NSW Labor leader Michael Daley's comments on skilled Asian migrants taking local jobs have been widely condemned but the premier held back from criticising the racial element of his remarks.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian instead focused on Mr Daley's "rank hypocrisy" after a video emerged of him telling a Blue Mountains pub forum in September that highly-skilled Asian migrants were forcing Australian-born workers to "flee" Sydney.
"Our young children will flee and who are they being replaced with? They are being replaced by young people from typically Asia with PhDs," he said.
"So there's a transformation happening in Sydney now where our kids are moving out and foreigners are moving in and taking their jobs."
Two months later, he held a press conference in Parliament House exclusively for Chinese media in which he reportedly said the Chinese have "a great sense of energy, enetrepreneurship, great business people ... you've lifted the spirit of this nation."
Ms Berejiklian highlighted the contradictions in Mr Daley's comments.
"What the issue is at hand today is the two-faced hypocrisy of the leader of the opposition, that's the issue," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.
Pushed on whether she was offended by the racial nature of the comments, Ms Berejiklian said: "Of course there are offensive elements to what he said, no doubt about that, but what rankles with me the most is his hypocrisy."
She argued: "He thinks he can say one thing to one group of people, and another thing to another group."
Ms Berejiklian in May 2018 slammed then-Labor leader Luke Foley for his comments on "white flight" when he suggested Anglo families were leaving parts of Sydney.
The premier called Mr Foley's comments "deeply divisive, dangerous and nasty", adding that he'd "crossed the line".
Ms Berejiklian in October then called for a "breather" on immigration into NSW because rates had gone "through the roof".
Mr Daley issued a qualified apology on Tuesday.
The opposition leader insisted he'd been discussing housing affordability and a desire to ensure "all of our children" could continue to live in Sydney.
"I have conceded that my language could have been better, I've readily acknowledged that and if anyone has taken offence to what I've said, I do apologise," he told reporters.
Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten said Mr Daley's comments were poorly worded.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet also accused the state opposition leader of hypocrisy.
"He's trying to be Pauline Hanson in the Blue Mountains and (Greens Senator) Sarah Hanson-Young in the city," the Liberal minister told reporters.
But Mr Perrottet went a step further than Ms Berejiklian by condemning the racial focus of Mr Daley's remarks.
"It is completely wrong and irresponsible to single out a race and say that people are fleeing Sydney as a result," the treasurer said.
Former race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane agrees.
"Those remarks (by Mr Daley) are disappointing," Dr Soutphommasane told ABC TV.
"Many people would have interpreted them as involving an appeal to racism. You can have a debate about congestion or housing affordability or quality of life without singling out racial groups."
Australian Associated Press