Australia’s prime minister has apologised after telling an audience he is “blessed” not to have any disabled children.
Speaking at a debate ahead of the country’s election, Scott Morrison took a question from an audience member asking about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Mr Morrison first asked undecided voter Catherine what her son's name was, to which she replied Ethan.
“Jenny and I have been blessed, we've got two children that don't – that haven't had to go through that,” he said.
“And so, for parents with children who are disabled, I can only try and understand your aspirations for those children.
“And then I think that is the beauty of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”
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Mr Morrison has been widely criticised for his comments, which one senator from the main opposition party, Labor, described as “offending and quite shocking".
On Thursday, Australian media reported the prime minister apologised, saying he accepts “it has caused offence to people.”
“I think people would also appreciate that I would have had no such intention of suggesting anything other than [that] every child is a blessing,” he said.
“But I can appreciate particularly that some of the ways it was communicated, and the way it was sought to be represented by our political opponents in the middle of an election, that it could have been taken in different context and I'm deeply sorry about that.”
Grace Tame, who was once named as Australian of the Year and has autism, also took issue with the prime minister’s comments.
Alongside a picture of herself with Mr Morrison, she wrote on Twitter: “Autism blesses those of us who have it with the ability to spot fakes from a mile off.”
Paralympian and current Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott, also joined the criticism on social media.
He tweeted: “Woke up this morning feeling very blessed to be disabled – I reckon my parents are pretty happy about it too.
“Feeling sorry for us and our families doesn’t help. Treating us equally, and giving us the choice and control over our own lives does.”