According to former immigration minister Amanda Vanstone, Bill Shorten is “fanning racist fires” and suppressing important debate after he used a speech on national security and counter-terrorism to attack Peter Dutton’s comments on Lebanese immigration.
You’d recall that Dutton said former PM Malcolm Fraser “made a mistake” when he allowed a large number of Lebanese-Muslim and Vietnamese migrants to come to Australia in the 1970s.
He claimed that two-thirds of the 33 people recently charged with terrorist-related offences in Australia were second- and third-generation Lebanese-Muslims.
However, Vanstone says such comments would have been made by the current immigration minister under advice from his department, and that Fraser’s policy was an example of poor immigration practices from when she was immigration minister with the Howard Government.
During the national security and counter-terrorism speech in Parliament on November 23, Shorten took the opportunity to demand Dutton be “brought into line” for his comments.
“Suggesting it was a mistake to allow a generation of migrants to come to Australia, more than three decades ago, because of the crimes of a tiny handful of their grandchildren, is not just ignorant and insulting,” Shorten says.
It sparked debate with the prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who stepped up to say the opposition leader misrepresented Dutton’s comments.
While the PM took aim at Shorten, Vanstone said the Labor leader has done nothing but reduce the important debate around national security and counter-terrorism to its “lowest common denominator”.
“Given immigration is so important to us — it’s one of our essential characteristics that we’re an immigration nation — any debate should be a frank and truthful one and not used as a cheap political football,” Vanstone told The Australian.
She said by doing this Bill Shorten was “fanning the racist fires”.