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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14006

Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (10:56): Australians watched with horror as 130 people were murdered in Paris last month by sadistic criminals driven by perverted delusions. It was a tragedy, yes, but it was also an atrocity—a deliberate act of barbarity and cruelty. We know all too well that we are not immune from this kind of barbarity in Australia.

In light of this, this motion calls for:

… continued action in countering violent extremism and in particular, radical Islam within Australia in order to prevent further acts of terrorism within our borders.

This is welcome and timely, yet, today, Australians woke up to a front-page article featuring a picture of an Australian MP in the uniform of his former life as a member of the ADF under the headline 'Islam must change'. The member for Canning is quoted in this article as saying:

Modern Islam needs to cohere with the Australian way of life, our values and institutions. In so far as it doesn't, it needs reform.

He wants an 'honest debate' about the links between Islam and extremism.

The mover of the motion, the member for Dawson, is also quoted in the article as saying:

It's got everything to do with Islam. The terrorists say as they are doing it that it is in the name of Allah.

A number of other coalition MPs and ministers are quoted in this article. Articles like this are utterly counterproductive to the effort to counter violent extremism in Australia.

The mover of this motion, and others like him, praise the work being done by Australia's excellent and dedicated police forces in combating violent extremism but they do not listen to what our police forces are saying. They are unanimous in their recommendations: the best way to curb religious extremism is through cohesive communities.

Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana, the leader of Victoria Police's anti-terrorism response, has previously emphasised how reliant we are on information about radicalisation from the Muslim community and how anti-Islamic sentiment makes their job of talking to communities and countering radicalisation harder. He said:

Any sort of groups like that—

like Reclaim Australia, which the member for Dawson has been associated with, and the anti-halal movement—

whatever their intentions are, can create tension and intolerance, and that intolerance can lead to racism, and it can further marginalise young people … it's inappropriate … People really need to think about what cause they're going in for.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin echoed these comments recently, noting:

Both my organisation, Duncan's organisation (ASIO) and state and territory police around the country work very hard to make sure there isn't misrepresentations of those actions by police. Words matter, as does narrative and we work very hard … to make sure the community understand that we are trying to work with them and that we need their cooperation.

There are almost 500,000 Muslims in Australia and a bare handful of perverted fanatics in this country who would seek to hijack this religion to commit criminal acts in its name. The problem here is not a religious text; it is how individuals interpret it. The more we marginalise and vilify the Muslim community in Australia, the harder our job will be to tackle the real problem: the vanishingly small number of perverts who use the text as a justification for barbarity.

Modern Islam is not the fevered dream of bigotry and paranoia that is inside the minds of some conservative MPs; it is the individual life choice of half a million Australians. What is it about the way that Ahmed Fahour, Bachar Houli, Waleed Aly, Fawad Ahmed, Captain Mona Shindy, Usman Khawaja, Ed Husic, Nazeem Hussain and Aamer Rahman live their lives that is a problem for these people? There are 99 per cent of this community who are not choosing terrorism, child marriages or female genital mutilation. Those who do ought to face the full force of the law, but the rest, who do not, should not be tarred with the brush of religious bigotry.

If those opposite believe that 'modern Islam' is the problem, and they want an honest debate, I challenge them to be specific. If Islam is the problem, when was the last time they visited a mosque in their community, and what was it that they heard or saw there that threatened our society? Do they want a religious test in our migration program? What do they propose to do about the largest Islamic nation in the world on our northern border? The Prime Minister ought to show some leadership on this important national security issue and call his ministers and his party room members into line with the strategy of our police forces for dealing with this threat. That is the policy—

Mr Christensen: You are an appeaser!

Mr WATTS: I take the interjection from the member for Dawson that I am an appeaser. I am advocating the policy being pursued by the Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird; by the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews; by Steve Fontana, the Victorian police assistant commissioner in charge of counter-terrorism; by Andrew Colvin, the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police—

Mr Christensen: You are an appeaser of radical Islam!

Mr WATTS: I take these interjections. I would like them in Hansard because, while the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is advocating a bipartisan approach to this issue, an approach of cohesion in our society, this approach is being utterly disregarded by his backbench. These people need to get in touch with what we are trying to do in this nation. It is an important national security issue that is being hijacked by irresponsible, ignorant members of a minority group within the coalition. It is about time it stopped. (Time expired)