West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has defended comments made by federal opposition leader Tony Abbott in which he described WA Liberal MP Ken Wyatt as an “urban Aboriginal”, saying he must have been misinterpreted.
Mr Abbott on Tuesday said it would be terrific to have an “authentic” indigenous representative of central Australia in Canberra, in response to a question about the possibility of Northern Territory minister Alison Anderson switching to federal politics.
That comment angered some, with accusations Mr Abbott was suggesting Mr Wyatt was somehow not authentic.
Mr Barnett said on Wednesday he did not think that in praising Ms Anderson, Mr Abbott was in any way diminishing Mr Wyatt’s worth.
“I’m not quite sure that Tony Abbott was properly interpreted," Mr Barnett said.
“I didn’t hear exactly what he said, but can I just say Ken Wyatt is an outstanding person.”
Mr Barnett praised Mr Wyatt for being the first Aboriginal person elected to the federal lower house.
“I’ve known Ken for over 20 years. He’s a terrific guy, a great leader of Aboriginal people, a great representative of his community,” the premier said.
“So I don’t think Tony Abbott intended any discounting or diminishing of the stature of Ken Wyatt.”
Mr Wyatt told Fairfax Radio on Wednesday that Mr Abbott’s comments were not helpful, but he wanted to move on and get on with his job.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will establish a royal commission into the Northern Territory's youth justice system.