Major Australian party leaders reaffirm racial tolerance
October 09, 2016 - 8:46 PM
CANBERRA, Australia - The leaders of Australia's two major political parties on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to racial tolerance in Australia after several senators called for a ban on Muslim immigration.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull introduced an anti-racial discrimination motion to the House of Representatives at the request of opposition leader Bill Shorten.
A similar motion was passed by the lower chamber 20 years ago after Pauline Hanson, then an independent lawmaker, used her first speech to Parliament to warn that Australia was "in danger of being swamped by Asians" due to the nation's non-discriminatory immigration policy.
Hanson was elected to the Senate in July after 18 years out of Parliament. The four senators in her One Nation party now want an end to Muslim immigration.
Turnbull told Parliament that terrorists want the wider Australian community to turn against Muslims, who account for 2.2 per cent of Australian population of 24 million people.
"The most effective weapon against the terrorists is an inclusive nation," Turnbull said. "An inclusive nation is a safe nation."
Shorten said his centre-left Labor Party had a shared interest with Turnbull's conservative Liberal Party interest in rejecting racial intolerance.
"Attacks on minorities are always weaker when we in this Parliament set a better example and show the way," Shorten said. "We are not being swamped by anyone."
The motion that commits Australia to the non-discriminatory immigration policy that has existed since the 1970s will be debated Tuesday.
It was introduced to Parliament as the issue has emerged in U.S. politics, and as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton held their second debate.
Trump has called for a halt to Muslim immigration to the United States. Pushed on Monday on whether he still supported a complete ban on Muslims coming into the country, Trump said his plan instead was called "extreme vetting."
An online survey by Sydney-based Essential Research found in August that 49 per cent of respondents said they supported a ban on Muslim immigration, 40 per cent opposed such a ban and 11 per cent did not know.
The survey of 1,000 Australian voters over five days ending July 31 had a 3 percentage point margin of error.
Turnbull said Australia's population was more diverse than the United States, with one quarter of Australians born overseas and almost half Australians having at least one parent born overseas. California was the only U.S. state with comparable diversity, he said.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016