Interview with Marius Benson on ABC NewsRadio – Thursday 15 October 2015






SUBJECT/S: Countering violent extremism

MARIUS BENSONThe Federal Labor frontbencher Jason Clare represents the seat of Blaxland in Sydney’s south west, an area which has a large Islamic population and he joins me now. Jason Clare good morning. 


BENSONWhat are you hearing from the people in your electorate, Islamic people in particular, on the issue of terrorism and the counter-terrorist measures? 

CLARE: There are a lot of people very anxious. A lot of people are very worried, fretting – worried that they will be blamed for the terrible actions of one young man two weeks ago and that’s dangerous. If people feel like they don’t belong, if people feel that they are going to be blamed by other members of the community for the terrible actions of this young boy then that risks dividing the country and creates a dangerous environment where the risk increases that things like this can happen again.     

BENSONThis meeting today, looking for new and innovative ways of dealing with this continuing issue. Is there anything in your mind that hasn’t been tried? 

CLARE: Let me be positive, I think this is a good idea. I think getting police and law enforcement around the table to talk about this is very important but we can’t be naïve about it. Police are not going to be able to arrest every potential terrorist, it’s going to take a lot more than just our law enforcement agencies to tackle this. I think the Department of Education, mental health and social services are there as well. That’s important – they need to step up.

I’ve said before I think a key part of tackling this challenge is what we do in schools. In the aftermath of the police raids in October last year I asked federal police what they thought the solution was and they said for the young men in their twenties it’s often too late to change the way they think in any dramatic way or for programs to work. But if you start talking to kids when they are young, particularly primary school you can have a big impact.

I’ve also said Marius that practical on the ground things like outreach services are important. Getting young Muslim men and women on the street, in our railway stations, in our public places talking to other young Muslim men and women to counteract some of the terrible, ugly messages that they are hearing online or from other friends. Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off the Streets program runs outreach services across the country, we funded them and expanded them in Government – they work. A lot of our Muslim community organisations don’t have the skills or background or experience to run these types of services. I think collaboration between organisations like Father Chris’ and our Muslim community could help to replicate that and run those services in my community and in other parts of the country.        

BENSON: It is an impossibly difficult question because it is the most natural thing in the world for young people to rebel against authority it’s just that there is this deadly combination now of this cultural identification that some find attractive. The difficulty is if you take tough measures some of the results might be for example a front page photograph of a young boy handcuffed in his school uniform. That’s likely to create in the eyes of some young boys – legend.

CLARE: I think you’re right, and while ever you’ve got a civil war raging in the Middle East, while ever you’ve got people fighting in Syria or Iraq, this mess is Mesopotamia, you’ve got the real risk that people are going to see that and respond here in Australia either by doing what we saw two weeks ago or by trying to get on an airplane and be part of it. One Muslim leader said to me the other day not to underestimate the importance of our mental health workers because when people have mental health issues they tend to become isolated from the group, they tend to be the sort of people that are more susceptible to being targeted or groomed by malicious malevolent forces and we need to incorporate that as part of our response here. When people become isolated there is a bigger risk that they are going to go down this terrible path.       

BENSON: What do you think about some of the specific measures that are now being discussed and in fact implemented like control orders that the minimum age for a control order, which allows you to put a tracking device on someone, restrict their movement and so on would drop from sixteen to fourteen?  

CLARE: I’ll just make this general point Marius, the fact that a fifteen year old kid went to a police station and killed an innocent person tells us that this is not something that is just happening to adults, it is affecting kids as well. Our laws need to be able to adapt to that. 

BENSONThat’s not arguable, the question is whether this legal approach is appropriate or counterproductive? 

CLARE: Good question, in all of the other initiatives that the government has put forward in terms of law reform we have worked constructively with them. We don’t have any details on these proposals at the moment. We’ve said give us detail and we’ll work constructively and in a bipartisan way with you. We haven’t seen details yet but keen to do it. We actually offered to be a part of this meeting with law enforcement and government agencies today. The government said no they didn’t want us there. That’s ok that’s up to them but let me emphasise this, there is a lot of experience amongst Members of Parliament ton both sides of the chamber on this issue and I would encourage the government to draw on our experience to help find the solution.     

BENSONJason Clare thank you very much.