Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has told unemployed Aussies to turn off Netflix and get a job in regional areas.

The regional Australia Institute has identified 50,000 unfilled jobs in regional Australia, as a drop in temporary foreign workers due to COVID-19 saw more than $38m worth of fruit and vegetables rotting in Aussie farms.

Mr McCormack has told unemployed Aussies to go bush to fill the void, but shrugged off suggestions it was insulting to call the unemployed lounge lizards.

"I say to those people who perhaps have done reasonably well off JobSeeker, who may have earnt more than they could have dreamt of, it is perhaps time to turn the Stan and Netflix off to come to the regions (where) you can have a better life," he told Today.

Michael McCormack has urged unemployed Aussies to take up jobs in the regions. Picture: Sue Graham
Michael McCormack has urged unemployed Aussies to take up jobs in the regions. Picture: Sue Graham

He described fruit picking as "fun … (and) well-paying" but said there were a range of other jobs to fill, including at doctor's surgeries, in tourism and in hospitality.

Mr McCormack also refused to criticise Coalition backbencher George Christensen, who sparked controversy by peddling conspiracy theories over voter fraud in the US.

The posts were brought into focus after last week's deadly attack on Washington's Capitol building, as pro-Trump supporters violently attempted to prevent politicians from confirming Joe Biden's election win.

Speaking in Mr Christensen's Queensland electorate, the Nationals leader described him as "the voice of the north".

"George Christensen is a free spirit. While George might sometimes push the boundaries of controversy on social media he also sticks very much up for communities such as this one," he said.

Michael McCormack refused to criticise George Christensen (left) for peddling conspiracy theories. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Michael McCormack refused to criticise George Christensen (left) for peddling conspiracy theories. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

"He supports all those job-creating activities through COVID. He is the voice of the north. He has been strident to ensure that people in his area has a job for the future.

"That is surely the number one thing that an MP should do and he has done it."

The Nationals leader also refused to walk back comments comparing the Capitol Hill attack with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests across the US last year, which he labelled "race riots".

The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, while the assault on Capitol Hill was widely seen as an attempt to overthrow a legitimate election.

The comparison sparked outrage among human rights groups, with Amnesty International demanded Mr McCormack be "condemned in the strongest terms".

"The Acting Prime Minister must immediately withdraw his deeply offensive comments that compared the violent attacks on the US Capitol to the historic and important Black Lives Matters movement that swept the world last year," Amnesty's International Indigenous rights lead Nolan Hunter said on Monday.

 

"To call the Black Lives Matters movement 'race riots' proves that the Acting Prime Minister ignored the incredibly important message that it shared."

But Mr McCormack said any form of violent protest was "abhorrent", regardless of its motivations.

"It involves violence, it involves destruction of property. It involves deaths of people and any violence of that form is condemned," he said.

Twitter banned US President Donald Trump last week, arguing there was an ongoing risk he would use the platform to incite further violence.

Senior government ministers said on Monday they were troubled by the ban, and Mr McCormack claimed 102,000 Australian soldiers had died "so we could speak freely".

Twitter declined a request from the Australian government to remove a tweet by Chinese foreign ministry official Lijian Zhao, depicting an Australian soldier holding a knife to the neck of an Afghan child.

The tweet was in reference to the Brereton report, which found evidence Australian soldiers had committed 39 murders of Afghan civilians and prisoners.

Michael McCormack said it was ‘not right’ Twitter banned Donald Trump while allowing this image to remain available to the public. Picture: Twitter
Michael McCormack said it was ‘not right’ Twitter banned Donald Trump while allowing this image to remain available to the public. Picture: Twitter

Mr McCormack conceded it was a matter for Twitter as a private company, but said it was "not right" that the President's account had been removed while Zhao's tweet remained publicly available.

"To take a president's Twitter feed down, whilst at the same time allowing … a doctored image to remain on there of an Australian soldier, an Aussie digger no less, potentially looking like he is doing harm to a child. I mean really, that is not right," he said.

Originally published as Acting PM to jobless: 'Get off Netflix'


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