Australia's Abbott ends tough week with more gaffes

- Comments on terror arrests and Holocaust add to questions around prime minister

MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) – In what has already been a tumultuous week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made two apparently misjudged comments, local media reported Friday, raising further questions over his leadership.

Abbott apologized to parliament Thursday for using the word “Holocaust” to describe a loss of jobs in the defense industry under the former Labor government, The Australian newspaper said.

Although he immediately withdrew the remark, it was leapt on by opponents. “Mr Abbott’s comment will be deeply offensive to Holocaust survivors,” Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus said. “Comments like this should have no place in Australian political debate and should never have been made in the first place.”

Holocaust survivor Moshe Fiszman, 92, said he was insulted to hear Abbott use the term in relation to job losses.

Fiszman, who survived five Nazi camps, told Melbourne radio station 3AW: “This is an insult to myself, as a survivor, and I'm sure it's an insult to every single survivor in this country.

"It makes me feel very, very sad that the prime minister of our country can use the world Holocaust for political purposes.”

The blunder came as Abbott was criticized by leading lawyers for potentially prejudicing a future trial of two men charged with terrorism-related offenses following a police raid in Sydney on Tuesday.

During the raid, police discovered a video that led them to believe the men were planning an “imminent” attack.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Friday that Abbott took the unusual step of reading parts of the video message to parliament on Thursday.

In particular, he quoted the suspect who appeared in the video as saying he would attack people by “stabbing the kidneys and striking the necks." He also referred to the content of the video as “monstrous extremism.”

Jane Needham, president of the New South Wales Bar Association, said Abbott’s comments could make it “impossible” to find an impartial jury to try the two suspects.

"That could even mean the men would not receive a fair trial because the jury has already made up its mind," she told ABC Radio on Friday.

Criminal lawyer Adam Houda told ABC: "The unfortunate result is that it will also bring unfair prejudice to the matters now before the court.”

Abbott’s spokesman said the prime minister had quoted the translation with the agreement of the Federal Police.

Earlier in the week, Abbott came under fire for attacking the authors of a report into child abuse in Australia’s immigration detention centers – saying the Australian Human Rights Commission should be “ashamed of itself.”

His comments came after Abbott survived a vote to unseat him as Liberal Party leader on Monday. However, observers saw the win as a hollow victory, with more than a third of the party’s lawmakers voting to remove him.

Last week, a leading U.S. think tank referred to Abbot as “the most incompetent leader of any industrialized democracy" in an online article.

The Council on Foreign Relations report by Joshua Kurlantzick, a specialist in Southeast Asian politics, described Abbott as “ill-informed and incapable of understanding complex policy issues" with "one of the worst senses of public relations of any prime minister in recent Australian history."

www.aa.com.tr/en

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