Australia

Exclusive: Labor rallies multicultural groups to oppose Sydney conservative conference

Senator Kristina Keneally has sent a letter to multicultural and multifaith groups across Australia urging them to oppose right-wing commentator Raheem Kassam's upcoming visit to Australia.

Labor spokesperson for home affairs Kristina Keneally has sent a letter to multicultural and multifaith groups across the country urging them to oppose right-wing political commentator Raheem Kassam's visit as part of a conservative conference set to be held in Australia for the first time next week. 

In the letter, which was sent to organisations on Friday, Senator Keneally said the Sydney conference was a "normalisation of the extreme right-wing and hate speech in Australia" and urged community leaders to contact Prime Minister Scott Morrison to express their concern.

Mr Kassam, the former editor-in-chief of right-wing media outlet Breitbart, has come under fire from Senator Keneally for a series of social media posts, specifically one where he called the Quran - Islam's holy book - "fundamentally evil" and said Scottish politician Nicola Sturgeon should have her legs taped shut so she couldn't reproduce.

Raheem Kassam is known for making controversial statements on Islam and immigration, among other things.
Raheem Kassam is known for making controversial statements on Islam and immigration, among other things.
AP

He is booked to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney on 9-11 August, alongside former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, UK Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and federal Queensland Senator Amanda Stoker.

In a statement to SBS News, Australia's peak body representing multicultural communities supported Senator Keneally's calls to have Mr Kassam banned from entering the country.

“This is a time when we should be working towards bringing Australians closer together and fostering understanding between communities. Allowing Raheem Kassam to enter Australia runs counter to that goal," Mary Patetsos, chairperson for the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA), said.

"Raheem Kassam is a person who has made a career out of making inflammatory statements designed to offend sections of society. Peddling hatred and division runs counter to our ambition as a nation to be a just, inclusive and prosperous place for all."

The letter also expressed concern about the fact a number of government MPs would be participating in the conference alongside Mr Kassam.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the decision to attend the convention was a matter for individual members, despite issuing a strong rebuke of Mr Kassam a day earlier. 

Senator Keneally sparked heated debate in Parliament and internationally on Tuesday when she called on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to refuse "career bigots" a visa to Australia.

'Silencing' conservative views

US President Donald Trump's son has since blasted Labor for their calls to ban Mr Kassam, accusing them of "trying to silence" conservative views.

"The insanity needs to stop!" Donald Trump Jr said.

Meanwhile, Mr Kassam accused Senator Kenneally of lying and refused to be phased by the remarks.

A number of far-right provocateurs have previously had their Australian visas cancelled, including US commentator Milo Yiannopoulos who had his visa revoked by the Morrison government after describing Islam as a "barbaric, alien" religion in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks.

Senator Keneally said she had written directly to Mr Dutton and Immigration Minister David Coleman asking them to refuse or cancel Mr Kassam's visa but had not received a response.

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