• Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion originally backed Pauline Hanson's 'it's okay to be white' motion. (AAP)Source: AAP
Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy says the government was 'willfully blind' when voting on Pauline Hanson's controversial motion.
By
NITV Staff Writer

16 Oct 2018 - 12:57 PM  UPDATED 16 Oct 2018 - 5:19 PM

Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy has singled out Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion for criticism after the government supported Pauline Hanson’s 'it’s okay to be white' motion.

“I am totally disappointed in the Indigenous affairs minister,” she said.

“That is someone who knows what it’s like for First Nations people in this country to fight to have equal rights.”

In an emotional address to the chamber, Yanyuwa woman Ms McCarthy criticised the government for not taking a strong stand against racism.

“You were willfully blind, willfully deaf and you come in now and you do not even have the graciousness to say 'I’m really sorry’,” she said.

Ms Hanson and her supporters were not present for a re-vote on the motion which was opposed so overwhelmingly that the votes did not need to be counted.

It followed backpedalling from government, who blamed their support for Monday's motion on an 'administrative error'.

“We must unite against those things that divide us based on our race and against those things that divide us against those things that divide us against out and differences in this country," Ms McCarthy said.

'Regrettable'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday morning the government's support for the motion was "regrettable", with Attorney-General Christian Porter saying his office was at fault.

"An early email advising an approach on the motion went out from my office on this matter without my knowledge," Mr Porter said in a statement.

"This one was not escalated to me because it was interpreted in my office as a motion opposing racism."

Hanson’s 'it's okay to be white' motion shot down in senate
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s motion has been narrowly defeated in the senate. Others condemned the language for its association with the white supremacist movement.

But before the motion was voted on, Greens leader Richard Di Natale mentioned the phrase's "long history in the white supremacist movement".

The motion was defeated 31-28 despite support from the government, including Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion. 

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann also took responsibility for what he described as a mistake.

"As a result of an administrative process failure, the government senators in the chamber ended up, on advice, voting in support of the motion," he said.

"As leader of the government in the senate, I take responsibility for that error and I'm sorry that that happened."

After prominent Indigenous leaders called on him to resign, Mr Scullion issued an apology.

"I deplore any and all forms of racism and I have never supported or defended any form of racism in my life," he told the ABC.

"I am sorry for any suggestion that either I, my colleagues or the Government supports any form of racism and I categorically reject any implication contained in yesterday's motion that downplays racism and historic injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians."