The death of Margaret Thatcher has triggered a political brawl in Australia, with foreign minister Bob Carr facing calls to apologise to the Thatcher family after describing her as “unabashedly racist”.
Mr Carr has recounted his astonishment at Baroness Thatcher’s tirade against Asian immigration in the presence of his Malaysian-born wife, Helena.
“I recall one conversation I had with her in her retirement where she said something that was unabashedly racist,” Mr Carr told ABC television.
“She warned Australia – talking to me, with Helena standing not far away – against Asian immigration, saying that if we allowed too much of it we’d see the natives of the land, the European settlers, overtaken by migrants.
“She said, ‘I like Sydney but you can’t allow the migrants to take over, otherwise you will end up like Fiji where the Indian migrants have taken over.’ I was astonished.”
Mr Carr, the former premier of New South Wales, said the comments were made by Lady Thatcher after she left office.
“I was so astonished I don’t think I could think of an appropriate reply,” he said.
“It reminded me that despite, yes, her greatness on those big questions, the role of the state, the evil nature of Communist totalitarianism, there was an old-fashioned quality to her that was entirely out of touch and probably explained why her party removed her in the early 90s.”
The opposition criticised Mr Carr’s comments as a cowardly and “graceless” attack on Lady Thatcher just hours after her death.
“His decision to make these claims after her death is a crude attempt to slur the reputation of one of the 20th century’s most outstanding leaders,’’ said Julie Bishop, the opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman.
Ms Bishop said Mr Carr should apologise immediately to the Thatcher family.
Another federal Liberal party MP, Eric Abetz, attacked a state MP from Tasmania, David O’Bryne, who said on Twitter that Mrs Thatcher was a “war criminal”.
Mr O’Byrne cited the sinking by Britain of the Argentine navy ship, the General Belgrano, during the Falklands War. Mr Abetz said the comments were “vile” and a “national embarrassment”.