image

Australia

Outcry after Sky News Australia interviews far-right extremist

Television network also tweeted opinions of Blair Cottrell, who said Australian immigration should be based on race

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 5:31pm

Sky News has sparked outcry in Australia after it broadcast an interview with Blair Cottrell, a far-right extremist who has expressed his admiration for Hitler.

The channel hosted Cottrell in its Australian studios for a one-on-one discussion about immigration on Sunday night. Sky tweeted three videos of Cottrell arguing for immigration based on race, and live-tweeted his ideas.

The leader of the United Patriots Front, a far-right nationalist group, has a criminal history which includes being found guilty last year of inciting contempt, revulsion or ridicule of Muslims. The bodybuilder and carpenter has also claimed to have manipulated women “using violence and terror”.

The broadcast led a former Labor minister, Craig Emerson, to quit as a Sky commentator.

“My father fought Nazis in WWII and was interred in a German POW camp,” he tweeted.

The decision to put Cottrell on Sky News was “another step in a journey to normalising racism and bigotry in our country”, Emerson said.

Hours later the channel said it was “wrong” to air the interview, but did not apologise. After complaints on Twitter, Sky removed all the tweets about Cottrell.

David Shoebridge, a Greens party MP, said he would refuse all offers to go on Sky “until it gives a full apology and clear commitment to never again air this man’s hateful views”. He called on all MPs to follow his lead.

Sky News’s political editor, David Speers, said on Twitter the outrage was “understandable” and agreed with Laura Jayes, a Sky political reporter, who called Cottrell a “fascist”.

Cottrell had been invited to appear by the Sky News host and former Northern Territory chief minister Adam Giles, who asked him what he thought about Donald Trump’s ideas and the mix of immigration in Australia.

“What we lack in this country is national pride … that is necessary to galvanise the minds of the masses and to protect the people of this country against foreign ideologies,” Cottrell said. “If we can rebuild or reclaim our traditional identity as Australians then we may not need a Donald Trump, we may be able to fix the situation ourselves.”

What we lack in this country is national pride … to protect the people of this country against foreign ideologies
Blair Cottrell, right-wing activist

He told Giles that Australia should accept only skilled immigrants. He advocated taking all the white farmers from South Africa and stopping immigration from the rest of the world.

In 2015, Cottrell and two other members of the far-right group staged a mock beheading outside council offices in Bendigo, Victoria, to protest against the building of a mosque. They posted the video on Facebook.

In a statement released on Monday, the chief executive of Australian News Channel, which owns Sky News in Australia, said the Adam Giles Show had been put on hold and that the format and structure of the programme was under review.

“We deeply regret featuring the interview on our channel,” Angelos Frangopoulos said. “It was an error of judgment and we have taken action to ensure our standards, which we are proud of, are maintained.”

Cottrell would not be allowed back on the channel, Frangopoulos added.