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Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Page: 3175

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (22:45): A couple of weeks ago it came to my attention that a man by the name of Keysar Trad was entertaining the notion of becoming a federal MP. He said he had had discussions with a friend in the Liberal Party but nothing eventuated. I say thank goodness for that, and you will understand why by the end of this speech.

What concerns me more is that it was reported that the Labor Party allegedly spent eight months in discussions with Mr Trad about his becoming a Labor candidate. After eight months I hope that the Labor Party have actually closed the door for good on Mr Trad being a Labor candidate. I hope they have closed the door, bolted it, locked it and thrown away the key. Of course, it is entirely up to the Labor Party whom they preselect to be one of their representatives; but the fact that Mr Trad said that the Labor Party talked with him for eight months says something about the culture within the ALP. I wonder if the ALP managed in eight months to find out what I did in about eight minutes—namely, that Mr Keysar Trad is wholly unsuitable to be a member of parliament or to be recognised by any other organisation as a community leader of any sort.

I know that these are very strong comments, and I bear no personal ill will towards Mr Trad, but if he wants to try to become a representative of the Australian people then we are completely entitled, and it is completely fair, that we examine his track record, his opinions and his views and that we establish his character. I do not need to make any substantial assessment of this myself. I only need to report the findings of the New South Wales Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.

In 2009, the New South Wales Supreme Court found that Mr Trad 'incites people to commit acts of violence', 'incites people to have racist attitudes' and is a 'dangerous and disgraceful individual'. This stemmed from a defamation case that Mr Trad brought against Harbour Radio. In 2011, the New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned this initial ruling after Mr Trad appealed. But, late last year, that same court overturned its 2011 ruling, dismissing Mr Trad's appeal and upholding the Supreme Court's ruling regarding the aforementioned circumstances. Mr Trad was also ordered to pay Harbour Radio's costs in the appeals court.

Let me take a moment of the Senate's time to detail the evidence that supported the courts' findings. The courts based their finding that Mr Trad incites people to commit acts of violence on the following evidence: Mr Trad's own website used to have a link to a website he touted as having 'very good articles concerning Islam and Muslims'. But the courts found that this website held 'significant anti-Semitic views'. The judge simply did not believe Mr Trad's claims that he did not know about the nature of this website. In terms of his saying that the site had 'very good articles', court documents reveal that Mr Trad 'agreed he had little choice but to concede that this was an endorsement of what was plainly a racist website.' When he was interviewed by a journalist, Mr Trad said words to the effect of, 'There are many Jews who question how many died in the Holocaust', which the judge saw as 'an attempt to diminish the significance of those events.' In the end, both courts deemed that this showed that Mr Keysar Trad incited violence against Jewish people.

Both courts also agreed that Mr Trad incited people to have racist attitudes, given their previous conclusion that he had incited people to commit acts of violence due to his support for sources that were anti-Semitic. Justice McClellan said in the 2009 findings that he was 'satisfied that the plaintiff does hold views which can properly be described as racist.' He continued, 'I am also satisfied that he encourages others to hold those views. In particular, he holds views derogatory of Jewish people.' I put it to you, Mr Deputy President: how could any party think that this was a person suited for a federal parliamentary career—someone with views like that, that could be discovered in eight minutes of Google searching? Yet this man was, by his own admission, courted by the ALP for eight months. Does Australia really want someone in parliament who has been found by two courts to incite violence and racism?

I only wish it stopped there, but that is not all. Mr Trad has also been found to be a 'disgraceful' individual by the New South Wales Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. His comments on a number of issues led the court to state:

Any form of incitement to violence of a kind reasonably described as antisocial would satisfy such a standard. So would incitement to racist attitudes and the statements relating to homosexuals and homosexuality and the trivialisation of rape …

Then there is the finding that Mr Trad is a 'dangerous individual'—surely not a glowing reference for any prospective parliamentarian. This was based on the following opinion of Mr Trad: When talking about the gang rape of young women in Sydney by a group of Lebanese men, in one interview Mr Trad chose to tell a joke and described these types of perpetrators as 'stupid young boys'. The court said that his comments about the issue 'demeaned the victims of the crime', 'did not condemn the perpetrators' and 'trivialised the responsibility of rapists.' And if that was not enough, Mr Trad did not condemn Sheikh Hilali's disgraceful comments about women being 'uncovered meat' in a speech about rape. Instead Mr Trad chose to defend that speech and the sheikh's comments.

Mr Trad failed to condemn the Sheikh's reference to 'the blessings of the 11th of September' and the Sheik's condoning of the use of boys as martyrs in the cause of radical Islam. The court said that this 'involved putting forward ideas which risk an unbalanced or fanatical person being encouraged, or encouraging others, to participate in such activities'. The courts were right to be concerned about the reach of Mr Trad's opinions, given that many of his abhorrent views were in the public domain. The appeal court concluded that 'there is support for the conclusion that the appellant was properly described as a "dangerous" individual, in circumstances where the views he expressed were capable of influencing others, were intended to influence others and would have a receptive audience in some, if limited, quarters'. It said 'these factors, combined with the respects in which he incited others to violence and racist attitudes, being a person with a public presence and influence in some quarters, fully support the characterisation of the appellant as a dangerous individual'.

