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Australian Leader Raises Furor In Parliament With 'Goebbels' Comment

Roars of disapproval rang out in Australia's Parliament on Thursday, after Prime Minister Tony Abbott called Labor leader Bill Shorten "the Dr. Goebbels of economic policy." In the ruckus that ensued, three lawmakers were ejected and another walked out.

"I withdraw, I withdraw," Abbott said after making his comment during Question Time. But Labor members were up in arms, with some of them standing to denounce Abbott's comparison of Shorten to Joseph Goebbels, who was the propaganda chief of Adolph Hitler's Nazi government.

Amid the din, Speaker Bronwyn Bishop also stood — to demand that everyone else be silent and sit down.

"There will be silence," she said before ejecting Labor member Mark Dreyfus, who is Jewish. Dreyfus had left his seat to shout across the table at Abbott, and he continued yelling as Bishop spoke.

When Bishop was asked to reconsider the ejection, "given the nature of what the prime minister said," she refused.

From Australian broadcaster ABC:

"That prompted Labor backbencher Mr. Danby, who is a prominent member of Melbourne's Jewish community, to rise to his feet and declare that 'if he's out, I'm out over this.' "

After walking out, Danby later told ABC, "He's the Prime Minister — he is supposed to have standards."

In Parliament, a senior member of Abbott's Liberal Party, Christopher Pyne, stood to say that Dreyfus had once "used exactly the same description about Tony Abbott when Tony Abbott was the leader of the opposition."

In the yelling that continued, a voice in the chamber could be heard saying, "You are a disgusting, disgusting man."

ABC notes that this is Abbott's second controversial Nazi reference in recent weeks: "Last month, the Prime Minister was forced to apologize after accusing the Opposition of presiding over a 'Holocaust' of job losses in the defense sector."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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