Firstly, I want to congratulate Senator Brandis for the response that he gave to what was an outrageous stunt by Senator Hanson and One Nation. It wasn’t just Senator Hanson; it was all of One Nation who engaged in that stunt. I thought the response from Senator Brandis was excellent—and I don’t think I’ve ever congratulated Senator Brandis on anything since I’ve been in this place.
I just want to go to some of the issues that have been raised by Senator Hanson in the contribution that she has just made—a contribution underpinned by racism; a contribution underpinned by religious intolerance; a contribution, from my point of view, underpinned by just plain stupidity. This is not good for our nation. This is not good for Australia. Why would anyone have to gain the trust of Senator Pauline Hanson? I say to all the Muslims out there: you don’t need to gain the trust of Senator Pauline Hanson, because the bulk of Australians trust you. They trust you to make good, effective contributions to this country. You don’t need to prove anything to One Nation or to Senator Pauline Hanson.
I oppose this motion from One Nation. I’m not religious. I think most people know I’m not religious; I’m an atheist. But I do respect the Constitution, which says people should have the right to practise their religion, so I just find it absolutely mind-boggling that, for the second time this week, we have a contribution so terrible for multiculturalism in this country and so bad for a decent society in this country. It is a contribution that is about breaking apart a cohesive society and a country that is renowned around the world for its capacity to welcome people here and have them integrate effectively in a good society.
I am a migrant, as most people would be aware. I came here in 1973. I came here along with my wife, Elaine, and my then only daughter at that time, Lynn. We came here because we wanted to get away from religious intolerance. I was brought up a Presbyterian, and my wife was brought up a Catholic in the west of Scotland. In those days it was not considered by many to be a good thing that we married. You cannot have a cohesive society when religious intolerance is practised the way that Senator Pauline Hanson and One Nation are practising and promoting religious intolerance. It didn’t do the west of Scotland any good having that intolerance. Some of it is still there, but, thankfully, people are moving away from that sort of nonsense. There are lessons for us all when we look at religious intolerance around the world.
I think Senator Hanson is in here pushing this agenda for pure political purposes. She has a small base and she’s playing up to that base. Of stunts like today I want to say to any Muslims that are listening in and to all Australians that may be listening in that this Senate condemns that approach. That was overwhelming in the response led by Senator Brandis and supported by Senator Wong. Every other party and politician in this place was appalled at that stunt that was pulled today.
Talking about the influence of Muslims: I just looked up some of the young Muslim high achievers. They’re going to make huge contributions to this country. Every country wants high achievers so they can have growth in the economy, a good society and jobs for people. If you look at these young high achievers—and I’ve just picked one area from across Australia—of the Australian International Academy, a Melbourne senior campus, the dux of the school is Mohammed Habbal with a score of 97.6. What does Mohammed want to do? He wants to go to Monash University and study biomedical science. If that’s not a contribution to Australia, I don’t know what is. Asmaa Barakat, a young Muslim woman, wants to go to the University of Melbourne to study science. That, not the vile racism and nonsense we hear from Senator Hanson, is what contributes to this country.
Hussein Kaddour, with 94.6, wants to go to the University of Melbourne and study science. Other young people want to do biomedical science, engineering honours, applied science and psychology. I’ll tell you what: I welcome this contribution from young Muslims in this country. They are the future of this country as much as the future of this country depends on any religion or any individual. Muslims make their contribution. It’s a welcomed contribution. It is a significant contribution. And to come here and run a stunt like we’ve just seen belittles this place. I am so proud that Senator Brandis and the rest of the Senate just said, ‘We are not tolerating this.’
I want to go back to former senator Ron Boswell. Former Senator Boswell always maintained strong views about One Nation. I disagreed with former Senator Boswell on many, many issues, but he has written a recent opinion piece entitled ‘Why Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is catastrophic for the bush’. In it, he said:
It was the Aboriginals. Then the Asians. Then the Muslims. The story is always the same, it’s just the characters that change based on who’s most unpopular at the time. It’s good for winning a few votes but it’s a disaster for Australia and its relationships with its trading partners.
Ron Boswell was being pragmatic about this. Ron Boswell was clearly understanding the threat that One Nation posed to this nation, not the other way around. One Nation, according to former Senator Boswell, is the threat to the nation, not the Muslims who are in here becoming the scientists, the doctors, the GPs and the engineers of the future. It’s not them; it’s One Nation and the bitterness and political opportunism we see from them.
I know Senator Sinodinos is well respected, but he said that One Nation had evolved in the 16 years since his former boss, John Howard, decreed that the Liberal Party would always put One Nation last on their how-to-vote card. He said:
The One Nation of today is a very different beast to what it was 20 years ago—they are a lot more sophisticated, they have clearly resonated with a lot of people.
