Interview on The Project

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: New Zealand terrorist attack; Fraser Anning.
18 March 2019

Lisa Wilkinson: And he joins us now. Senator I understand the government is preparing to censure Fraser Anning, but is anyone in your own party reflecting on your own language over recent times?

Simon Birmingham: Well I would hope that an event as tragic and profound as what occurred last Friday causes every single leader, and everyone across the country to pause and reflect on the way we conduct ourselves, and to make sure that we conduct the debates we have, in a way that is informed, that is polite, but is absolutely respectful of the diversity across our country. I think the condemnation that we've seen of Fraser Anning's approach has been swift, has been widespread, and is thoroughly deserved. We all condemn indeed, what he said, what he stands for, and the fact that he remains unrepentant, I just hope and trust that the voters of Queensland thoroughly and emphatically reject him when they get their chance in a couple of months time.

Waleed Aly: That's a fair description, but it's also easy to condemn him because he's not politically meaningful to either of the major sides of politics. I just wonder having you heard Peter Dutton there for example comparing Naim Farooqui who happens to be a Muslim senator, saying that she's almost just as bad as Fraser Anning because she's on the extreme left, that sort of thing. It just sort of makes me wonder, whether or not people genuinely are taking stock. When you're speaking to your colleagues, do you get the sense that there is a widespread preparedness to draw a line in the sand here and turn over a new leaf?

Simon Birmingham: I have people firmly recognise the fact that we're in an environment where we have to reach out and embrace all Australians, to tell everybody whatever their background, whatever their faith, and the diversity they have, that they are part of Australia. And the only people who are not part of our society, who are not welcome in our society, are those who seek to destroy it, are those who seek to tear it down, and those who seek to divide us. Now, we of course will continue to have policy differences, political differences. Those differences are real, and of course that is why we have a democracy, we have divisions across our political parties, and even within our political parties, and that's about having healthy debate on the issues and the policy responses to those issues. But, we should well and truly stand as one in language, in attitude and approach, recognising that we celebrate and embrace all of the diversity of this country, and how it is we can ensure that our dialogue and our approach to one another is as respectful as possible.

Steve Price: So, if you picked up the phone to talk to Scott Morrison and said to him that we need to talk to members of our own party, and explain to them that they can't keep speaking like that?

Simon Birmingham: I would urge every single person to have a read of Scott Morrison's speech...

Steve Price: Have you picked up the phone and asked him to do it?

Simon Birmingham: Scott Morrison and I spoke this morning, as we do on a frequent basis about indeed how everybody responds to this issue. And I would urge everybody to take a look at the speech that he gave today, where he urged people not to go back into a sense of tribalism, when he acknowledged and celebrated the diversity of this country. The messages in that speech that Scott Morrison gave today were profound, were the type of leadership our nation needs at present, and I would urge everybody, whatever their political persuasion to heed those messages. Not to change their mind on the policy debates, we'll keep having those, but to make sure the way they conduct themselves, and the way they think about their fellow Australians, is positive, is embracing.

Lisa Wilkinson: Well with an election just weeks away from being announced, the proof will definitely be in the pudding. Senator we'll have to leave it there. Thanks very much.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you.

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