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The biggest political disgrace today wasn't Bronwyn Bishop.

This weekend, there were race riots in Australia.

This didn’t happen in the US. It didn’t happen in Israel or Palestine. It didn’t happen in Iraq, Syria, Sudan or West Africa. It happened in our cities and our towns.

And instead of condemning it, a member of the sitting Government attended one of these rallies – with the full knowledge of the PM.

Today, Coalition MP George Christensen spoke at one of these rallies in support of the group that calls itself “Reclaim Australia’. He wrote in the Guardian today that “Hell would freeze over” before anyone stopped him attending the rally.

Christensen says that he read the manifesto of Reclaim Australia and there was nothing in there that dissuaded him from attending the rally. He wrote in The Guardian, “I would not attend if this group had been expressing values such as: we are against Islam..”.

The fact that Reclaim Australia is anti-Islam is not a surprise to anyone but Christensen. On the front page of the Reclaim Australia website is a lament that Australians are now no longer free to criticise Islam, “yet We are not the terrorists. We are not the beheaders. We are not the bombers”. These are the words of a group “against Islam” in every meaningful respect. Even if Christensen is correct and Reclaim Australia as an organisation is not racist, there is no doubt that its rallies are racist. Extremely so. A quick look at the placards carried and the speeches made at the Reclaim Australia rallies this weekend make that very clear.

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Perhaps the most disturbing image is the placard that makes a reference to the Nazi code “1488” – which is a code used by Nazis to signify the 14 words of the phrase “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children” and the words ‘Heil Hitler’.

These rallies were racist. George Christensen MP attended one of them. Regardless of his intentions, he lent his support and his credibility to this rally. As a Parliamentarian and a member of the sitting Government, he gave these rallies legitimacy – a legitimacy and credibility that they should never have had.

This comes in the same fortnight that Tony Abbott ruled that no member of the Coalition could go on the ABC show, Q&A. It is clearly within the PM’s power to direct members of the Coalition to not attend an event. Whether you agree with the PM on this or not, Tony Abbott took a principled stand on Q&A: He didn’t like what happened on the show a few weeks ago, so he chose not to give the show the Government’s support.

Why then would the PM remain silent while an MP attends a racist rally?

Tony Abbott had an opportunity to show some leadership this weekend. To stand up as our nation’s leader to say: “This is not who we are as a country. Racism has no place here. No member of the sitting Government will attend these rallies because they are the opposite of what we stand for.”

It didn’t need to be public. A quiet call to Christensen’s electorate office or to the leader of the Nationals to say: Look, this isn’t on.

But he didn’t. And in doing so, he remained silent as racists – and even neo-Nazis – marched through Australian streets.

There is a lot of noise this weekend about Bronwyn Bishop and her extravagant travel expenses. While her “judgement lapses” are certainly a matter of public interest, hers is not the biggest breach of public trust that took place this weekend. When a sitting Government MP took the microphone to speak at a racist rally, it didn’t just reflect badly on him, it reflected on the Government and its leader.

Race riots happened in our country today – and our PM stayed silent. And that’s the real disgrace.

See more images from the rallies today here:

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