Our job is to treat them as any other party. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with their policies.
Senator Sinodinos, I said it to you today and I will say it again: if this is the evolution of One Nation, God help us—and I’m an atheist! I tell you, this is not a party that is evolving. I don’t think it is a different beast. I think it’s the same beast. It’s a beast that’s out there trying to create division in this community, and I just don’t accept his proposition. Senator Sinodinos was sitting here when we saw that stunt today. If that’s more sophistication from One Nation, we don’t want more sophistication like that. One Nation are anything but a sophisticated political party.
This argument that we are being ‘swamped by Muslims’ is just another racist rant from this so-called political party. Last week, Senator Hanson ran the rant that the Muslims were a drain on the public purse. I’ve got to tell you, these high-achieving young Muslims that want to be the doctors of the future, the engineers of the future and the scientists of the future are not a drain on the public purse. The Muslim families that I know are families that have got the same aspirations and the same goals I have, and that is to have their family with a roof over their head, to have a job in the future, to be able to put food on the table and to make a contribution to our society. Those are the Muslims I know. I just don’t understand why any political party would come here and try to divide our nation the way that Senator Hanson does now on a regular basis in this place.
She argued we were in danger of being swamped. Then she was on Facebook holding up a poster saying, ‘Pray for a Muslim ban.’ The election platform from One Nation includes ceasing Muslim migration and holding a royal commission on Islam. What is wrong with these people? What’s wrong with them? The election platform also includes installing surveillance cameras in mosques, banning the burqa and the niqab and prohibiting members of parliament being sworn in under the Koran. This is racist, this is religious intolerance and this is manifest stupidity from Senator Hanson and One Nation.
Senator Hanson and Senator Roberts share the stage with groups like Reclaim Australia and the Love Australia or Leave Party. The Love Australia or Leave Party’s platform includes the right to bear arms, national profiling of 10- to 14-year-olds, mandatory singing of the national anthem in all schools, a ban on Muslim migration and Muslims in the Australian military and a mandatory reporting obligation for all Australians who form a reasonable suspicion of unacceptable risk about another person. Does that remind you of something? Doesn’t that remind you of what happened in Nazi Germany? It certainly reminds me of the history of Nazi Germany. These are the people that One Nation are sharing platforms with, spewing their bile and racial intolerance day after day.
They also share the platform with the United Patriots Front. The leader, Shermon Burgess, who organised the Reclaim Australia rallies that Pauline Hanson spoke at, said:
I recruited a lot of patriots who come from backgrounds as body builders, ex-martial arts, one of our guys is an ex-cage fighter and we said we are going to get them on the front line.
Does that remind you of something that happened in the United States last week? It does with me. And that is not acceptable in this country. We cannot accept this white nationalism, this racism and these attacks on our fellow Australians, because Muslims are our fellow Australians. That’s what they are. They are not Muslims on their own and Catholics are not Catholics on their own. They are our fellow Australians. It doesn’t matter if you are Hindu; you are a fellow Australian.
Everyone that I know and speak to has the same views: they want their kids to be brought up in a secure, decent society. If I was a young Muslim listening to Senator Hanson, the United Patriots Front and these other racist groups, I would be concerned; I would not feel secure. This is not the Australia that I migrated to in 1973, wanting a better life for my kids and grandkids. I don’t want them to be worrying about some race riots or white Nazi supporters out there attacking young Muslims because of religion. I don’t want that to happen. Banning the burqa and running the rubbish that we’ve heard today are absolutely the antithesis of what sensible Australians want. They don’t want that. We don’t want to be turned into the worst aspects of the US or some of the countries in Europe that are running white-racist arguments. We don’t want to go down that path. We want to give to young Muslim Australians who are here excelling at school job opportunities for the future and a life for the future so that they can bring their kids to Australia and get ahead in this country. They are part of our community.
We are a multicultural migrant nation. We have welcomed people from all over the world. Muslims have been an important part of our migrant history. Muslim people are our neighbours, our friends and our colleagues. They are valued and they are great contributors to our society in all walks of life. It is in our culture, our tradition and our democratic political system that minorities are protected and not vilified. We are a secular nation with religious freedom and tolerance. Bigotry should be reviled, called out and named for what it is, whenever and wherever it is seen. Australia is better than One Nation.
This will probably be seen around the world. I want to say to anyone who sees this anywhere that that is not Australia. What we saw today in question time is not Australia. Australia is a great country. Australia is a multicultural country. Australia is a country that welcomes different religions and different ethnic groups to our country. They even accepted me!
Chamber Senate on 17/08/2017 Item MOTIONS – National Security Speaker: Cameron, Sen Doug Parliament of Australia Transcript used for news reporting