Australia’s gaffe-prone prime minister took back his second Nazi-related comment in a month today after he compared the opposition party leader to German Second World War propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
Tony Abbott told Parliament that Labour Party leader Bill Shorten was “the Dr Goebbels of economic policy”.
Mr Abbott immediately said he withdrew the comment as opposition lawmakers yelled in protest.
Speaker Bronwyn Bishop ordered Labour lawmaker Mark Dreyfus – one of only three Jewish lawmakers in Parliament – out of the House of Representatives for rising from his seat to angrily berate the prime minister.
Fellow Labour lawmaker Michael Danby, also Jewish, left the chamber with Mr Dreyfus in solidarity.
“There are no Nazis here and we shouldn’t be making comparisons with the paradigm of the ultimate evil in politics to heighten political differences,” Mr Danby told The Associated Press (AP) later.
“It’s beneath him and it goes to the question of his judgment. I think a lot of his backbench will be groaning and tearing their hair out.”
Mr Dreyfus later described the Nazi reference as inappropriate for a prime minister.
Mr Abbott last month apologised to Parliament for describing a 10 per cent reduction in defence industry jobs under a former Labour government as a “holocaust of jobs”.
Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, an organisation representing Jewish community organisations, declined to comment today because of his council’s apolitical stance.
But he referred AP to the council’s long-standing policy statement that it: “Deplores the inappropriate use of analogies to the Nazi genocide in Australian public debate.”
Mr Abbott received an unexpected rebuke from the Irish prime minister this week for a St Patrick’s Day video message broadcast online by his Liberal Party.
Wearing a green tie, Mr Abbott apologised to Ireland because: “I can’t be there to share a Guinness or two or maybe even three.”
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told the Irish Independent newspaper he had seen Mr Abbott’s comments and did not agree with them. Mr Kenny told the newspaper he advocated responsible celebrations and rejected “a stage Irish perception”.
Some of Mr Abbott’s government colleagues openly questioned his political judgment in January when he announced on Australia’s national day that he had granted the Queen’s husband Prince Philip an Australian knighthood.
The disquiet helped trigger a challenge to his leadership within the ruling Liberal Party.
While he survived a no-confidence ballot, his leadership is vulnerable while he remains unpopular in opinion polls.