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Prime Minister discusses ASIO raids; and Bali.



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www.pm.gov.au

8 November 2002

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP INTERVIEW WITH FATEN DANA, RADIO 2MSM SYDNEY

Subjects: ASIO raids; Bali.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………………...

DANA:

Mr Howard, welcome to the program.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s very nice to be with you.

DANA:

Thank you. Mr Howard, it came clear in your speeches that the Muslims in this country are against acts of terrorism and are to be looked at as good Australian citizens. We appreciate your support very much. And while we understand the importance of maintaining security in our country, the manner in which the recent raids were conducted may have been alarming to members of Islamic communities. Prime Minister, what words of assurance would you like to address the listeners with?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the way in which the raids were carried out is no different from the way in which raids of that kind have been carried out in the past involving other people not being Muslims. They are not directed against Muslims. They are not designed to be against Indonesians. There are 230,000 Australian Muslims and the number of people involved in these raids is fewer than 20 at this stage. It is therefore quite wrong and without any substance for anybody to suggest these raids are designed to intimidate Muslim Australia. The raids have been undertaken because of information that has come to the attention of the security authorities and they have been carried out under a warrant issued by the Attorney-General for proper legal reasons. It cannot for a moment be suggested that these raids are directed against Islamic Australians, the overwhelming majority of whom are as horrified as I am about what happened in Bali.

PRIME MINISTER

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DANA:

Prime Minister these raids coupled with racist comments by some radio and newspaper commentators which continue to link Islam to terrorism seem to have prompted attacks on Islamic centres as well as individual members of the Muslim community. We feel that the media should be more responsible with their coverage of these matters. What do you think Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well can I say in defence of the media on this occasion, and I don’t normally defend the media, but I haven’t seen widespread evidence. I’ve seen very few examples of where the media has linked all Muslims with terrorism. In fact many sections of the media have gone out of their way to write sympathetically of Muslim Australians. I don’t hear people with any authority - you might have the odd ratbag, and you know what we all mean by that, around the place saying silly things - but I haven’t heard any serious media commentator suggest that all Muslims are terrorists or even most Muslims are terrorists. In fact I’ve heard the press say very regularly that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are very good Australian citizens, which they are. So I just don’t believe that the question you put to me is a fair reporting or is a fair representation of what people have been saying.

DANA:

While we condemn the atrocities of Bali, it’s unfortunate that some members of our Australian community are still resorting to inappropriate behaviour to relieve their anger, forgetting that we are Australians also. Attacks on or criticism of moderate law-abiding Muslims cannot help the situation, can it Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I condemn any discrimination against anybody on the ground of their race or religion. That’s my position. I condemn it.

DANA:

Prime Minister, from us here at the Muslim Community Radio and on behalf of the Muslim community, I would like to extend our appreciation for taking time to speak to us in a bid to comfort the Muslims in this difficult time we are as Australians are going through. And we would like to ask the public to support you and your Government in keeping peace in Australia because we are known to be a peaceful country.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well can I just say in response to that, that the Muslim community of Australia should accept from me as Prime Minister that the overwhelming majority of Australian citizens see Islamic Australians as being good citizens, as being part of our community. We want all Australians to put their loyalty to this country first above all other loyalties. We respect people’s religious differences, we respect the right of people to practise their religion without intimidation or interference or harassment, and we in fact respect the right of people to have no religious

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belief at all. We are a free, open country when it comes to religious belief. We are all horrified about what happened in Bali and all of us must work together to keep Australia a very peaceful and tolerant country. And we must also accept that this country must take whatever measures are necessary - all of us must accept this - that whatever measures are necessary to keep terrorism off our own soil.

DANA:

Prime Minister let’s hope that terrorism never ever comes to Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]