Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 13 October 2023

SUBJECTS: Hamas-Israel conflict

NATALIE BARR: As the Middle East teeters on the brink of all-out war tensions are rising at home too. The Opposition Leader as now called on the Prime Minister to deport any pro‑Palestinian protesters found to be behind anti‑Semitic chants.

Peter Dutton has conceded he has no evidence those who made the comments at a Sydney rally are on temporary visas. But he says if they are they should be thrown out of Australia.

Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to you.

Sussan, do you back these calls? Is there any evidence? Is it a bit of a stereotype to be saying this?

SUSSAN LEY: Yes, I do back those calls. If you break the law and you demonstrate and you issue and you spew forth hate speech such as we have seen, and you are on a temporary visa, which clearly violates the character that anyone should hold if they’re allowed to be a permanent resident of Australia, or even temporarily I would argue, then of course there should be serious consideration about deporting these people.

Because, Nat, Australia is built, our successful multiculturalism is built on a foundation of tolerance and mutual respect. And when that breaks there must be consequences for those who behave in that way. And I join with all Australians, and I’m sure Jason does too, in absolutely condemning not just the atrocities and the brutality that we’ve seen in Israel, but the response from people here. And words are good, but consequences are also important.

BARR: Exactly, words matter. But you’re right. Jason, do you back those calls that Peter Dutton is calling for?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Incitementing violence is serious. We saw some of the despicable things that were said this week. I’d expect police to take the appropriate action. The Prime Minister was asked this question yesterday and made the point that there’s no evidence that any of the people that made those statements are temporary residents.

But to your point, Sussan, we are the best country in the world. A big part of why we are the best country in the world is because we’re made up of people from all around the world living here in harmony. That’s being tested at the moment.

I had a Jewish mate ring me the other day who said he’s afraid to send his kids to school. And a Palestinian friend rang me who said they’re worried about whether their family is going to be alive tomorrow. People are terrified, people are on edge here.

We’ve got a responsibility here as community leaders, as politicians, to help to keep this together here. The ASIO boss said as much on the front page of the paper today.

LEY: Which is partly, Nat, why we’ve called, and we’ve pushed, if you like, the Government to respond positively to those safety concerns from the Jewish community.

At the vigil I was at a couple of nights ago in Dover Heights that was expressed to me, concerns about children going to school, about community harmony, about real safety. We want to see those ‑ we want to see your Home Affairs Minister, Jason, step up and speak to Australians to reassure them about that public safety. I’m not hearing that.

BARR: You’re right, we have ‑ you know, I’m the same, we’ve heard, you know, people in Jewish communities say, “I’m too scared to send my kids to Jewish schools in this country”.

On that point, with that awful protest on the steps of our Sydney Opera House, are we too slow to be charging the people who were shouting “gas the Jews” with some kind of hate speech, whatever the charge is? Are we too slow?

CLARE: You have to ask the Police Commissioner that. It’s not the job of politicians to arrest people, it’s the job of police.

BARR: Yeah, but what do you think?

CLARE: My view is, that protest should never have taken place. The last thing we need at the moment is inciting violence on the streets of Sydney. Everybody was shocked by what they saw last weekend and those despicable terrorist acts by Hamas invading Israel. We’re all still reeling from what looked like a horror movie in real life on our TV screens. And what happens on the other side of the world has an impact and can have an impact here in Australia, because there are so many people who have family on both sides of the border here.

But I guess the point I’d make, Sussan, is this is too important for politics. When 9/11 happened the Labor Party supported John Howard in everything that he did here. And it’s just as important today here that we shouldn’t be trying to eke out some sort of political advantage. What we say here matters. The boss of ASIO said let’s turn the temperature down here, leaders have to stand together in Parliament and in the community to make sure that the country isn’t pulled apart because of what’s happening on the other side of the world.

LEY: It’s too big for politics, that’s not the approach the Coalition is taking. We’ve supported members of the Labor Party, Josh Burns in Macnamara, who have said more than many Cabinet Ministers on this issue.

It’s not about being purely political at all. It’s about calling out what we see and it’s about pushing the Government and demanding that the Government and holding the Government to account, demanding that they act more quickly and with more certainty when it comes to the protection of our Jewish community across this country. Because we didn’t see that.

Now we’re seeing that now but that is our job, Jason, that is the job of the Opposition. We don’t take a step backward.

CLARE: But I think it’s a step further than that. To be fair I think it’s sending a message of bipartisanship and sending a message of us working together. That’s what the country wants to see at moments like this, is the two of us standing shoulder‑to‑shoulder, and there isn’t a real difference here and we shouldn’t be trying to find one.

BARR: Exactly. And I don’t think we are. We’ve got the Prime Minister on shortly and we will definitely put this to him. Thank you both very much on a very tough week.