News & Current Affairs
23 April 2014
Another Coalition Gaffe
Diplomatic row over Tony Abbott's 'best wishes' to fascist celebration
Liberal MP Craig Kelly says he is 'mortified' at what has been reported in the Australian-Croatian press
Australia's ambassador to Croatia summoned after Liberal MP Craig Kelly's comments 'taken out of context'
The Australian ambassador to Croatia has been summoned after a Coalition MP was reported as passing on the best wishes of the prime minister, Tony Abbott, to a group celebrating a fascist period in the country's history.
Hughes MP, Craig Kelly, said he was mortified at reports he attended the Croatian Club in Sydney last week for an event marking the anniversary of the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in 1941.
The NDH wanted to rid the country of Jews, Roma and Serbs and was established after the invasion of Yugoslavia overseen by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
On behalf of the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who is now in Japan, I impart to you his greetings and good wishes on the occasion of the celebration of April 10, to you and all Croatians in Australia and those in Croatia
Kelly told the gathering, according to an English translation of the report by Australian-Croatian publication Boka Cropress.
A spokesman for the Croatian embassy confirmed the Australian ambassador in the European country had been summoned by the government to explain the comments, specifically the prime minister passing on his good wishes.
Kelly's office did not return phone calls on Tuesday but released a statement to the news site inserbia.info on Monday saying he was mortified at what had been reported and that his words had been taken out of context.
In what I said, I certainly did not endorse the fascist state of Croatia during world war two in any way, he said.
In fact, to the complete contrary, the speech I gave was a strong condemnation of both fascism and communism. I specifically called fascism an evil. And the 'congratulations' that I gave, were to the Croatian Community for their fight AGAINST [his capitals] fascism.
Kelly said he was personally upset at the reporting of the event and he had told the group that, because of their past experiences with the evils of fascism, the Croatian people had a special understanding of the importance of freedom and democracy.
He said he was the first speaker, leaving immediately after he spoke, but if he had known the event was to support a fascist state he would not have attended.
Nevertheless, I sincerely apologise if any offence has been taken, as my comments were taken completely out of context, with their meaning reversed, he said.
Kelly said he was asked to go to an event celebrating Croatian independence on behalf of the parliamentary secretary for social services with special responsibility for multicultural affairs and settlement services, senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, whose office has not responded to a request for comment.
Kelly was not the only politician at the event. Boka Cropress listed other attendees as the Labor state MP for Blacktown, Tania Mihailuk, the Liberal state MP for Riverstone, Kevin Conolly, Hills Shire councillor, Robyn Preston, and Penrith City councillor, Marcus Cornish.