I put it to the Senate and to the Australian people: how could any reasonable person or any reasonable political party consider endorsing a person that holds these views to become a member of the Australian parliament? How could a party, like the Labor Party, be in discussions with this man for eight months, as was reported by the media? Did they fail to do any research into his character during that time? I have to ask: how many sections of the media and the community endorse this man as a national spokesman for the Islamic community? It is just beyond all reasonable comprehension. Beyond the findings of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal—although those findings are damning enough, one would think there are many other instances of Mr Trad's questionable views.

Mr Trad has openly advocated for polygamy in Australia through the Sydney Morning Herald asking: why should polygamy be a crime? He is not shy at all about seeking changes to our laws and customs. He says:

Monogamy is great, but it is clearly not for everybody. Islam openly acknowledges this fact of human nature and stipulates a regulatory framework for plural relations.

Although he draws the line at polyandry; he is not too keen to permit a wife to take more than one husband. It begs the question: where are all the equality advocates in the Labor Party when it comes to that?

And Mr Trad's challenge to Australian law does not stop there. He has also publicly spoken about sharia law in Australia, arguing the 'yes' case for separate Islamic courts to deal with divorce. He wrote that in the Daily Telegraph. He also said that there is support for parts of sharia law that deal with marriage and inheritance without the penal aspects. Such calls run counter to the views of most Australians including legal commentators, former judges, former Labor ministers and even our own Prime Minister, who advocate one law for all. Again, I ask: what was the Labor Party thinking, reportedly engaging someone who has views completely at odds to their own views on something as important as our legal system?

Some of Mr Trad's views on terrorism may not sit well with many Australians either. In 2005, he wrote an article published in the Daily Telegraph that said 'Australians should be more concerned with the United States than radical Islam.' He said, 'Radical Islam, while an anathema to Islam itself, is made up of no more than a bunch of rag-tag Dad's Army types, fighting for their own survival.'

Justice McClellan took a slightly different view. He said:

To downplay radical Islam and suggest that it is no more than rag-tag Dad's Army types, fighting for their own survival would not be acceptable to the Australian community. The plaintiff was effectively suggesting that the United States of America presented a greater threat than radical Islam to the Australian people.

It is just extraordinary. Justice McClellan was spot on when he said:

This stance would, in my view, be entirely repugnant to the overwhelming majority of people in the Australian community.

And a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, Mr Trad was reported in the Weekend Australian as saying:

Osama bin Laden would have trouble teaching someone to drive a car ... how could a man living in a backward country mastermind the hijacking of several planes, with the whole operation going off like clockwork? ... I just don't want to believe Muslims were behind it.

These views were, again, unacceptable to the NSW Supreme Court judge who branded this an 'extraordinary statement' and said that the Australian community would not accept these views: The judge said:

Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for September 11. A suggestion that the terrorist act was not perpetrated by adherents to Islam would not be accepted by Australians whatever their ethnic origin or religious views.

And if Mr Trad is so concerned about good relations between various groups within Australia, why then does he write about 'the criminal dregs of white society' and call Indian people 'cow worshippers'? This hardly sounds like the views of someone that would represent the opinions of mainstream Australians. According to Mr Trad, the Labor Party were in pre-selection discussions with him for eight months. Yet these are the views he holds and he has had no problem spouting them off to any journalist who approaches him. For years he has been the media's go-to man on any number of matters.

He is described as a 'Sydney Muslim community leader' even after he left the employ of Sheikh Hilali and the Lebanese Muslim Association. Given the court's findings about Mr Trad's opinions, should not that be just a little alarming? What does this say about some parts of our media considering that this is the man that journalists have been going to for years, as an authoritative voice of the Australian Muslim community? It simply beggars belief. I cannot believe that Australian Muslims would be happy with having him as their spokesman. He truly has done a disservice to the Muslim community when you consider the findings that I have detailed here tonight.

I want to be very clear here. You cannot be an advocate for free speech without conceding that there are going to be people who hold objectionable views and views different from your own. Having a difference of opinion should not preclude people from being part of the parliamentary process. It should be open to all Australians. I want to put on the record and I want to be very clear that I absolutely disagree with Mr Trad's views that I have outlined tonight; but they are his words and they are the words of the judgements that have been read against him.

But what I find most galling is that the once-proud Labor Party reportedly entertained for eight months the idea of having this man as a candidate for political office. And for years the media have lauded him as a national spokesman on Islamic matters. Tonight I have sought to lay bare the words and opinions of someone who seeks to become an elected representative of the Australian people—although, by all accounts, Mr Trad is completely unconcerned about what party would take him into parliament.

But I think it is completely reasonable that anyone seeking such a position should have their public opinions examined. And it is now up to the Australian people and it is up to the political parties in this country to determine for themselves whether they would like someone of Mr Trad's character representing them in the Australian parliament.