Thursday 15 October 2015
BAIRD GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO BE HONEST WITH MUSLIM COMMUNITY LEADERS
Minister for Multiculturalism John Ajaka has refused to address questions about the lack of consultation with Muslim community leaders on proposed terror laws.
During a heated Legislative Council question time yesterday, Mr Ajaka was unable to rule out allegations that the Muslim community had been used as a photo opportunity for Premier Mike Baird on Tuesday.
Despite holding a round table discussion with Muslim community leaders, Opposition Leader Luke Foley and Member for Lakemba Jihad Dib, the Baird Government did not make any mention of the policies it would announce the next day.
Rather than address concerns about the lack of respect shown to
the Muslim community, Mr Ajaka accused the opposition of playing political
A transcript of the Legislative Council question time commences on page 23 and can be viewed here and below.
Quotes attributable to Legislative Council Opposition Whip Shaoquett Moselmane
“The Baird Government has insulted the Muslim community by
failing to consult with them about its proposed anti-terror laws.”
“To gather key figures in the Muslim community into one room and then not tell them about a policy like this is plain offensive.”
“Premier Mike Baird has used the Muslim community as a photo opportunity. He doesn’t want consultation, he wants publicity.”
“By parading around and using the community leaders for his political agenda, Premier Baird runs the risk of denigrating the credibility or effectiveness of these community leaders to communicate the messages back to their respective communities.”
Transcript of Legislative Council Question Time – Wednesday 14 October 2015
The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism both is his capacity and in his capacity of representing the Attorney General. Why did the Minister attend a Sydney meeting with Muslim community leaders, including the Grand Mufti of Australia, on Monday this week and make no mention of the State Government's planned 28-day detention orders, which the Government announced only hours later?
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I thank the honourable member for his question. I have not been asked a question on this topic since the tragic event in Parramatta. At the outset I send my deepest condolences to the family of Curtis Cheng. From all accounts Mr Cheng was a beautiful family man who had an amazing family—his wife and two incredible kids. The Premier and the Deputy Premier have met the Cheng family and sent condolences on behalf of all members of this Parliament.
I congratulate the Premier for arranging the meeting with Islamic leaders and for inviting the Leader of the Opposition, Luke Foley, and Jihad Dib to attend. That invitation shows the bipartisan approach of this Government and the Premier. It shows that we intend to work together as one community to resolve this very complex issue that we as a society in New South Wales currently face. It saddens me that notwithstanding the Premier's invitation those opposite want to turn this into a political game.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Those opposite want to play politics and I have absolutely no intention of doing that.
The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: And the Premier did not?
The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane to order for the first time.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: For more than two months I have been meeting with all of the leaders and members of the Islamic community to discuss this issue. What has shocked me is that at every meeting I commence the conversation by expressing this Government' concern that a beautiful 13-year-old boy or girl, a wonderful young child with a bright future, suddenly at the age of 15 or 16 believes that there is nothing for them in life than to kill and be killed. I used that example and to my horror my worst nightmare came true outside the Parramatta police headquarters. By all indications when that boy was 13 years old he was doing well and was respected, but suddenly at the age of 15 he felt that there was nothing left for him than to kill and be killed. Some may not know that he deliberately wore the black dishdasha when he went out that day. [Time expired.]
The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: I ask a supplementary question. In light of the Minister's answer, could he elucidate with regard to whether he was acting in good faith when he attended Monday's meeting with Muslim community leaders and failed to mention the 28-day detention order plan?
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I have always acted in good faith in every action I have taken in relation to this issue. It is very sad that those opposite have not acted in good faith and are now playing this political game, which they should not be doing. I will not play this political game. The boy wore the black dishdasha, a sign that he knew that he was going to die. He knew that that was what would happen but those opposite want to play political games.
The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: The Premier knew about the 28-day detention orders. You are playing games.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Shame on the member for saying that; of all people, the member should know better.
The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: Your Premier insulted them for a photoshoot.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane to order for the second time.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I will
not play political games. We are working with the community leaders and we will
continue to work with them. Those opposite fail to understand that there is no
simple solution. Finding a solution requires work by all parties. The Premier
made it clear, and he has continued to make it clear, that there are aspects of
policing, education and multiculturalism that all have to work together. Those
opposite cannot seriously believe that the only issue is multiculturalism and
that police will be excluded. We support the police and the community supports
the police. The Islamic community made it clear that they support the police.
We work together in every way in relation to this. [Time
The Hon. WALT SECORD: I direct my question to the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism, representing the Attorney General. Given that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declined to enact laws to hold people without charge for 28 days, why is the New South Wales Government proceeding with the 28-day detention order plan?
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I thank the honourable member for his question. Again, members opposite want to play political games. As I said in answer to the previous question, it is absolutely clear that this is a very complex issue and that there is no simple, single answer. Members opposite know that. The Government has demonstrated that it will work with all relevant parties, stakeholders and community leaders. The Premier made it clear that members opposite were welcome to be involved. He included the Leader of the Opposition, Luke Foley, and the member for Lakemba, Jihad Dib, in those meetings. But what do members opposite still want to do? They still want to play games.
I have spent more than two months meeting with each and every community leader. The common thread in the consultations with each of them is an acknowledgment that this is a complex issue and that we need to work together as a family and as a community. That is exactly what this Government is doing. It is also clear from the messages sent by these communities that they fully support Premier Mike Baird. They have made it clear that our Premier has been consulting with them from day one; he has included them from day one. The Premier has also made it clear, as has the Commissioner of Police, Andrew Scipione, that we will work together.
