• Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan is under fire for saying banks have an "autistic disregard" for the law. (AAP)
Autism advocates are seeking an apology after Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan said banks show an almost "autistic disregard" for the law.
Alyssa Braithwaite

21 Nov 2017 - 12:43 PM  UPDATED 21 Nov 2017 - 12:43 PM

Autism advocates are seeking an apology from Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan over an "appalling and offensive" autism slur.

Speaking about the growing pressure for a commission of inquiry into the banking sector, Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan told the ABC's RN Breakfast on Monday that the banks "show an almost autistic disregard for prudential regulation and law and it's time for these people to have their day in court". 

ABC journalist Peter Ryan tweeted that the broadcaster had received complaints about the senator's comment.

Autism Awareness Australia CEO and director Nicole Rogerson said the senator's choice of words was unacceptable.  

"It was just appalling and offensive," Ms Rogerson tells SBS. "He clearly thought this was a very clever thing to say. The target was clearly the banks, not people with autism, but people people with autism just got thrown under the bus.

"Imagine you're a young person with autism, and you're in the car, and you heard that. He was explaining how ruthless the banks are, they don't have any empathy for human beings, they are inhuman - that was just equated to who you are. When you say things flippantly for a soundbite, somebody is behind that soundbite and words really matter."

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Ms Rogerson says she was disappointed that Senator O'Sullivan was not pulled up about his outdated use of language and that he had not apologised to people in the autism community.

"We don't use the word retarded, we don't use the word schizophrenic, we don't use the word spastic - we're a tad more sophisticated than that these days," she says.

SBS has sought comment from Senator O'Sullivan's office.

On social media many people expressed their shock and outrage at the senator's remark.

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