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Australian parliament slams senator over mosque shooting comments

Fraser Anning blamed the massacre in New Zealand last month on immigration policies that he said allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate there.

SYDNEY — The Australian lawmaker who had an egg cracked on his head by a teenage boy for his comments about last month's New Zealand mosque shootings faced a stinging attack on Tuesday in the first sitting of Australia's Parliament since the attacks.

Independent Sen. Fraser Anning was the target of widespread condemnation after the Christchurch shootings, in which 50 people died, when he blamed the massacre on immigration policies that he said allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand.

Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant has been charged with murder in the shootings.

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After his comments, Anning faced more criticism for physically striking the teenager who cracked an egg on his head at a Melbourne public appearance — 17-year-old Will Connolly, who became known around the world as "Egg Boy."

Anning will face an official censure motion in Parliament on Wednesday for the comments, which caused more than a million people to sign an online petition calling for his removal from the national legislature.

But when Parliament resumed in Canberra on Tuesday following a monthlong break, one senior fellow lawmaker took the opportunity to lash out at Anning.

Echoing Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's comment that Anning should be charged for striking Connolly, acting government Senate leader Simon Birmingham attacked Anning for his lack of humanity after the shootings.

"The lack of compassion you have shown demonstrates, frankly, a basic lack of basic humanity," Birmingham told Anning, adding that his conduct "betrays the rights you have to freedom of speech."

Birmingham said Anning acted in a way that would potentially fuel more acts of terrorism and violence.

"You have failed the test of character I would expect of anybody who is elected to this place," he said.

Birmingham's outburst came after Anning arrived at Parliament saying he had "no remorse" over his comments. Anning then used the Senate's question time to bring up the egging incident. He quizzed the government about its response to the episode, asking whether it believed politically motivated violence was acceptable in some circumstances.

Birmingham accused Anning of drawing a comparison between his comments about the Christchurch massacre and the egging incident, and said it was an "appalling comparison."

Wednesday's censure motion against Anning has support from both sides of Parliament.

After New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern previously called Anning's comments on the shootings "a disgrace," her deputy Winston Peters on Tuesday called Anning a "jingoistic moron."

"I would call him a four-flushing, jingoistic moron, but you already know that in Australia," Peters said in a television interview with Australia's Sky News.

Immediately after Anning's response to the massacre last month, Morrison said the comments were "appalling and they're ugly and they have no place in Australia."

Anning came under blistering criticism over tweets within hours of the massacre, including one that said, "Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?"

"The real cause of the bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place," he said in a later statement.

Credit: AP
Australian senator Fraser Anning arrives in the chamber at the start of the senate session Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at Parliament House in Canberra. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)