Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 5 July 2024


SUBJECTS: Senator Fatima Payman; Usman Khawaja’s comments about Peter Dutton

NATALIE BARR: Jason, first to you. So this morning it’s reported senior Labor sources are briefing journalists that Senator Payman’s Afghan citizenship could in fact be a potential breach of Section 44 of the Constitution, and it may be referred to the High Court.

Does the Senator have an issue with her citizenship, and is she eligible to be in Parliament?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Good morning, Nat. I honestly don’t know the answer to that. Fatima’s been elected to the Senate, I presume she’ll continue to serve in the Senate as an Independent Senator.

More generally, I’m just really disappointed that this has all happened, because ultimately we all want the same thing; we all want the war to end in Gaza, we want the slaughter and the suffering to end in Gaza, and we want two countries established there, two states, two people who can live side by side in safety and security without what we’re seeing happening right now.

BARR: But why would senior Labor MPs now be backgrounding journalists and saying, “Oh, she might not be allowed in.”  Wouldn’t you guys have checked that?

CLARE: I don’t know whether that’s true or not, I honestly don’t, Nat. I know that we’re sort of fixated on the politics of this, but there’s something a bit more important than the politics of this, and that’s what is happening on the other side of the world.

I’ve got a friend of mine who sent me a text message yesterday, she’s a friend who’s got her family trapped in a church in Northern Gaza, they’ve been there since October 7 sheltering in this church to keep safe amidst the terror and the war, and she said to me in the text message, “Will this stop the fighting; will it stop the war?” And I had to say, “No, it won’t.” 

Ultimately, that’s what we need to happen. We need to see an end in the fighting and the war overseas, and two countries created where people can live like we live here in Australia in safety and security.

BARR: We absolutely respect that, and we acknowledge that. But here at home your seat is one that independent party, The Muslim Voice, have made clear they are interested in targeting in Western Sydney. You must be concerned about that.

CLARE: I don’t take any vote for granted. I don’t take the privilege to represent my community for granted. For most Australians, they see a war on the other side of the world, and they think it’s far away, but for my community it’s very different.

I’ve said to you, Nat, before, that they take it very personally, and that’s because the people that are dying are often their family and their friends. I just gave the example of a friend of mine who’s got family sheltering in a church. So it is different, and that’s why we need a little bit more compassion and understanding in this debate, and to focus not always on the politics, but on the people whose lives are being affected, and sometimes being ended by what’s happening overseas.

BARR: Yeah. And we understand that too. But also the politics is important. You guys are politicians. How worried is the Labor Party that the whole Fatima situation will spark Muslim groups in your area and rally them for the next election, because they want to have their say?

CLARE: I think it’s important to make the point that Muslim Australians, just like any other group of Australians, are not homogenous. People will cast their vote for a bunch of different reasons, they won’t vote for one person or for one party for just one thing.

But I don’t take my seat for granted, I never have. I’m a kid from Western Sydney who is so proud to represent the people of Western Sydney in the Australian Parliament, and I’ll continue to do that for as long as I’ve got the privilege to do that.

BARR: Okay, Sussan, to you next. Your boss and Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton said this to journalists yesterday:


PETER DUTTON: The Prime Minister, if he’s in a minority government in the next term of Parliament, it will include the Greens, it will include the Green Teals, it will include Muslim candidates from Western Sydney, it will be a disaster.

[End of Excerpt]

BARR: Now Australian cricket legend, Usman Khawaja has responded overnight saying, and I quote, “As a Muslim who grew up in Western Sydney, I find this comment from someone who is running for PM an absolute disgrace. Bigotry at its finest. Fuelling Islamophobia from the very top.” 

Was Peter Dutton being racist when he made that remark, Sussan?

SUSSAN LEY: Not at all, Nat, and I want to briefly address the issue of Senator Payman, because Jason just did skate past it. We’ve got a young woman who is claiming that she has been bullied out of the Labor Party by the Labor Party, and overnight this issue of her citizenship being raised, perhaps at the direction of the Prime Minister, yet again another attack on her.

Who is looking after her welfare? I asked the Prime Minister questions in the Parliament this week and he just fobbed them off. I think it’s important as a young vulnerable Muslim woman in this Parliament with the claims that she was making.

Now on the matter of Usman Khawaja, he is a good guy and a great cricketer, but he’s wrong on this. I believe Australians don’t want to see religious independence. Our political system has always been secular, and it has welcomed all, and we don’t want any religious independence calling the shots in a minority Labor Government, particularly under this weak and distracted Prime Minister, because this is all that news channels are talking about today, Fatima Payman, her citizenship ‑‑

BARR: You’re right.

LEY: ‑‑ but what about cost of living, what about what people are expecting their politicians leaving Parliament on the last day of this sitting to actually be focused on them and their welfare, and that doesn’t seem to be anywhere on this Prime Minister’s agenda.

BARR: You’re right. It is the big story in the country right ‑‑

CLARE: Nat, I just want to respond to that. I back Uzi on this. He’s an Australian hero and he’s right. What Peter Dutton said was despicable and shows once again he’s not fit to be the Prime Minister of Australia. Every time he’s got the chance, he tries to divide Australians by race or religion or the colour of their skin. He attacks African Australians in Melbourne, he’s previously said it was a mistake to bring Lebanese Australians in in the 1970s, now he’s attacking Muslim Australians. And it just shows he’s not fit to be the Prime Minister of Australia. 

BARR: I think we have both had our say on this. Thank you very much.

LEY: In glass houses.

BARR: We’ll see you next week.