Radio Interview with Neil Mitchell – Thursday 2 October 2014






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s comments on the Burqa; Drugs in sport

NEIL MITCHELL: On the line is the Labor Member for Blaxland, in Western Sydney, almost 25% of his electorate is Muslim. He is the Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare good morning.


MITCHELL: Do you see the burqa in the streets of your electorate?

CLARE: You do, you see people wear lots of different things. You are right I’ve got one of the most multicultural electorates in the country, many Muslims but lots of Christians too and lots of Buddhists as well.

MITCHELL: Does it cause any trouble.

CLARE: No, no.

MITCHELL: So what’s your reaction to what the Prime Minister said?

CLARE: I’m disappointed. We’ve got a time here where people are tense, where people are worried and the job of a Prime Minister is to bring people together rather than pull people apart. The statements he made yesterday make non-Muslims feel afraid and they make Muslims feel like they don’t belong and that shouldn’t be what a Prime Minister is doing.

MITCHELL: But he’s probably right, isn’t he? People do find it confronting. You can say they shouldn’t but it’s a reality.

CLARE: The bottom line, you know this as well, is that we are free country. I don’t care whether people wear a boobtube or a burqa. People should be able to wear whatever they like and in terms of Parliament House you made a good point before and that is that everybody that comes into this building goes through security. Everyone goes through a metal detector. So I just don’t know what the argument here is. It looks to me like prejudice disguised as a security argument.

The Government made the decision to wind back on security here at Parliament House a couple of months ago and there was nothing said about this then. I think you’ve got to look at this issue and think why are they talking about this now?

MITCHELL: Well what do you think? Do you think it’s political?

CLARE: I just think it’s prejudice. This is the same mob that said people have got a right to be a bigot. You’ve got a situation where you’ve got barbarians attacking people overseas, morons up to no good in Australia and people are worried and I’ll tell you a couple of stories to demonstrate that.

I had an Anglo-Celtic woman come up to me in the shops on Friday and say “look, you’re the local member, you know, is it safe to take my kids to school?” and then on the other hand you’ve got Muslim women being spat at, pushed off a train in Melbourne. Another woman in my electorate, who is a leader in the community, worked in domestic violence for thirty years, has an Order of Australia, got a phone call last Thursday night from a man, in a very loud voice saying “I know where you live, I’m coming around to cut your head off.”

MITCHELL: What, she’s a Muslim woman?

CLARE: Muslim woman. Now that’s what’s happening and the job of all of us, whether we are in Parliament or in the media is to bring people together not feed people’s suspicion because this is exactly what organisations like ISIL want. They want to divide us.

MITCHELL: That’s true but in another sense you can’t ignore reality and the reality is a lot of people do find the burqa confronting. Now you can reassure people and say that you shouldn’t and say this is why and this is what it’s about but that’s a reality isn’t it?

CLARE: What I’m saying is, the job of politicians is to make those messages very strong and very clear. Make people feel secure, make people feel calm and make it very clear that we are the sort of country that is the opposite of what is going on overseas.

What’s happening overseas is that it’s my way or the highway, if you don’t like it you get shot in the head. Here in Australia what we are saying is, we are a free country, with people from all around the world, all different backgrounds and religions and you are free to express yourself the way you like whether it’s the hijab, whether it’s the burqa, whether it’s a cross, a robe or a shawl or a turban. That’s the sort of country we are.

MITCHELL: None of those other things hide your identity.

CLARE: No, but it’s a form of religious expression and what Australia says is we are a free country and you are free to express yourself the way you like.

MITCHELL: Is this becoming a symbol of division, do you think?

CLARE: I wouldn’t say that. I’d just say that we are in a tough time here, where people feel tense, afraid, victimised and it’s important that we all pull together and that we bring the country together. Make people feel like they all belong.

MITCHELL: Ok. Thanks for talking to us.

CLARE: My pleasure mate. Thank you.

MITCHELL: Another quick question, you were Justice Minister when that blackest day in sport press conference was held. The Essendon thing is still going on. Now this surely has been a mess hasn’t it?

CLARE: The sooner it is resolved the better. It’s a serious issue. We know there are drugs in sport. No one wants drugs in sport. We are talking here about some drugs that haven’t even been approved for human use. Not enough has been done in the past to weed it out. We do need to weed it out of the game.

MITCHELL: So do you still stand by those words, blackest day in Australian sport?

CLARE: I didn’t say those words.

MITCHELL: I know. I know.

CLARE: The words I said were that there are a number of players, a number of codes, a number of teams and that’s absolutely accurate.

MITCHELL: Thank you for your time Jason Clare. The Labor Member for Blaxland and the Shadow Communications Minister. His electorate 25% Muslim.