I meet with these communities. I doubt that members opposite meet them because they are too busy playing political games. I am not getting any feedback from members of the communities with which I meet that members opposite are doing any work in this space. This Government and every community in New South Wales have a duty to protect the population of this State. That includes young people who, for whatever reason, suddenly believe that all that is left for them in life is to kill or be killed.
The obligation is not only to protect the community at large; we must also protect our youth, and this Government is taking the appropriate action to do so. It will continue to take the most appropriate action to protect our youth. That is what a good government does, and that is what a good opposition should do instead of playing these games. Stop playing these games. The Government offered to include the Opposition in this work. Members opposite should cut out the nonsense. The lives of our youths are at stake and our community is at stake. Members opposite should wake up to themselves.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism in his capacity and representing the Attorney General. Given his desire to build rapport and trust as part of the frontline defence against radicalisation, how does he expect to build this trust with Muslim communities when there was a lack of good faith in failing to reveal his detention plans at the meeting he called?
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: Point of order: The question contains a high degree of argument and should be ruled out of order. It cannot be rationally said to be a question if the argument is removed from that question.
The PRESIDENT: Order! While the question sailed very close to the wind, the Minister may respond if he wishes to do so.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Thank
you, Mr President. I am happy to respond. Unlike those opposite, as I said, I
do not intend to play political games. If they continue to want to play
political games, that is a matter for them. Again I repeat what I said earlier,
because clearly they are not listening. I always act in good faith and they
know that. It is shameful of them to say that I do not.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: Point of order: The Opposition has asked a question of the Minister and members are not giving him a chance to answer it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is hectoring him all the way through his answer.
The Hon. Adam Searle: Mr President, that was not a point of order.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I beg to disagree. The Minister is entitled to be heard in silence while he gives his answer.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: It is extraordinary that they ask these questions where clearly they are playing political games and they do not give me an opportunity to answer.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister has on a number of occasions made comments along those lines. While no-one has taken a point of order, I indicate that the Minister is debating the question. He should confine himself to responding in a way that is generally relevant.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Thank you. I am very confident that I have the trust and faith of the community leaders of the communities in this space. I meet with them on a regular basis. I have not only a good working relationship with them but, more importantly, I have a strong friendship with the vast majority of the Islamic leaders—
The Hon. Shaoquett
Moselmane: And then you insult them by not disclosing the
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: —and those opposite know that. The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane knows that I have a very strong relationship with the community leaders. It is absolutely outrageous to in any way suggest that I do not have their trust. I meet with them regularly. I have been consulting with the leaders extensively on this issue for many months and I will continue to work with the leaders. I have said before, and members opposite fail to understand, that a working partnership between the Government and the community leaders is required.
When we talk about a partnership with the Government, it is not simply a multicultural aspect of the Government. There are many aspects to the Government such as education and policing. It is part and parcel of it and the leaders are well aware of it. I heard over and again each community leader thanking Commissioner Andrew Scipione for the great work that the police do; they were showing respect for the police. At the same time, they were extending their condolences for the loss of life of one of the police personnel. They made that clear, and yet members opposite fail to support the police and in some way blame the police.
The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Point of order: The question was quite specific. The Minister has moved well away from the question and is now making comments that have no relationship to what was asked. He is directing comments at the Opposition.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack: To the point of order: I understand the Opposition does not like the answer to that question, but it does not mean that the answer is not relevant. It directly addresses the topic that was raised in the question.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The question in fact was not specific. By and large the Minister has been generally relevant. If the Minister has anything else he would like to add, he should do so in the brief amount of time he has available.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Not only did we undertake extensive consultation with members, we also called for submissions. We made it clear that we must work together. We wanted to hear ideas from the community, their information, their knowledge and their expertise so that we could work together. Numerous submissions were made by community leaders. It is interesting that we did not receive one submission from members opposite.
The Hon. Walt Secord: What are you talking about?
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: The Hon. Walt Secord does not even know what I am talking about. He has no idea about a call for submissions.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Walt Secord to order for the first time.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: There was not one response to the call for submissions, not one suggestion from those opposite. [Time expired.]
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: I ask a supplementary question: In light of the Minister's answer that he has met with community leaders, what does he say to Silma Ihram from the Muslim Women's Association, who said, "When you go to consultation, you expect there's going to be the opportunity to hear what the Government's going to do before they do it"?
The PRESIDENT: Order! The question is out of order.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT
MOSELMANE: My question is addressed to Minister for Ageing, Minister
for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism, in his capacity as
Minister for Multiculturalism and representing the Attorney General. What is the
Minister's response to community concerns, including those of Silma Ihram from
the Australian Muslim Women's Association, who said this morning that she was
disappointed by the government?
When you go to consultation, you expect there's going to be the opportunity to hear what the Government's going to do before they do it.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Members of the Opposition can continue playing these political games. They can continue to ask as many questions as they want. I have made the answers very clear, and I will not continue to be put in a position where—
The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: You are insulting the community.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane that he is on two calls to order. I have extended him quite a bit of latitude.
The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Put simply, I have been consulting with the communities for over two months. I intend to continue to consult with the communities. If members on the other side of the Chamber think that the consultations start and finish in one day or within one month they should know that these consultations will continue for a long period of time. The consultations will definitely continue while I am Minister for Multiculturalism.
These consultations have been occurring for a considerable period of time and will continue to occur. I will be meeting with community leaders continually, because we will be working together. The Government thought that members on the opposite side of the Chamber were going to work with us; they have made it very clear that they do not intend to. They intend to play games. I will be meeting with Silma. She spoke to my office yesterday. We will continue to consult and continue to meet.
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