Senator Abetz may not be racist, just ignorant over slur

FORMER Federal Minister Eric Abetz is under pressure after he dropped a racial slur on radio this week.

Senator Jacqui Lambie is questioning her Tasmanian colleague's integrity for using  "negro" to describe African-American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas while he was defending his opposition to gay marriage on Thursday.

Ms Lambie says Mr Abetz is "not coping" well with his demotion from the frontbench after Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott from the prime ministership.

She warned Mr Turnbull to keep his eye on the former employment minister.
"If I were Malcolm Turnbull I'd be keeping a very close eye on him because he's becoming erratic," she told Fairfax on Friday.
"Whatever integrity he's got left, he probably should get out now."

ALP multicultural spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said it "extra-ordinary" that Mr Abetz dropped the racist bomb.

I find it extraordinary that it has been used by someone who was …. the leader of the government in the senate," she said.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said there was no need for politicians to use offensive terms, even if they did not mean to cause offence.

"Sometimes racism is the product of ignorance and isn't necessarily motivated by hatred," he said.