House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021


Members of Parliament: Conduct

7:40 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to address a few matters which I really wish I didn't have to. I rise tonight to address matters and behaviours of this government which I really don't want to but which I feel I have to. I feel that this place, this chamber, is the appropriate place to do so because this place and this chamber should stand as the place to defend things in this country that we hold dear and the things in this country that are crucial to our multicultural and multifaith Australia.

I do this in the context that we see a rise in far-Right extremism around the world. We see extreme examples of this. Of course, we saw the Christchurch terrorist, whom I will not name, who murdered 51 New Zealanders in two mosques. He was an Australian, and the New Zealand royal commission report showed that his own manifesto was radicalised by right-wing extremism in this country. Phillip Galea, a man active in right-wing extremism groups, including the True Blue Crew and Reclaim Australia, was arrested in Melbourne and sentenced to 12 years jail for plotting to commit an act of terrorism against Muslims and lefties. And there was the 18-year-old in Albury in New South Wales who was active in the far Right online. He was arrested in December, having spread not just vile anti-Semitic and racist paraphernalia but also bomb-making instructions. We could go through more of the extreme examples, but the ones that I want to talk about and list are the ones who dance close to them: the ones who flirt with them and the ones who go a little bit too close to the core. Unfortunately, they happen to be ones who are members of this government.

Throughout this pandemic, the member for Hughes has compared Victoria and the Victorian health response to Nazi Germany, a completely false and wrong comparison. He refused to apologise. Only last week, in a radio interview, the member for Hughes colloquially stereotyped a Jewish beard as a response in order to clarify his understanding of a particular issue. The member for Dawson thought it was clever to rewrite Martin Niemoller's First they came, a poem that was about speaking out and standing against indifference in the Holocaust. The member for Dawson thought it was intelligent to rewrite it about figures like Donald Trump.

The member for Hughes and the member for Dawson have both appeared on podcasts like Unshackled, a far-Right extremist media network that has among its hosts and guests a wide range of convicted and arrested criminals, thugs and neo-Nazis. I'm not going to give them the honour of naming them in this place. Even more recently, the member for Hughes recorded a podcast with Pete Evans, a man who spent the summer sharing neo-Nazi imagery on his social media platform and who only last week shared on his personal page a promotion of the agenda of the so-called 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion', which, as I'm sure many in this place know, is one of the most vile, dark and oldest forms of anti-Semitism. And that is the person the member for Hughes is choosing to record podcasts with. There is also Senator Antic, who last week delivered a speech in the Senate decrying cultural Marxism, an extremist conspiracy theory that holds that Jewish intellectuals leave Germany to destroy Western institutions and cultures. It's not good enough to say, 'I didn't mean it.' It's not good enough to say of the member for Hughes or of the member for Dawson that it's just them; they're members of this government.

Leadership matters. There are moments in history where leadership is needed and relied upon to ensure that it's not just fringe examples like the member for Hughes, the member for Dawson, Senator Antic or anyone else doing this. When Fraser Anning stood in the other place and made his awful 'final solution' speech, it was a source of pride to see the Australian parliament respond in the way it did, which culminated in a handshake over those two dispatch boxes. We need more leadership in this country and less of the sort of behaviour that flirts with the right-wing extremism that has no place in a modern Australia.