Prime Minister Scott Morrison has complained that the stories from 2011 stating that he, in a shadow cabinet meeting in 2010, suggested that the community’s fear of Muslims be used as a political tool, were lies and smears. There was apparently no outrage from Morrison at the time the stories were published; they only seem to have raised his ire when Waleed Aly mentioned the story in an editorial soon after the Christchurch atrocity.
Under a great deal of pressure to actually do something, Morrison agreed to front Waleed Aly on the latter’s television show The Project in a one-to-one interview. During this show, Morrison changed his story, and said that he did raise the community fear of Muslims in the shadow cabinet meeting, but only to address rather than exploit those fears. If this is so, then why has he constantly reinforce the fear of Muslims within the community? There are numerous examples, some of which are given below.
Operation Sovereign Borders was instituted under the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott, while Scott Morrison was Immigration Minister. It was a thinly veiled dog whistle of a policy aimed at stopping asylum-seekers who predominantly come from Islamic countries, some of which we and others have bombed or invaded over the last two decades (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan). While it was all about ‘stopping the boats’ it hasn’t done so as much as Morrison hoped it would. Mostly it was about stopping the flow of information and incarcerating asylum-seekers in perpetuity on Manus and Nauru4. Of those so incarcerated, there have been twelve asylum-seekers and assessed refugees who have died in offshore detention. All except one were Muslim5.
In 2013, while Immigration Minister, Morrison issued a directive that asylum-seekers who arrive by boat were to be referred to as illegals. To do so suggests that asylum-seekers have broken some law, which they have not. Article 31 of the Refugee Convention – the very provision on which the government bases its use of the word ”illegal” – says that actions that would otherwise be illegal, such as entering without a visa, must not be treated as illegal if a person is seeking asylum. This is because the drafters of the Refugee Convention recognised that the very nature of refugee flight may mean that people arrive without travel documents. Everyone has a right under international law to seek asylum from persecution and other serious human rights violations. Indeed, even the international treaties on human trafficking and smuggling stress the fact an asylum seeker is trafficked or smuggled must not affect their right to claim asylum and receive protection6. Morrison knows that the majority of asylum-seekers are Muslim, as does the rest of the nation. This is not addressing the fear of Muslims in the community.
Again in 2013, Morrison asked the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to slow down security checks on asylum-seekers applying for refugee status, so they would miss a deadline for allowing permanent residency in Australia7. This demonstrated an utter disregard for the law because, as the minister, he was legally obliged to decide applications within 90 days, but delayed them for between 3 and 5 years8. As most asylum-seekers are Muslim, this is clearly predominantly directed at them.
In 2015, When Social Services Minister, Morrison supported Senator Eric Abetz in stating that Christians would be the focus of the 12,000 humanitarian intake of refugees from Syria, despite then Prime Minister Tony Abbott attempting to assure the nation that all persecuted minorities would be considered for resettlement. The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, took issue with this prioritisation, saying it was discriminatory. He argued that they should prioritise “human beings rather than prioritising a certain religion”9. This again is hardly something designed to address the community’s fear of Muslims.
When Treasurer, Morrison declined to criticise Trump’s travel ban from seven Muslim-majority nations, he added that the world was “catching up” with Australia’s deterrence policies10. While the Labor Party stated it was important to have non-discriminatory policies, One Notion was as one with Morrison. Agreeing with One Notion is not going to address the community’s fear of Muslims.
In 2018, Morrison said the Muslim community in Australia should be more ‘proactive’ in tackling the threat of terror attacks because “in many cases” the imams and community leaders will know who is infiltrating and radicalising members of their flock. This is thinly veiled statement of ‘you are to blame because you won’t help us’. He also identified the “vile presence” of radical Islam as the cause of the Shire Ali attack in Bourke Street in Melbourne in which one person (other than the perpetrator) was killed. At the same time he dismissed the fact that Shire Ali had mental health problems as just a “lame excuse”11. ASIO has acknowledged that the Muslim community is one of their best sources for information on radicalisation12. At about the same time Morrison decalred that “radical, violent extremist Islam” is the greatest religious extremist threat in Australia13. This is hardly trying to “address” fear in the community. Indeed, these comments were so counterproductive that Muslim community leaders boycotted Morrison’s proposed roundtable meeting on terrorism14.
In a farcical attempt to help get the Liberal candidate over the line in the Wentworth by-election, Morrison suggested that the Australian embassy in Israel should be moved to Jerusalem15. This effectively aligned Australia with the Trump idiocy and the murderous Israeli regime, and it followed close on the heels of the mind-boggling stupidity of the government voting for a Ku Klux Klan inspired ‘It’s OK to be white’ motion moved in the senate by Pauline Hanson15. While this may have had little effect on the knuckle-draggers who vote for One Notion, it would have had a significant effect on the insecurity felt by anyone vaguely brown or Muslim, or both.
Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, called for an end to dog-whistling about immigration and asylum-seekers, and for the major parties to stop “the crazy extremists from getting oxygen, both by our commentary and by our preferences at the next election”. Shorten has said Labor would put Pauline Hanson or Fraser Anning last on all its ‘how to vote’ cards. Given that the Coalition depends on One Notion preferences in numerous seats in Queensland, Morrison would be unlikely to even consider such a move. Indeed, when asked repeatedly about it this week, he lied by omission in saying that the Coalition wouldn’t do any deals with One Notion16. So, it is clear that Morrison is quite accepting of hate speech, if it garners him votes. This was clear all the way back in late 2010 at the infamous shadow cabinet meeting where he was reported to have said the Coalition should exploit fear of Muslims in the community for political advantage17. If Morrison did want to address the fear of Muslims in the community, then he was singularly unsuccessful. Up until recently, one of the parliamentarians most effective at working against addressing these fears was Morrison himself. If you believe he really did want to address this fear in the community, rather than exploit it, contact me. I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. It’s in Sydney, and it’s going cheap.