The wounding of a U.S. congresswoman in a shooting rampage that left six dead was raised by Australia's deputy prime minister on Wednesday as he urged his political enemies to tone down their "dangerous" rhetoric in a bitter public debate over a proposed new tax on polluters.
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan accused opposition lawmakers of inciting the public in their campaign against a proposed tax on carbon gas pollution by comparing senior government ministers "to terrorists and murderous dictators."
Ministers have been compared this week to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and former Iraq Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, who became infamous during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 for hurling anti-American insults and outlandish claims of Iraqi military victories over the coalition.
Swan referred to the U.S. debate about whether the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, in January was a consequence of the bitter political climate in the United States.
"I don't want us to go down that same road," Swan told reporters.
Political assassinations are relatively rare in Australia, although lawmakers' verbal assaults can be vicious and abusive.
Greens party leader Sen. Bob Brown and independent lawmaker Tony Windsor, both supporters of the carbon tax, revealed Wednesday that they had received death threats since the center-left Labor Party government outlined its tax policy last week. The government needs their support to make the tax law.
Swan took a swipe at opposition accusations that Prime Minister Julia Gillard was more deluded than Gadhafi.
"The sort of images that they are using are outrageous and I think they are dangerous for our country," Swan said. "They incite people in the way in which they are spoken."
Gillard told Parliament that comparisons between her and Gadhafi were "highly inappropriate."
Opposition leader Tony Abbott said he had asked his colleagues to argue their case against the tax "in suitable terms," but could not prevent community anger.
The government is proposing that industrial polluters pay a tax from July next year for every ton of carbon that they emit in a bid to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.