TRANSCRIPT: TV INTERVIEW - ABC NEWS BREAKFAST SATURDAY, 16 MARCH 2019
TONY BURKE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR WATSON
ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
SATURDAY, 16 MARCH 2019
JOURNALIST: Tony Burke is the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Australia. Thanks for coming in. You were there last night (Lakemba Mosque). How is the community there coping?
TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA: So many emotions at once, people are shaken, they're grieving, and me included people are angry, and there's also, out of all, a sense of resolve that we need that solidarity together and we need to bring people together and not simply deal with the atrocity of the terrorist act that has occurred, but with the growth in hate speech and bigotry that's been happening. We can't say every example of bigotry leads to this, but there's no doubt where the man responsible started, was hanging around in hate speech group after hate speech group online.
JOURNALIST: A lot of people have focused today on a tweet by Senator Fraser Anning yesterday, which fairly tasteless said, "Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?" A lot of people don't realise he was responding to a tweet that you tweeted a couple of hours earlier saying, “Does anyone still dispute the link between hate speech and violence?” Why did you tweet that?
BURKE: There's been in Australia an attempt from many people to normalise hate speech. We get told, "Oh, it's just freedom of speech." If you're not the target of the abuse, then you can regard it as freedom of speech. But when you're being told that you're somehow less Australian, when you’re being told that you're somehow not worthy, when you're described as a disease, it's not simply an exercise of the freedom of speech, it is brutal. And that brutality and the normalisation of those sorts of views, attempts by some networks as well to normalise those views, is not the whole story of what's happened, but there is no doubt it is part of it. What happened yesterday was a terrorist act and we need to deal with it with all the severity that we would with any terrorist act. Wherever there are groups that have promoted other forms of terrorism, we have used the full force of both public sanction and the law against them. This needs to be no different.
JOURNALIST: When you say some other networks are promoting those kinds of views and hate speech, I assume you're referring to some cable news pundits, who might put forward views about the incompatibility, for example of the Muslim community into multicultural western liberal democracies and so on. Couldn’t a case be made, what would you say to Australian’s who say, look violence is always absolutely wrong, but as Senator Anning said, there was no violence against Muslims until there were Muslims in Australia. That pluralism and multiculturalism don't work?
BURKE: If someone wants to come to Australia and we know that they've been speaking in support of values that have given rise to other forms of terrorism, we don't give them a visa. Only a few days ago, the government intervened against the department to provide a visa for someone to have a tour here in Australia to whip up hatred against Muslims. I would be stunned if the government goes ahead with that visa. Are we really going to have a situation, after this, where someone is welcomed to Australia for the purpose of whipping up hatred against Muslims?
JOURNALIST: Why can’t people make that decision for themselves?
BURKE: We have in Australia to right to decide whether or not someone is going to be granted a visa. We get to ask the question as to whether or not Australia is better or worse with that person here.
JOURNALIST: Why don't citizens have to right to hear what that person has to say? Why is it the immigration Minister’s right to determine whether or not Australian’s can hear what a person has to say?
BURKE: It’s a test that we use with respect to terrorism and we us it all the time. We knock back people, all the time, with respect to other forms of hatred that have been consistent with what has resulted in terrorist actions. That’s what we’ve done in other areas. If you look at the sentiment last night, the interesting thing was that people were glad that it was being described as a terrorist action. Glad it was being seen as an exact parallel, and what people want and what I want, and I'm confident in our security agencies that we will get this, but we need to make sure it's more than just one quick media cycle of politicians saying the right thing. We need to make sure that the full force of the law treats this as the same as any other form of terrorism.
JOURNALIST: You say you're confident in our security agencies, one of the men arrested was an Australian man, he's facing court today. He wasn't on any terror watch list. He had no criminal history. What can security agencies do to help prevent these attacks if these people aren't on the radar?
BURKE: And this is where I heard Prime Minister Ardern make the comment that they're now going through to work out if there were any flags that were missed, and I presume our security agencies would be doing something similar. It is also the case that up until now, many people would not have viewed this form of extremism as being as dangerous to people as every other form of extremism. Anyone who had that doubt, that doubt finished yesterday.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister Scott Morrison also made a comment about Fraser Anning, his tweet, he said the remarks by Senator Anning blaming the murderous attacks by a right-wing extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting, those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament." That’s the Prime Minister calling out this. Is that needed more in Australia, leaders in Australia to call out the rhetoric when it happens?
