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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14167


Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsDeputy Manager of Opposition Business) (21:19): There has been a welcome change of tone in our national conversation about terrorism and national security since the new Prime Minister deposed the member for Warringah. Gone is the worst of the member for Warringah's needless chest beating, his divisive language and his lecturing of Australian Muslims and declared lack of trust in them. It was divisive language which made us less safe. None of it was helpful, none of it contributed to our fight against terror and none of it helped make this a more cohesive, more resilient community. That is why the change in language matters—and it is a positive change. As the Prime Minister said the other day in this place:

This is not a time for gestures or machismo. Calm, clinical, professional, effective—that is how we defeat this menace.

But it seems that some members of the coalition parties cannot abide this positive development. They want to undermine their own Prime Minister on national security, the most important responsibility of any government. A number of coalition figures broke ranks this morning. Australians awoke to read in the Herald Sun some quite incredible contributions from, among others, the members for Canning, Deakin, Hughes and Dawson. The member for Canning appeared on page 1, depicted in this country's military uniform next to a headline screaming: 'Islam must change.' The member for Canning said:

Modern Islam needs to cohere with the Australian way of life, our values and institutions.

He went on to demand that the religion be 'reformed'. This is divisive. It gives licence to those who would stir up unrest in our multicultural, tolerant society. It is completely unhelpful in the fight against terror, a fight in which Muslim Australians play a very great part. What arrogance from the member for Canning to lecture hundreds of thousands of Muslim Australians about their faith. What hypocrisy from a politician who has, quite rightly, insisted that his private faith had little to do with his contribution to public life.

Incredibly, his colleague the member for Deakin weighed in with a theological opinion, suggesting that Islam needed a kind of 'reformation', an extraordinary thing for a political leader to say about a religion followed by many of his fellow Australians, and a strange suggestion, too, given the centuries of sectarian blood-letting which attended Christianity's Reformation.

The many hundreds of thousands of Australians who practise Islam deserve better than this from those who are meant to be representing them in this place. The Australian Muslim community has a long and proud history stretching back into the middle of last century, certainly well before the arrival of many millions of migrants of Christian faith, for example.

Perhaps these conservative members should actually go out into their electorates and speak with their Muslim constituents rather than lecture them from the front pages of the tabloids. Maybe they would learn something. Maybe they would hear about the hard work Muslim communities do—work that has been praised by our police and our security agencies—to combat violent, extremist ideologies which threaten their young people. Maybe they would come to understand what it feels like to have your faith and your community questioned by political leaders who ought to know better—to fear the hatred that this might stir up against you.

The Prime Minister had it right the other day when he said:

Strategically, ISIL wants to create division by fomenting resentment between Muslims and non-Muslim populations.

While he is out of the country, it seems that members of his own party are set on doing just that: irresponsibly stirring up division and distrust between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians. We should not tolerate it. The Prime Minister's welcome change of rhetoric will prove very hollow indeed if it is defied by members of his own party. It is time they were pulled into line.