New South Wales Labor leader Michael Daley says he played no part in organising full-page ads featuring him on the front of several Chinese language newspapers after he was criticised suggesting Asian migrants were taking local jobs.
The front-page advertisements published on Wednesday, March 20—three days from Saturday’s state election—feature a large photo of Daley and his family with his key election slogans written in Mandarin.
Headshots of 10 Labor candidates are also featured in the ads published in at least four locally-produced papers—the Australian Chinese Daily, Australian New Express Daily, Daily Chinese Herald, and Sing Tao Daily Australia.
“It’s not something I had any role in,” Daley told reporters on Wednesday.
The Labor leader has faced criticism after a video emerged of him telling a pub forum in September 2018 that “our young children will flee” to be replaced by “young people from typically Asia with PhDs.”
He admitted on Tuesday he could have used better language when discussing the issue of housing affordability and apologised if anyone was offended.
He made that apology unqualified on Wednesday.
“I’m not (a racist), I never have been, people who know me know that I’m not,” Daley said.
“I did use words that I shouldn’t have, I accept that and my apology is unqualified.”
The opposition leader said he’d discussed the comments with some Labor MPs including Kogarah MP Chris Minns who later issued a bilingual statement on Chinese social media platform WeChat.
Bankstown MP Tania Mihailuk said voters at polling booths on Tuesday didn’t raise Daley’s comments with her.
“The point he wanted to make was that everyone deserves a fair go,” she told reporters.
“The main issues people raised with me was they are really tired of this government not looking after them.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday denounced the state opposition leader’s comments as he announced a cut to Australia’s immigration intake.
He described the remarks as “appalling”, “very upsetting” and “offensive.”
“I reject the comments and I think that Bill Shorten should disassociate himself as well,” he told ABC News.
Shorten acknowledged on Tuesday that the comment was “very poorly worded” but said Daley had apologised.
The immigration changes include two new visas requiring skilled workers to stay in the regions or smaller capitals like Adelaide and Darwin for three years.
Daley said he was worried the policy was a sign the government wouldn’t invest in large-scale infrastructure projects in Sydney and instead focus on regions.
“There needs to be more attention on helping Sydney keep up and there hasn’t been from this federal coalition government,” he said.
The Labor leader also committed to having regular meetings with Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and other NSW mayors about planning issues.