Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said the government of Malcolm Fraser made a mistake in bringing Lebanese refugees to Australia in the 1970s, saying they formed a majority of those recently travelling overseas as foreign fighters.
"The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background," he said in parliament after being pressed on the issue during Question Time.
Mr Dutton said last week that many foreign fighters getting involved in conflict zones were the children or grandchildren of migrants that came during the 1970s but did not say what country he was referring to.
Labor MP Tim Watts on social media labelled the comments "extraordinary".
"The Minister for Immigration seems to think that criminal behaviour by 'second and third generation migrants' (AKA 'Australians', AKA the grandchildren of migrants) is attributable to immigration policy," he said on Facebook.
In an interview with Sky News last week Mr Dutton said: "The reality is Malcolm Fraser did make mistakes in bringing some people in the 1970s and we're seeing that today," the told Sky News on Thursday.
"We need to be honest in having that discussion. There was a mistake made.
"Lessons from past migrant programs should be learnt for people settling in Australia today."
At the time Mr Dutton was being asked about the recent gang activity in Victoria involving youths of African - in particular, Sudanese - background.
He attributed much of the blame to the state government, whom he labelled "weak" on law and order.
But he said his department was working with Victoria Police to try to identify people of poor character and cancel visas where necessary.
"If it can be demonstrated that we have a significant proportion of a particular community - we're talking about the Sudanese community in this instance - then we need to work out what's gone wrong," he said.
"We do review the program each year, and if we feel there are problems with particular cohorts, particular nationalities, particular people who might not be integrating well and not contributing well, then there are many other worthy recipients who seek to come to a country like ours and make an opportunity their own."