Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has landed himself in hot water, angering the Opposition along with the Lebanese community for suggesting Australians with Lebanese-Muslim backgrounds are responsible for Australia’s terrorism struggle.
Mr Dutton said in an interview with Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt that that former prime minister Malcolm Fraser should never have let people of Lebanese-Muslim heritage into Australia, using as evidence a small number of individuals who have been charged with terrorism offenses.
“The reality is that Malcolm Fraser did make mistakes in bringing some people in, in the 1970s and we’re seeing that today. We need to be honest in having that discussion,” he told Sky News.
During a fiery question time on Monday, after being pressed further by Labor on his statements, Mr Dutton defended his claims, saying: “The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second- and third-generation Lebanese-Muslim background.”
The Opposition and the Greens have reacted to Mr Dutton’s comments, with Labor MP Tony Burke describing them on ABC News Breakfast yesterday as “a bizarre, weird argument of radical profiling.”
“What’s his argument? His argument is Malcolm Fraser should not have allowed certain individuals into Australia based on their race and religion because of the grandchildren they would have?” he said.
Labor MP Chris Bowen also called out Mr Dutton’s comments, saying: “I look at all the Australians of Vietnamese, Cambodian or Lebanese heritage who’ve started businesses, grown their businesses, invested in their children’s education and who’ve made an enormous contribution to Australia.”
Greens leader Richard Di Natale also made a tongue-in-cheek contribution on twitter:
— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) November 21, 2016
However, Mr Dutton claims his intention was not to allow entire communities “to be defined by those people who are doing the wrong thing”.
He also said his primary concern is for the safety of Australians.
“I am going to call out those people who are doing the wrong thing. And if we pretend otherwise, Mr Speaker, my judgement is that we only compound these problems.
“I want a safe country. And I’m going to do everything that I can, Mr Speaker, in this portfolio, to stare these threats down. I’m not interested in the politically correct nonsense the leader of the Opposition might carry on with,” Mr Dutton said.
The Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) has issued a statement condemning the minister’s view:
“Mr Dutton’s comments are baseless, unfounded and uninformed,” said LMA president Samier Dandan.
“The Australian Lebanese community is not political fodder. Mr Dutton is accountable for his divisive rhetoric and we would remind him that he and his Government’s responsibility is to preserve our successful multicultural country.”
There have been several calls, including an online petition, made for the Immigration Minster’s resignation over the issue.
Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim said, “To link second- and third-generation Australians to terrorists is just a step too far, and he’s just gotta go.”
What do you think of Mr Dutton’s comments? Were they a step too far?