DAVID LIPSON: I want to start today's program with the violent protests we saw in Sydney over the weekend. There's been widespread condemnation today from community leaders, from moderate Muslims and from politicians alike. Here in Canberra, without being prompted, Chris Bowen said he might use his powers as Immigration Minister to possibly deport any non-citizen found to have broken the law in those protests, although there's been no indication that this anger was not home grown.
So where does this anger come from? For more, I spoke with the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr.
BOB CARR: Although repellent, they were repellent to all those Muslim Australians who are proud of their faith but are committed to one country, and that is Australia, the future of Australia. But I think Australians looking at that, all Australians looking at that would have thought, why are you in this country, you'd be happier in a country where beheadings can occur, and those people ought to think long and hard about whether that's the effect they want to have.
DAVID LIPSON: So what do we do about it at a government level or at a…
BOB CARR: I just think governments should speak out with one voice about this, saying there will be the strongest police presence in future wherever you threaten to mount a demonstration. But we will reject entirely the ridiculous argument that somehow America is to blame for this movie. You have some movie that no one would have heard of without this overreaction, produced by a lone nutter, and you have this being blamed on the United States, which under President Obama could not have done more to engage with the Islamic world.
Early in his presidency, he flew to Cairo to make a speech at the university, talking about America's desire to work with the Islamic world. He went to Turkey; he supported Turkey's entry into the European Union on the grounds of religious and ethnic diversity in Europe.
DAVID LIPSON: Do we need to take it further than rhetoric, though? I mean, there's no indication, for example, that those involved on the weekend were recent arrivals. But do we need to look at in any way the way migrants are vetted before coming to this country?
BOB CARR: I think most Australians looking at that demonstration would think that's a reasonable thing.
DAVID LIPSON: And what do you think?
BOB CARR: Most Australians looking at that demonstration would think, if you believe in beheading, if you believe in this mad, hate-filled, extremist view of the world, why don't you find a country that's more compatible with your views than Australia can be. We don't believe in beheading. This is Australia, no beheadings.
And I think that's the view of all Australians, including those Australians proud of their Islamic faith.
DAVID LIPSON: But…
BOB CARR: If they saw that demonstration – remember, while it was a violent demonstration and a loud demonstration and it was full of hate – there were 100 people there and they were projecting – that's based on media reports; I assume they're right – and they were projecting hatred and provocative behaviour because they want to goad society to become hateful and extremist as well. Those vanguard groups live for that kind of thing.
DAVID LIPSON: But in terms of the laws, legislation that we're working with, does anything need to be tweaked? Do police need to have greater powers to crack down on that sort of thing?
BOB CARR: I'm a former premier who increased police powers markedly. They've got the powers they need and they would agree with that. Let's not rush into print with new – to wave around new laws. This is matter of a minority, 100 people saying things that are repugnant to Australians, including Australians of Islamic faith, who obey the laws of this country and have chosen Australia, chosen Australia, while being proud of their religion.
Let's not – they want to – the mad extremists who were in the streets of Sydney on Saturday want to goad us, want to provoke us. They want to bring about a crisis. They want to have us in government say and do things that alienate and force into the ranks of the extremists, the moderate Muslims. They're playing a game here.
I've seen extremists at work over the years, like the Trotskyists who would try to take over anti-Vietnam demonstrations or whatever, or demonstrations on a university campus. They want bloodshed, they want cracked skulls, they want the law to come down strong, they want to get moderates moving into their ranks.
DAVID LIPSON: Yeah, a lot of people say – have said today that this wasn't so much about the video itself but that was just a trigger for underlying anger and resentment, things like wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, ongoing drone strikes, a lot of civilians killed overseas, Muslims – along with things like disadvantage in communities like Lakemba in Sydney. Are these things that all…
BOB CARR: No, no, I disagree with that firmly. You look at the extra resources state governments – mine and I guess the one that succeeded mine in the last 12 months – have put into schools and facilities there. You look at the way Islamic community groups have worked.
I've visited a few schools in this area. They're very well – these are public schools. They're very well set up. For example, for example, I went to Lakemba Boys' – to Punchbowl Boys' High. There were two teachers of Arabic, two teachers of Arabic. They had tremendous extracurricular activity. They were very supportive. I spoke to parents – there's a school that's 90 per cent Islamic in background. I spoke to parents, and I reject the idea that this is somehow explained by a level of disadvantage.
Other migrant communities in Australia faced the battle get established in the first generation. None of them went off the tangent. The bulk of Muslims in Australia haven't gone off the handle because of the difficulties that first-generation migrants faced.
DAVID LIPSON: Can we attribute any blame at all to wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, a backlash to that that's been fomenting in communities?
BOB CARR: You can demonstrate against the foreign policy of your government without holding up a sign urging beheading.
DAVID LIPSON: Okay, another matter – the polls today. A big boost for Labor. What do you put that down to?
BOB CARR: I'd be very, very cautious about it. I think a lot of it's due to people seeing conservative governments at work. They look at what's happened in Queensland, the shocking and terrible cuts to education spending for private and public schools in New South Wales, the dismantling of the TAFE system in Victoria, Campbell Newman's program in Queensland, and they say this is the warm-up act for Tony Abbott. If these mild-mannered state premiers are doing this, wait till angry Abbott has his chance.
DAVID LIPSON: Speaking of state premiers, Barry O'Farrell has the job that you used to have, the New South Wales Premier. He says we'd be mugs if we didn't consider upping the GST. What's your response to that? Are states in that bad a shape?
BOB CARR: Yeah, and Joe Hockey has chimed in and said the GST needs to be looked at. I think these are very strong signals that under an Abbott government, under an Abbott government you'd look at a 13 per cent GST. And when asked about commitments not to do it, he'd say, I can't remember saying that.
DAVID LIPSON: I understand as well you've made your position on gay marriage pretty clear. What would you like to say on that?
BOB CARR: Yeah, in line with what I did as state Premier in eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbians, my position is very clear, and that is I would vote for marriage equality.
DAVID LIPSON: And why is that? What's behind that?
BOB CARR: I just think the – where you've got a section of the community saying, we want to be included under the protection that legal marriage brings, it's a bit churlish to say no.
DAVID LIPSON: Is it fair enough for Labor to be bringing on the vote at this time rather than waiting for…
BOB CARR: One way or another, the vote's coming on and that's the position I'm taking. I think in a few years' time people will wonder what the fuss has been all about.
DAVID LIPSON: Bob Carr, thank you.
BOB CARR: My pleasure.
DAVID LIPSON: Foreign Minister Bob Carr there.
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