Prime Minister Scott Morrison has categorically denied telling senior colleagues to exploit concerns about Islam for political gain, insisting he sought to confront Islamophobia.
- Scott Morrison said he never told senior colleagues to exploit community concerns about Muslim migration
- The Prime Minister accused Waleed Aly of being “very emotional” and “over the top”
- Mr Morrison refused to say whether his party should preference One Nation and Fraser Anning last.
In a tense interview with Waleed Aly on The Project, Mr Morrison accused the host of being “very emotional” during an editorial on Saturday, and suggested he said things that were “over the top”.
In those comments on Saturday, Aly cited media reports of a senior Liberal in a Shadow Cabinet meeting in 2010 suggesting the party use community concerns about Muslims failing to integrate as a political strategy to gain votes.
“That person is now the most senior politician we have,” Aly said.
The Prime Minister’s office strongly criticised that report and claimed aspects of it were defamatory, despite the original journalists sticking by the story.
“You implied that Muslims couldn’t feel safe because they had a Prime Minister who somehow had been prejudiced against them and I don’t believe that’s true, and I don’t think you believe that’s true either,” Mr Morrison said.
Watch the full interview on The Project between host Waleed Aly and PM Scott Morrison
Aly said his comments about exploiting concerns were based on reports by multiple reporters, based on multiple sources, with one willing to go on the record.
“No, that is not true,” Mr Morrison responded.
“What is suggested is that I said that we should exploit concerns about Islam in the community to our advantage.
“I was concerned that we needed to address them, which is what I have been doing inside and outside of the Parliament for the last 10 years of my life.
“I was acknowledging that there were these fears in the community and that we had to address them, not exploit them.”
Morrison can’t say how many rapists, murderers on Nauru
The Prime Minister also admitted he did not know how many convicted “rapists and murderers” were currently on Manus Island.
Senior Coalition figures have argued the medical evacuation bill will allow these people into Australia, although the Immigration Minister has the discretion to block their transfer if they have been convicted or pose a national security threat.
Aly asked whether describing a small section of asylum seekers as rapists and murderers created a prejudice.
“You’ve got to be honest with people,” Mr Morrison said, before suggesting Aly was “sugar-coating” the threat of the bill.
Aly repeatedly asked Mr Morrison to state exactly how many convicted rapists and murderers were on the island.
“There only needs to be one, that’s my answer,” Mr Morrison said.
“There are a number… I don’t have the number to hand but this is getting into a semantic discussion, what I am saying to you Waleed is this though, don’t sugar-coat this stuff.
“I’m afraid, mate, that sometimes you can be accused of that.”