Craig Emerson quits Sky News over Blair Cottrell interview | Australia news
The former Labor minister Craig Emerson has quit as a commentator for Sky News after it broadcast an interview with the far-right extremist Blair Cottrell.
“My father fought Nazis in WWII and was interred in a German POW camp,” he wrote on Twitter. The decision to put Cottrell on Sky News was “another step in a journey to normalising racism & bigotry in our country”, Emerson said.
Sky News hosted Cottrell in its studios for a one-on-one discussion about immigration on Sunday night, sparking widespread condemnation. Sky posted three videos on Twitter of Cottrell arguing for immigration based on race, and live tweeted his ideas.
Hours later the channel said it was “wrong” to have done so, but did not apologise. After complaints on Twitter, Sky removed all the tweets about Cottrell.
The United Patriots Front leader has a criminal history, including being found guilty last year by a magistrate of inciting contempt, revulsion or ridicule of Muslims.
The bodybuilder and carpenter has also expressed admiration for Hitler and claimed to have manipulated women “using violence and terror”.
The political editor of Sky News, David Speers, said on Twitter the outrage was “understandable” and he agreed with Sky’s political reporter Laura Jayes, who called Cottrell a “fascist” and an “arsehole”.
The Greens MP David Shoebridge 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.
Defence industry minister Christopher Pyne and Labor MP Richard Marles, who co-host the Sky News show Pyne & Marles, condemned Cottrell’s views but did not indicate there would be any change to their relationship with the network.
“We find Blair Cottrell’s views repugnant,” the politicians said in a statement.
“We’ve never considered interviewing a person like that, and we never will.”
Cottrell was invited to appear on the program 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.”
Cottrell and two other members of the far-right group staged a mock beheading outside the City of Bendigo offices on 4 October 2015, in protest against building a mosque in Bendigo, and posted the video on Facebook.
He told Giles Australia should accept only skilled migrants. He advocated taking all the white farmers from South Africa and stopping immigration from the rest of the world.
On Monday the video of the Sky interview remained live on Cottrell’s Facebook page, as well as pictures of him with a smiling Giles at Sky’s studio.
In January Channel Seven was criticised for interviewing Cottrell at a far-right meeting without referring to his criminal history. Cottrell also appeared as a guest on the ABC’s Triple J Hack program to discuss “patriotism” in 2016.
Last week News Corp tabloids published a column by Andrew Bolt that bemoaned the number of non-Anglo migrants who had settled in Australia. The columnist, who also has a platform on Sky, said migrants were crowding Australian cities and “changing our culture”.
“Immigration is becoming colonisation, turning this country from a home into a hotel,” Bolt wrote.
A spokesman for Sky told the Australian: “Sky News management is currently investigating the circumstances around which Blair Cottrell appeared on the channel.”