5 July 2020
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Turnbull vs. Hanson: who should lead?

Peter Switzer
22 July 2016

The nation’s good sense-o-meter lifted a notch when The Project’s Waleed Aly said he is terrified and doesn’t blame Sonia Kruger for being scared.

In his spot called Something We Should Talk About on the TV program he co-hosts, he admitted, like all of us, that he thinks the increasing global terror threat is “a nightmare”.

This followed Sonia Kruger shocking her colleagues – Lisa Wilkinson and David Campbell – on Nine’s Today program when she called for a ban on Muslims immigrating to Australia.

This followed Monday’s Q&A on the ABC, where the program’s ratings were the best of the year because Pauline Hanson ‘starred’ on the show. And her increasing national prominence has spiked since it looks like her One Nation party could end up with three senators!

This all looks a bit screwy considering our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull told us that Pauline had no place in our parliament.

“Pauline Hanson is not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene – remember she was chucked out of the Liberal party,” he reminded reporters in Sydney during the election campaign.

Once again, Malcolm has shown he needs a crash course on the country he now leads – thank God he has three years to improve that. And given Pauline Hanson and a TV host of a ‘light-on-gravitas’ current affairs show and Sonia are making all the running on this important political issue right now, it suggests it’s time our country’s number one leader stepped up to the plate!

It was great that Aly called on Australians to stop the cycle of outrage, which breeds further division. However, this really is the nation’s leader’s job.

"I can’t escape the thought that how we deal with our fear is becoming the defining measure that determines us as a people. Awful news leads to fear, which leads to an outrageous statement, which leads to a pile-on, a hardening of positions,” Aly said.

Aly wisely decided not to argue with Sonia because it would make matters worse and pondered her current situation, as the twitter sphere virtually condemned her to burn at the stake.

“Sonia Kruger is not evil, she’s scared,” Aly said, “How do you think she feels now?”

The reality is that it’s not Sonia, nor Pauline’s job to tackle the fear that’s scaring the pants off half a million Australians, who actually decided to vote for One Nation. It’s the job of the major parties and that’s why Malcolm is in the frame.

Aly is frightened too.

“I’m afraid for this country,” he said. “I see such hostility and aggression that I’m afraid about what it could do to this country. I’m terrified about what it's doing to my friends and my family. Honestly, I’m scared about where I belong.”

This is exactly what Osama Bin Laden hoped for when he declared war on the West with his September 11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers in 2001. He wanted the good and decent Muslims of the world to be alienated so they’d change sides, to put it simply.

Talks of locking Muslims up, which one letter to the editor in The Australian called for and the kinds of singling out on the streets of this country by spooked citizens gives good reasons for frightened Muslims, who also happen to be Australians.

If we start branding all Muslims as if they’re terrorists, then Bin Laden wins. However, it shouldn’t be up to every Australian to think through this complex situation and come up with the wise answer you’d expect of Solomon.

This is a job for leaders and Malcolm Turnbull has to get on the front foot. He must call out Muslim religious leaders to go public to support their flock and to demonstrate that they are at one with what all Australians want – peace and tolerance. Both these goals must be shown by both sides.

This underlines one of the great problems that Islam in the modern world has to learn to deal with.

There is a perception – rightly or wrongly – that Muslims are afraid to criticise Islam and the likes of ISIS. Undoubtedly, some Catholics in the UK, when the IRA was on its bombing spree, were asked to show their colours to show whose side they were on in the 1970s.

Aly has given it to ISIS in an editorial on The Project, which went viral. However I’m not aware if he has ever given the local religious leaders a bit of curry for not taking the lead to take the heat off their followers.

If he has, all praise to him. This week I asked Paul Murray, my colleague at Sky News, if he knew of any Muslim leader who was out there showing that he didn’t have any divided loyalties. Paul is a well-researched guy on many political and social issues and he simply answered me with two fingers and a look of disappointment. He linked his index finger to his thumb to create a big, fat zero.

So all we have in the public eye is Aly, but as I say, this is not really his job – it needs to be the leader of this country and his Ministers, who can’t afford to sweep this growing problem under the rug.

I was working on SBS’s Insight TV program when Pauline Hanson was thrown out of the Liberal Party just before the 1996 election, when she stood for Parliament as an independent. Her win made her the first female independent to win a seat in the House of Representatives.

Her platform was anti-multiculturalism and she had problems with spending on our indigenous population. She represented a minority of Australians then but that minority has grown and you can only point the finger at the major parties for that unwelcome trend.

At the time of her victory, some of my more rabidly left colleagues tried to bully the executive producer, Geoff Pow, to ignore her victory but he and I argued that a current affair shows of that calibre couldn’t ignore what Pauline’s victory said about our country.

I don’t agree with a lot of Pauline’s policies but she has tapped into the fear that Australians have that’s now engulfing too many of us.

By the way, half a million voted for Pauline but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still more millions of Aussies afraid of going to a major event, a holiday in Europe or lay on a beach on the Mediterranean.

In Australia recently, we took the Catholic Church and its leader, Cardinal George Pell to task via a Royal Commission for bad behavior and poor leadership, which had seriously tragic implications on generations of school age children who his followers were supposed to have been caring for rather than destroying.

The community had the collective relief of railing against the disappointment we suffered at the hands of the Church and other religious bodies that even included the Salvos!

Islamic leadership in this country needs to help its followers not live in fear. If these religious leaders can’t do it off their own bat, it has to be the job of our recently elected Prime Minister.

Where this country goes can’t rest on the TV editorials of Waleed Aly and Sonia Kruger, though as a commentator, I know they have a right to comment.

We shouldn’t be allowing Pauline Hanson to do all the running on these nation-defining subjects – this is a job for a Muslim fear buster. Malcolm, you have to be the main man.

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