07 August 2019

SUBJECTS: CPAC; Scott Morrison allowing the spread of alt-right extremism; AFP raids; confronting white nationalism.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under renewed pressure to condemn a major right wing gathering in Sydney this weekend which will be attended by some of his own MPs. The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, attracts thousands of people in the United States and is now branching out to Australia. Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally says the meeting, which comes in the wake of the twin shooting massacres in the US, will be attended by a slew of pro-gun Americans, some of who are lifetime members of the National Rifle Association. Kristina Keneally joins us on RN Breakfast this morning. Kristina Keneally, welcome.
KARVELAS: You're accusing the Prime Minister of effectively encouraging further radicalisation by welcoming hate to our shores in the form of CPAC. But this conference has nothing to do with Scott Morrison. How then is he encouraging radicalisation and alt-right extremism?
KENEALLY: This conference has everything to do with the Liberal Party in Australia. It's being sponsored by the Liberal Party think tank- the Menzies Research Centre. It has the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaking. It has current sitting Liberal MPs – Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker and Craig Kelly, the Member for Hughes – appearing as speakers. It has several former Liberal candidates, at the most recent May election, appearing as speakers and, given an opportunity last week in Parliament, the Prime Minister refused to speak to this conference. He ducked and weaved the question. He won't stand up and condemn the vilification of Muslim Australians by some of the speakers- most notably one named Mr Raheem Kassam. And he won't speak up on behalf of Australian gun laws at a time when NRA lifetime members are coming to Sydney this weekend, when the NRA just two weeks ago described Australia's gun laws as ineffective and urged Australians to overturn them. Now, we don't stop or prevent violence by importing into Australia people who believe that guns are a, quote, ""god-given right"", that guns should be owned by as many people as possible in the community, and that it is okay to freely vilify Muslim Australians, women, people of the Jewish faith, without any condemnation or leadership from the Liberal Prime Minister of this country.
KARVELAS: ASIO is tracking about 100 extremist groups in this country. If, as you say, CPAC will help to normalise the far-right in Australia, are you suggesting that our community could suffer the type of gun violence that routinely occurs in America?
KENEALLY: We cannot sit here silently and watch the rise of alt-right, white supremacist, extremism which is occurring in countries like Australia and around the world. We cannot sit here quietly while one of our own was radicalised online and took his murderous intent to New Zealand, and pretend that we are immune from all of this that's happening somewhere else. Right now these people are coming to Australia. They are going to be here this weekend, hobnobbing with Liberal MPs, welcomed into the country. And they're going to be talking about the their views, views that include things that that the Quran is, quote, ""fundamentally evil"", that the Islamic faith is, quote, a "" fascistic and totalitarian ideology"". They're going to be coming here, lifetime members of the NRA, calling on our Government to reverse our gun laws. And it leads to the question, whose side is Scott Morrison on? Is he on the side of Australian gun laws? Is he on the side of Australians? Or is he going to sit here silently and allow this alt-right, white extremism, nationalism to be imported into Australia
KARVELAS: But like it or not,  guns are legal in the United States. How can you censure something or someone for voicing support for something that, that's legal, and is pretty standard in their country?
KENEALLY: Two weeks ago, the new NRA president Carolyn Meadows said of Australia's gun laws, they were, quote, ""a huge overreaction that ultimately had no practical effect, other than to strip away rights from Australian gun owners because of a horrific act committed by a single mentally deranged person."" She went on and said, quote, ""I urge people in Australia and New Zealand to take back their freedom. The truth is, once you lose the freedom, it's very difficult to ever get it back"". Now, these are the people who are coming here; lifetime members of the NRA. Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host who has said – who's actually been banned from Fox News quite remarkably for comments she made about Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar – has demanded that people in the community get as many guns as they can and arm themselves and don't let anyone take them off you.
KARVELAS: You have almost single-handedly elevated the CPAC conference to national prominence; a lot of people wouldn't have known about it before you raised it. Wouldn't it have been better to keep quiet and deny the meeting any oxygen because now inevitably it will get a lot of oxygen?
KENEALLY: We need to be together as a country confronting the spread of the alt-right and white nationalism in Australia.
KARVELAS: But do you accept the premise of my question that you've actually elevated the voices rather than denied them of a platform?
KENEALLY: Remaining silent in the face of the spread of hate, extremism and pro-gun ownership, when it comes to this country, is not an option. We cannot sit here silently and watch this take root.
KARVELAS: Let me just ask you quickly before we get to the news, the fallout from those AFP raids on the media continued to reverberate. FOI documents indicate that another Government agency was involved in the investigation – the cross-bencher Rex Patrick believes it was either ASIO or the Australian Signals Directorate. Do you have your own suspicions and are you alarmed by this?
KENEALLY: Well I am alarmed by the developments that continue to unfold out of the AFP raids and it does justify the need to have a Parliamentary inquiry, as is occurring, but I would have preferred a wider ranging, broader Parliamentary inquiry than the more narrow one the Government has constructed. But let's be clear that as each week goes by, we've got Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton – he's got more and more serious questions to answer about these raids. What other agencies are involved? Why won't the Government rule out charging and prosecuting journalists? You know, the Australian Signals Directorate, which is an agency that monitors people outside of Australia, well can Peter Dutton rule out their involvement in these investigations. Yes this just adds to the list of matters that Labor expects to be addressed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in coming weeks with public hearings into the inquiry into press freedoms.
KARVELAS: Just briefly, Ed Husic who, of course, was on your frontbench, now backbencher, but one of your colleagues says in these AUSMIN talks, the issue of the rise of white supremacy and questions to the US about what they're doing about it should have been asked by Australia. Do you agree?
KENEALLY: Look we have a situation where ASIO itself has confirmed that they are monitoring some 100 alt-right groups and ASIO only starts to monitor groups when they have the possibility of inflicting violence in the community. We've had no less than the National Review in the US, a conservative publication, calling out the fact that we need to respond to the rise alt-right, white nationalism with the same vigour that we respond to...
KARVELAS: So should we be asking questions of what the US is doing?
KENEALLY: We should be discussing this with the United States; we should not ignore the fact that these people get on the internet. There the seeds of their hate fall on grounds far and wide. And we should be talking to the US about what they are doing and what we can do to be part of the solution – rather than part of the facilitation – of combating the rise of white nationalism and extremism, which we have seen result in murderous, violent, tragic results both in the US and in New Zealand in recent months.
KARVELAS: Kristina Keneally, thank you for joining us this morning.
KENEALLY: Thank you.
KARVELAS: And that's the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Labor's Deputy Leader in the Senate Kristina Keneally.