BURKE: We do need to call it out, we need to make sure that in no way does any member of Parliament foster it or give rise to it. I won’t even name that individual, he wants the conflict and he wants the notoriety. He thinks it's smart. The important thing to remember is that he does not represent modern Australia.
JOURNALIST: But he's in our Parliament.
BURKE: He is. And he was put there as a result of being on the One Nation ticket. That's how he found himself to be a member of Parliament. And you know - we will continue to put One Nation last. One Nation is the reason he is there. The normalisation of bigotry is something that is not only confined to him. I'm glad the Prime Minister condemned his comments, as did Bill Shorten, as have all of us. But first of all, the concept that the Islamic community can be blamed is horrific and sick. But secondly, we need to remember someone who makes those sorts of comments isn't an Australian patriot, it's somebody who hates modern Australia, and who has no place in a leadership role.
JOURNALIST: Let's ignore that politician specifically, because I agree there's not point in giving tremendous oxygen to that, but on the broader point that people in middle Australia, mainstream Australia, may feel. I want to understand what your definition of hate speech is? Is having a conversation about whether or not Australia's immigration policy should take into account a person's religious background hate speech?
BURKE: What I'm going to do is say right now the security agencies are going to be working through where this guy came from, and working through what comments and what fostered and there will be a lot of security work that is there. The simplest definition for me with hate speech is Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That’s the simplest definition - where speech is given for the purpose of humiliating people.
JOURNALIST: So it would not include a large swathe of conversation that is regarded impolite.
BURKE: There will be conversation that don't like.
BURKE: There will be conversation and views that I will fight in the political arena. There is a different order of conversation that qualifies as hate speech. That has also found it’s way to the Parliament. That needs to be condemned and we need to be resolved against it.
JOURNALIST: But is it not a problem, that a lot of people on the right feel that even having the more moderate version of the conversation, the non-hate speech version of the conversation, the conversation that raises questions about immigration, that that has been demonised. And they feel like they're put upon, they don’t have a seat at the table, that they can't actually express concerns about the rate of immigration or the rate of Muslim immigration without being accused of being bigots.
BURKE: They might be bigots. Some people with those views will be bigots and I'm not going to soften my view against them. The entire Parliament, in the House of Representatives, had a unanimous resolution that we would never have an immigration policy that determined entry by race or faith. No member of the House of Representatives walked in and voted against that. That happened after that particular member of the Parliament had made his first speech. That was a unanimous resolution of the House of Representatives. So, if people with those sorts of views get upset that they find themselves on the fringe of Australian politics, well, that is where they are. There was a unanimous resolution from the House of Representatives saying we will not do that. That's different to illegality.
JOURNALIST: As we said earlier you were at Lakemba mosque last night. Obviously the Muslim community in New Zealand is reeling from this, the Muslim community in Australia and all around the world. What is the way forward here, as communities try to draw together, communities that are different, try to pull together?
BURKE: We make sure that the voice of hatred is never the loudest voice. We make sure that when people are being pushed to the margins, we go and stand with them, and walk them back to the centre. And we make sure that people understand modern Australia and modern multicultural Australia are the same thing. It's the nature of who we are. No-one has put it better than Prime Minister Ardern yesterday, when she said, "They are us." And anything that undermines that sense of solidarity as a complete community is something that we just don't need.
JOURNALIST: Jacinda Ardern also announced that gun laws in New Zealand would be changed. We don't have the detail yet, but they will be changed. Would you like to see New Zealand follow Australia's lead in gun law reform?
BURKE: I think there's not doubt that there will be reform of that nature. Given the context of the last 24 hours I wouldn't frame it as them following our lead, but they have made multiple attempts and I have no doubt the New Zealand Parliament will resolve that way this time.
JOURNALIST: Later in the show we will be speaking to some of the students who protested yesterday against climate change and didn’t go to school. You were, of course, for six years in the Rudd and Gillard governments responsible for environmental issues for one sort or another. What did you make of the climate march yesterday?
BURKE: I can understand why students are frustrated and deeply, deeply frustrated, when they see inaction. What is happening to our planet is actually at the more extreme end of what has been projected in the past. The only thing that has happened over time is that the evidence that we must act has become stronger. And every bit of frustration that young people are feeling, it's no different to the frustration that I'm feeling, they're right to feel it.
JOURNALIST: Do you think they should have skipped school to express that?
BURKE: I can understand why they did. It's probably the best way to frame it.
JOURNALIST: Well political and diplomatic as always. Tony Burke, thanks for coming in.