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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7021

Mustafa, Mr Taji


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Can the minister explain why, despite warnings from the opposition, the government decided to issue a visa to Mr Taji Mustafa, the United Kingdom leader of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir which has called—among other things—for the military destruction of Israel and condoned the killing of Australian troops in Afghanistan?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:00): I am just seeking a brief on that, Senator. I do not have a brief other than what I have read in the press. Sorry, Mr President—someone has a brief to assist the Senator. I understand that this gentleman has visited Australia before—

Senator Bob Carr: 2007.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: In 2007, under the previous government. I also understand that Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been proscribed as a terrorist organisation in Australia and is not proscribed in the United Kingdom or the USA. In 2007, the then Attorney General, Phillip Ruddock, said that this organisation has not done anything to warrant its banning in Australia. Obviously the government condemns any violence or exhortation to violence or extremism, and we are all particularly disturbed by the nature of the protests in Sydney the other day.

Can I also say, though, that all visa applicants in Australia must be assessed against the character requirements and public interest criteria of the Migration Act. Australia, as you know, has strong laws against urging violence and inciting terrorism, and any accusation of such behaviour will be investigated accordingly and taken into account. Anyone found guilty of inciting a terrorism offence can face up to 10 years imprisonment. But as I understand it this person has been considered before, and currently the organisation is not proscribed by the United Kingdom or the United States.




Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:02): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I am aware that the organisation has not been proscribed; but is the minister not aware that Mr Taji Mustafa has in recent years—since 2007—been responsible for the exhortation of the very violence the minister condemns? Given that the grounds exist under the Migration Act for the refusal or cancellation of a visa on the basis that a person's presence is not in the national interest, how does the government justify the presence of this man in Australia now?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:03): I understand the interest in this issue. As I said, this is an organisation where the previous government made the decision that they ought not be a proscribed organisation—

Senator Brandis: I asked about the man!

Senator CHRIS EVANS: I accept that. The Howard government, at the time, made the point that it is a thin line between stupid, extravagant language and language which is deliberately designed to incite violence or to threaten the security of the country. It is a fine line; it is a judgement call. But in terms of the immigration department's consideration of the particular gentleman and the consideration that went into his application for a visa, I am happy to take that on notice and seek advice from the immigration minister as to what consideration was given to that application.




Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. In light of the disgraceful riots in Sydney at the weekend—incited by those who share with Taji Mustafa a view of exhortation to violence—does the government now regret its decision to issue a visa to this man? Will the visa now be rescinded?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:04): I will seek some advice on notice from the immigration minister and report back to the Senate about this particular individual, as I think I made clear in my first response. The government, all sides of this chamber and, I think, the great majority of Australians were appalled by the violence at the protest in Sydney. We all agree there is no place for that in Australian society. Some of the images, particularly of the young girl holding up that placard, were deeply disturbing and certainly not something we would want to see in Australia. But as to the individual and his contribution to any of this, I am happy to take that on notice and get some advice for the Senate.