SUBJECT/S: Engagement with Islamic communities; Hizb ut-Tahrir


MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM AND SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Morning. I’d like to underscore some of the comments that Bill Shorten made yesterday. He talked about the need to have a greater focus on preventative strategies to counter violent extremism through community engagement. And I think this is very true. I’d like to acknowledge that there is great work being done in our communities by many different community leaders and particularly by leaders of our various Islamic communities. I’d like to thank them for the work that they’ve been doing and acknowledge that we need to do much more, as the Prime Minister’s Department even said in its own review. We need to do much more to counter violent extremism through such community engagement. And even as David Irvine said, the former Chief of our intelligence agency, he noted that our greatest ally in being able to achieve this is the Islamic community themselves. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ROWLAND: They’re not the words that I would have chosen and I’m not the only one who feels this way. Firstly, I think Julie Bishop’s comments that she made later on were measured and pointed to the fact that there is a lot of work being done. She acknowledged that work and basically congratulated and gave encouragement for that work to continue. I would also acknowledge that even the Government’s own backbench has stated that in their own communities they have community leaders that have been very active in this area, and they mean what they say when it comes to countering violent extremism. And as I just mentioned, I would point to comments being made by our own intelligence bosses who say that our best ally in this is the Islamic community themselves. They need to be encouraged and we need to do more in this area.

JOURNALIST: Are leaders in your community – and Craig Laundy pointed this out as well – Muslim leaders are preaching the right message in line with modern Australia, but to be fair the comments from the Grand Mufti in recent months where he made some comments in amongst other things saying that perhaps Australia needs to look at the [inaudible] role in all this and why young people are turning against Australian values. So do you agree that there are some [inaudible] and not all leaders are preaching the right message?

ROWLAND: I acknowledge what you’re saying and I acknowledge even the comments that were made by the Immigration Minister last night, where he did draw a line between Muslim communities, Islamic leaders as a whole, and individuals. I think the problem with the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday was that it was quite a blanket comment about Islamic leaders. And there is no doubt, and I made a couple of phone calls last night to a number of individuals who are leaders in this area, there is no doubt that we have individuals who are not countering violent extremism through what they’re doing and could make a greater effort. I think the overall message should be that we do have this cooperation, we want more of this cooperation and encouragement, and not putting it down where efforts have been made.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ROWLAND: Can’t ignore it at all, Laura, and that would be wrong to do so. I equally think it’s wrong to paint every community leader with the same brush and say you need to do more. Some people who are working extremely hard are quite frustrated about the comments made yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Will the Caucus today be discussing whether or not it will support moves to be able to revoke or suspend citizenship dual nationals [inaudible]

ROWLAND: I’m not aware about whether or not that’s on the agenda, but it may well be addressed in Bill Shorten’s comments and I think that we’re quite clear about our point on this. Bill’s made it clear that we take a bipartisan approach to these issues. We’ll examine each of the proposals on their merits. Bear in mind we haven’t seen any specific proposals as yet so we need to examine those in detail, but we take a bipartisan approach to matters of national security as we’ve already done.

JOURNALIST: What’s your view on Hizb ut-Tahrir? The Prime Minister didn’t go as far as banning the organisation yesterday. Is it your fear that if they are banned they get pushed underground and [inaudible]

ROWLAND: I noticed some of the comments that stated that if they are banned that will be one of the outcomes, but I think we need to take advice from our agencies on this. We need to take advice from the professionals and we need to listen to what they’re saying and if their advice is to do one thing I think we should follow it.