E&OE…

Ben Fordham

We’ve had four fatal terror attacks on Australian soil in less than three years, all four in the name of radical Islam. Zed Seselja says we should be having a reasonable and honest conversation about the inspiration for Islamist terrorism. And Zed Seselja, the Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs is on the line. Minister, good afternoon.

Senator Seselja

Good afternoon Ben.

Ben Fordham

Congratulations for not pulling your punches and calling it how it is.

Senator Seselja

Yeah look, thank you Ben. I think it’s really important. I was talking last night in the context of Multicultural Australia in my role as Multicultural Affairs Assistant Minister. There’s no doubt that if we want to maintain what we have, and most Australians really support that diversity, then I think obviously we have to do all we can to keep Australia safe. And it is important that we have an honest conversation.
The point that I made in the speech is that, you can point to the specific motivation of some terrorists without condemning the entire Muslim community. We are mature enough, we know most Muslims reject this Salafist, Jihadism which inspires some people to go out there and take innocent lives. You know, we need to do that. We need to have that honest discussion.
The other point I made, and this goes to some broader issues, is that we as a nation have also been a bit soft. Our courts in particular have been soft on extremists. That includes some who are terrorists and some who are just violent killers. Either way, they’ve done a disservice and people have in some cases died as a result.

Ben Fordham

Yeah look, I don’t think that Australians per say go out of their way to make life difficult for people when they come from other parts of the world or they follow different religions to them. I have sited many times, Minister, an experiment that was carried out in Hyde Park in the centre of Sydney. Some Muslim students did a bit of a test. They set up a scenario where someone, an actor, was picking on a young Muslim girl based on what she was wearing and they wanted to see how ordinary Aussies reacted. And every single time it happened, someone stepped in to say “Hey, we’re not going to cop that! You’re not going to do that around here.”
There’s a difference between people responding to Muslims. The decent Muslims out there that make up the majority of Muslims in Australia. And those who are out there on some war path based on this twisted ideology that they’ve got.

Senator Seselja

Yeah look that’s exactly right. I’m not surprised… I hadn’t heard that specific example but I ‘m not surprised because that’s the Australia I know. The Australia I know absolutely is welcoming of people from all over the world. It’s been a great part of what’s made us who we are. You know, my parents were migrants like so many millions of others.
But we also have honest discussions about our challenges. And one challenge that is facing our nation and facing people all around the world of course is Islamist terrorism. And that’s something that we have to confront. And the Government is. And I made the point, when it comes to our Intelligence Agencies, our National Security and all that’s being done there. But I think we do let ourselves down when we see the examples of people who clearly are violent extremists getting out on patrol, getting out on bail, or getting light sentences and then going out and committing heinous crimes.

Ben Fordham

We often hear, “Look this has got nothing to do with Islam, it’s got nothing to do with religion.” And I can understand why Muslims would say that because they don’t want to be associated with this kind of crap that’s going on. But we are sticking our heads in the sand aren’t we Minister, if we say “it’s got nothing to do with Islam” because the people who are carrying it out, they claim that they are doing it in the name of Islam.

Senator Seselja

They certainly do claim that. And as I say, there’s a strand there in Salafist Jihadism which encourages, unfortunately, violence and extremism. And some people subscribe to that ideology. And some people unfortunately, in subscribing to that ideology, go the next step and carry out violent attacks.
As I said earlier, when we talk about those extremists… I was speaking last night, before and after I gave the speech in Sydney… And I was speaking to a local Muslim community leader, a great fella, who was talking about some of his challenges in ensuring that the voices of good majority Muslims are drowning out the voices of some of these extremists who look to draw in young people, in particular, and have them subscribe to this evil ideology.

Ben Fordham

Do those voices of good Muslims need to be louder?

Senator Seselja

Look, I think there’s plenty of examples where they are out there and we are seeing that more and more. But I would say of course. And I didn’t put it just on our Islamic community, I put it on all of us in various ways. The voices of the majority of Australians and the majority of Muslims needs to be much louder and needs to offer something far more attractive than this extremism which is offered to some and is unfortunately taken up by some.

Ben Fordham

Alright, why do we condone mobs like Hizb ut-Tahrir who blame the West for terror attacks and refuse to condemn Islamic State?

Senator Seselja

Well we certainly don’t condone Hizb ut-Tahrir. The question is whether they’re a designated terrorist orginisation. And Attorney-General George Brandis has spoken about this, just in the last 24hour or so, about looking at whether or not that regime can be strengthened. You’d be aware when we designate terrorist organisations, it’s a designation that is about people who would either carry out acts of violence or certainly encourage acts of violence. Hizb ut-Tahrir, whilst I condemn virtually everything they’ve said publicly, have always walked a fine line…

Ben Fordham

Yeah, between inciting and condoning…

Senator Seselja

…indeed. So obviously that’s something that the Attorney-General is looking at. I absolutely reject Hizb ut-Tahrir and really everything they stand for and I think the vast, vast majority of Australians would.

Ben Fordham

Can I just say this to you Minister? Often when someone’s the Minister for Multicultural Affairs or an Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, they’re a little bit afraid about buying in to some of these things because they know that their job by definition is to keep everyone happy in all of those multicultural communities. But I think it’s a good thing that you’ve done. A good service for the Muslim community in Australia and for all of us. Well done for speaking out last night and keep on doing it.

Senator Seselja

Thanks very much Ben.

Ben Fordham

Good on you. Zed Seselja. Remember the name Zed Seselja, the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs. He didn’t muck about last night, not one single bit.

[ENDS]

Contact for
Senator Zed Seselja , Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs
Veronica Hayes
Media and Community Affairs Adviser
veronica.hayes@aph.gov.au
0401 815 853