Dutton's office defends singling out Lebanese-Muslims

UPDATE: THE office of Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has defended comments he made on the floor of Parliament yesterday in which he said Lebanese-Muslims should not have been allowed to migrate to Australia. 

Mr Dutton's office was phoned and asked if he had any response to a statement issued by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, labeling his comments ignorant and stupid and calling for an apology.

A spokeswoman for Mr Dutton replied with an email she said would "inform" this journalist.

The email included two clippings from The Australian newspaper.

The first was by Matthew Franklin in 2007 and the first sentence read: "Immigration authorities warned the Fraser government in 1976 it was accepting too Lebanese Muslim refugees without "the required" qualities for successful integration."

In that article Malcolm Fraser himself was quoted as saying he suspected schools and the community were not "equipped" to help Muslim youths immigrating to the country. 

The story also stated cabinet documents revealed crowded classrooms, in Sydney's southwest and high unemployment rates among Lebanese Muslims were causing concerns among people at the Commonwealth Department of Social Security. 

The second newspaper clipping was penned by Gerard Henderson, again in The Australian, in 2015. 

That article compared the migration of Vietnamese people to Australia in the '70s with Lebanese Muslims in the same period. 

It also contained excerpts from cabinet documents from 1976 which showed the Fraser Government changing the criteria it required perspective migrants from Lebanon to meet. 

"This was an acknowledgment, at the highest level of government, that the Lebanon Concession had turned into a social policy disaster," Henderson wrote. 

Last week Mr Dutton told political commentator Andrew Bolt Australians had to acknowledge mistakes were made during the Fraser era in terms of immigration policy.

Yesterday when pressed by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to say which people from which country he believed should not have been allowed to migrate to Australia Mr Dutton said:  "The advice that I have is that, out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist related offences in this country, 22 are from second- and third-generation Lebanese Muslim backgrounds."

"I am not going to allow people who are hardworking, who have done the right thing by this country, who have contributed, who have worked hard and who have educated their children to be defined by those people who are doing the wrong thing and have been charged with terrorist offences or have been involved in crime otherwise.

"If the Leader of the Opposition wants somehow to conduct a phoney debate in this country and not to be honest in relation to these matters, that is an issue for him.

"We are doing all that we can, through our intelligence agencies and through our border protection agencies, to make sure that we detect offences before they occur and to make sure that we can disrupt these terrorist offences, in particular, before they take place.

"But I am not going to shy away from the facts. I hold up those people who have come from all walks of life-the Vietnamese who came in; people who have come in from Asia and from war-torn Europe; people who have come in from Lebanon and otherwise. Many people who have built this country over many decades deserve to be praised, but I am going to call out those people who are doing the wrong thing.

"If we pretend otherwise, my judgement is that we only compound these problems.

"It is very hard to take anything seriously from this Leader of the Opposition when he presided over the greatest failing of public policy in this country's history, when they allowed the 50,000 people on 800 boats to come into this country. We are getting the balance right when it comes to the migration policy in this country.

"We have 18,750 people a year coming here under our refugee and humanitarian programs, we have a net migration figure of close to 200,000 and we are working on one of the best programs in the world to provide a second start in life for people-and we want them to do it in a safe society.

"I do not want people, whether they are longstanding or new arrivals to our country, being harmed. I do not want terrorist offences being committed in our country.

"I do not want people committing all sorts of extortion and other crimes in parts of the country. I do not want that. I want a safe country, and I am going to do everything that I can in this portfolio to stare these threats down.

"I am not interested in the politically correct nonsense that the Leader of the Opposition might carry on with. I want to make sure that we settle people in this country who want to take the opportunity given to them.

"We provide support services, education and housing, and many people-the vast majority of people-make an absolute go of that.

"But, for those people who do not, we should own up to our mistakes, we should rectify the problems and we should ensure the great future of this country."

EARLIER:IMMIGRATION Minister Peter Dutton has singled out Lebanese Muslims as a group of people he believes should not have been able to immigrate to Australia. 

Last week Mr Dutton made headlines when he told political commentator Andrew Bolt he believed former Prime Minister Malcolm Faser made mistakes in his immigration policy which opened Australia up to people beyond western Europe. 

Yesterday, in Parliament, Mr Dutton faced intense questioning over the comments. 

"Minister which people from which country does the Minister believe should not have been allowed into Australia when Mr Fraser was Prime Minister?" Opposition leader Bill Shorten asked. 

Mr Dutton responded: "The advice that I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist related offences in this country 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim backgrounds."

"Now I'm not going to allow people who are hard-working who have done the right thing by this country, who have contributed, who have worked hard, who have educated their children - I'm not going to allow those people to be defined by those people who are doing the wrong thing and have been charged with terrorist offences or have been involved in crime otherwise."

Today the backlash against Mr Dutton's comments has been gathering momentum. 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten later released a statement condemning the remarks. 

"Enough is enough," the statement read. 

"Our hardworking migrant communities shouldn't have to tolerate this kind of ignorant stupidity and he needs to immediately apologise.

"It's time for Malcolm Turnbull to show some leadership and pull his Immigration Minister into line."

There are also concerns Mr Dutton's attitudes could hurt the Liberal Party's electoral prospects, particularly when one considers just less than 20% of Australians speak a language other than English at home.

Mr Dutton's office has been contacted for comment. 


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