Kevin Vuong, a Liberal MP and the founder of Australia’s first refugee advocacy group, has issued an unreserved apology for sharing a racist meme on Facebook.
Vuong told the Guardian that while he did not post the post, he was “not too happy” with it.
The meme in question appeared in Vuong’s Facebook profile earlier this week, shared by him and seen by The Guardian. “Oh and just because this happens in Canberra, doesn’t mean it can’t happen anywhere,” the meme says.
“Spit who you need to spit,” it continued. The post, featured below, says the picture was taken in the NSW town of Lismore, the seat where Vuong is currently the Member for Dobell.
The post resurfaced as the Liberal party party was in the throes of continuing to rebel against the prime minister, Scott Morrison, following a chain of damaging reports about his failure to account for financial dealings in his time as the treasurer of Australia.
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Vuong told the Guardian that he shared the meme “as someone who wasn’t happy with how the minister’s been handled in the last few days”.
“It wasn’t, as I said, with any intention to portray a negative comment about his racial background or his race, or anyone in particular,” he said.
Vuong’s post is in stark contrast to his statements, made to Guardian Australia, during a previous press conference, that the situation would not affect his relationship with Indigenous people.
“I support them greatly. I’m not really sure what it would be like being adopted by the Ngunnawal people.”
Vuong, who is of Vietnamese descent, said he was already “traumatised” by the situation.
“I’m very anxious and feeling a lot of anxiety. It’s been very hard on me over the last couple of days … I will certainly not contest if there is any racist behaviour towards me.”
Vuong ran for the Liberal party as an independent candidate for Dobell in August and won. Morrison won Dobell in the 2016 election.
About a week ago, the Liberal party posted a statement about how it would be “improving our understanding of the issues around race”.
Vuong said the meme was posted by “someone in my office”.
He told Guardian Australia that he had been open with Indigenous leaders about the post. “We tried to discuss that.”