Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologized for saying earlier this week that there was “no slavery” in Australia, after his comments provoked outrage and accusations that he was ignoring the country’s history of forced labor.

Speaking at a news conference in Canberra Friday, Morrison said he was referring specifically to the fact that the first Australian colony of New South Wales was set up without the widespread use of slave labor.

“My comments were not intended to give offense, and if they did, I deeply regret that and apologize for that,” he said, adding that he was a passionate advocate for the rights of Indigenous Australians.

“I was simply trying to make point that Australia, yes, we have had issues in our history, we have acknowledged them, I have acknowledged them, and we need to address them.”

Morrison originally made the remarks during a radio interview on Thursday, in which he was discussing the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and around the world, and calls to remove statues of British explorer James Cook, whose arrival in Australia paved the way for the first European colony.

“My forefathers and foremothers were on the First and Second Fleets (of convict settlers). It was a pretty brutal place, but there was no slavery in Australia,” Morrison said in the interview Thursday.