foolish man. @scottmorrisonmp #auspol— Eddy Jokovich (@EddyJokovich) June 11, 2020
Hopefully the world will take note that the Australian PM Scott Morrison is a disgusting racist POS just like Trump, pretending Aus does not have a disgraceful history of slavery among Indigenous people and South Pacific Islanders.https://t.co/ewXe257J5x pic.twitter.com/aa5116v4wT— DEMAND action to curb climate change 🦐🦀 (@Greg_MarineLab) June 11, 2020
Kidnapped, ripped from the arms of their loved ones and forced into back-breaking labour: The brutal reality of life as a Kanaka worker - but Scott Morrison claims 'there was no slavery in Australia' @wgarnews https://t.co/ZvUb5t2FSy pic.twitter.com/bP8UBqpI81— lynlinking (@lynlinking) June 11, 2020
Scott Morrison's 'no slavery' comment prompts descendants to invite him to sugar cane regions I think he needs to refrain do a public apology for that comment."I'd like to see him come up here .sit with the South Sea Islander elders to hear their storieshttps://t.co/7YVKMmnd64 pic.twitter.com/OTYfjRjuBV— lynlinking (@lynlinking) June 12, 2020
If @ScottMorrisonMP wants to charge protestors because he thinks free speech is dangerous, then perhaps we should start by having him charged for denying the history of slavery in Australia - an act akin to denying the holocaust. #AusPol— Chas Davis (@czhdavis) June 11, 2020
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.