MICHAEL ROWLAND: We are joined now from Sydney by the Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr. Senator Carr, thank you very much for joining us.
BOB CARR: Good morning, Michael.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: If I can just pick up there what Mohammed was just postulating, that a lot of those responsible for the violent scenes weren't necessarily protesting about this film; they were using this protest as a stage for other deeply-held grievances. What do you say to that point of view?
BOB CARR: I don't think it matters one way or the other. It was an unacceptable demonstration, first in terms of the violence that was used — and I accept the view of the police completely that it was generated by some of the protesters — and secondly, the sentiments that were being expressed. Those sentiments are repugnant to Australians and repugnant to Australians particularly of Islamic background.
This telephone-box minority, this hundred-strong demonstration, had nothing to do with the Islamic community I know and I admire, and I appeal to Australians not to judge Australian Muslims by what they saw in those pictures and those images, repugnant as they were.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Peter FitzSimons wrote what I thought was a very interesting open letter in Fairfax press over the weekend. He was arguing those protests would simply add fuel to every racist in Australia to reinforce their negative stereotypes of the Muslim community.
Do you fear that sort of point of view now taking hold with even greater force as a result of what we saw in Sydney?
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Yes, I do. I think that's a very obvious point, that people who rail against Australia's cultural diversity, 25 per cent of our population was born overseas, a large percentage of the sons and daughters of parents born overseas.
People who don't like that, who are uncomfortable with that, who want us to operate in some sort of Anglo sphere, who are clutching for the skirt tails of the empire, who want to take us backwards, those people would gain enormous encouragement from the vile sentiments expressed by those demonstrators.
They did harm to Australia, they did harm to Australian Muslims. I just ask people to think of it in these terms: you think of the Muslim Australian who works next to you at work, you think of the Muslim Australian going to school with you or going to TAFE college, they've got nothing to do with that demonstration because they're integrated into the Australian community, proud of their heritage, loyal to their faith, but committed to the future of this country.
They've made the choice in their lives that Australia is the country they are committed to, and they are repelled by these scenes, and I applaud the leadership of the Muslim community in Australia for making that very clear. I think the recent statements have been brave and forthright and left us in no doubt that Muslims find that disturbing and repellent.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: There's chatter on social media already over the weekend, Senator Carr, of more rallies planned for other cities in Australia similar to the one we saw in Sydney over the weekend.
What concerns does the Government have that we may seen a repeat of the violence as a result of, as you say, this telephone-box minority?
BOB CARR: Well, we respond in two ways, and you're speaking to a former Premier here. You respond by having the strongest police action and the most thoughtful police action. We saw that on the weekend; I thought the behaviour of the police was impeccable. And we must have order on the streets and that means the police being ready for these demonstrations, as they were so admirably in Sydney on Saturday.
And the second thing, the second thing, we talk calmly to the Islamic community in Australia and we say to them, this has got nothing to do with the United States. America's got nothing to do with the — a lousy a film with crazy notions in it made by a nutter, made by a lone individual. And we say that Australia is a welcoming multicultural society and you could have no argument with it on these grounds.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Just quickly, our time is running out, Senator Carr. What measures is the Australian Government taking to increase security at Australian embassies and consulates overseas? We see yet more violence directed towards western embassies overnight.
BOB CARR: I won't talk about security measures, Michael, I think it's unwise. But I will say that we live with the fact that we haven't built fortresses when we've constructed embassies or consulates around the world. By their very nature, they're open to the public. There have been attacks in the past. The Australian Embassy in Jakarta, for example, sustained a bombing, we responded to that. But by and large what I said is true, that security hasn't been the prime consideration. Access has when these facilities have been built, these offices have been built and opened over the decades. So there is no ultimate security here. Diplomats are out in their communities doing a job for Australia.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: And just quickly, I know you've got a plane to catch, Senator Carr. But pretty happy in-flight reading awaiting you care of those new opinion polls in both
the Fairfax and News Limited press. A pretty welcome bounce for Labor and the Prime Minister?
BOB CARR: I think everyone on the Labor side is treating it with some caution. This has been a steady trajectory. Polls spike and dip all the time. The trend line is happier than it's been in recent months, to be sure, but we won't be reacting to it beyond saying that.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Bob Carr at Sydney Airport, thanks very much for taking the time to chat to us.
BOB CARR: My pleasure. Thank you.
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