Frank Sartor made the comment while discussing an open letter written by Aboriginal Housing Company chief executive, Mick Mundine, about redevelopment plans for the Sydney suburb of Redfern on Koori Radio’s Blackchat programme.
“I’m glad he wrote this long letter, got him off his backside for a change,” Mr Sartor said.
“Get off your backside Mick and bring your black arse in here to talk to me about it.”
When Blackchat’s host questioned whether it was appropriate for a minister to use such language publicly, Mr Sartor was heard to reply: “Mick and I joke with each other all the time and I brought my white arse out there to talk to him so, let’s talk, that’s all I’m saying.”
The planning minister said he had immediately telephoned Mr Mundine and apologised, but the NSW opposition leader said that was not enough.
Peter Debnam said that “Labor ministers never resign” and demanded that Premier Morris Iemma take action and sack Mr Sartor.
Mr Debnam called the remarks “totally unacceptable” and said “they show the arrogance we’ve come to know from that minister for some time.”
His position has been backed by a leading Aboriginal councillor from the state’s north, Tony Dennison of the Moree Plains Shire Council.
But Mr Sartor responded saying he had been reprimanded by the NSW leader.
“I accept his advice and I’ll leave it at that,” Mr Sartor told reporters.
Late yesterday, Mr Sartor made a public apology to Mr Mundine at a press conference which was accepted by housing chief who said he had “been called worse.”
“It’s very improper for a minister to make comments like that. It’s amazing he said it on Koori radio,” Mr Mundine added.
But he would not be drawn on whether Mr Sartor should step down.
“If he thinks he’s made a bad mistake I think it’s up to him to resign.”
“I personally think that by ringing Mick immediately afterwards as I did, by apologising to him and he knows me, he knows what’s in my heart, I think that’s all I need to do,” Mr Sartor said.
At least one other indigenous leader, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association Ray Jackson, has sided with the minister saying he did not think the comment was racist.
“We say it amongst ourselves and it doesn’t carry the weight, but coming from a politician who should know better, of course it carries a bit more weight. But you know apologies have all been made and we should just let the matter lie.”