Dutton says Greens 'just as bad' as Fraser Anning for Christchurch comments

The prime minister and other politicians joined religious leaders on Sunday to show a united front against hate speech, but some say political rhetoric is part of the problem.

Politicians call for an end to hate speech

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says those in the left accusing him of fanning anti-Muslim sentiment in Australia are "just as bad" as Senator Fraser Anning for seeking to use New Zealand's attacks for political gain. 

At the weekend, NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi attended an anti-Islamophobia rally saying some of her colleagues in Parliament, including Mr Dutton, were part of the problem. 

NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi at the anti-Islamophobia rally in Sydney.
Source: Twitter

"Some of them have raised this anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiment just for electoral vote winning and I think that's disgusting," Senator Faruqi told SBS News. 

"Muslims have been saying for years that dehumanising us is going to have a cost and we will not be pawns in this game where our lives are up for debate." 

Senator Faruqi has called for an end to hate speech.
Source: AAP

But Mr Dutton told ABC radio on Monday that she and other Greens were in the "extreme left" and likened them to Fraser Anning, who has claimed that Muslim migration is partly to blame for the far-right terrorist attack.

"I'm hardly going to take morals lectures from the extreme left who frankly are just as bad in this circumstance as people like Fraser Anning, they should equally be condemned," he said.

"We have people on the far-left or the far-right trying to extract political advantage. I think it’s a disgrace."

Labor Senator Penny Wong told Mr Dutton to "stop normalising hate speech". 

"Political criticism is not the same as blaming Muslims for this terrorist act," Senator Wong tweeted.  

Anti-racism pledge

Senator Faruqi wants politicians to take a pledge to call out racism and bigotry, saying she was dismayed it had taken the deaths of 50 innocent people to highlight the problem. 

"I do hope that now politicians will start listening and will start acting but it didn't have to come to that, we could've acted much earlier," she said.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan said he believed it was time to draw a line against hate speech in all aspects of society, including Parliament.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan believes it's time to draw a line against hate speech.
Source: AAP

He told SBS News politicians should be more mindful about the effect of their rhetoric on refugees and migration. 

"Politicians like anyone else has the responsibility, but particularly in the role they play because of the unique position in Parliament what they say has an influence on what people think about this," he said.

Attention has also centered on the role of the media in amplifying the voice of extremists. 

Senator Fraser Anning has been under fire this week for his comments in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.
Source: AAP

"There's a fine line between freedom of speech and between spreading hate speech. You absolutely call out politicians and scrutinise them and question them and I think that's what's not been happening here," Senator Faruqi said.

"They haven't scrutinised what people like (One Nation leader) Pauline Hanson and (independent) Fraser Anning and even some in the Liberal party have been saying."

Social media swamp

Attending a mosque in Melbourne, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said social media had allowed hate speech to spread all too easily. 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his wife Chloe Shorten at the Newport Islamic Centre open day. Mr Shorten wants a clean-up of social media.
Source: AAP

"Social media is a marvellous tool but it can't used as a swamp in which wrong doers can hide and crawl out to do even worse things," Mr Shorten told reporters on Sunday. 

Mr Tan said more research was needed to understand the impact of social media in intensifying racism. 

"We need to talk to the providers about how they take responsibility for how they display and allow information to be passed on," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spent the day attending services for multiple faiths. 

Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher Mr Morrison and wife Jenny Morrison during an Interfaith gathering for victims of the Christchurch attacks.
Source: AAP

"In the midst of this awful atrocity this is the hope we can cling to, peace-loving and free people all around the world," he told reporters at a Coptic church in Sydney on Sunday.

"We can all band together to stand against this hatred and this violence and we all stand together as people of many different faiths or no faith at all, standing together for innocence and for peace and for love over hate."

Additional reporting by AAP

Published 17 March 2019 at 8:18pm, updated 18 March 2019 at 11:32am
By Rosemary Bolger