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Dutton comments risk terror battle: Labor

AAP logoAAP 23/11/2016

Labor has accused Peter Dutton of jeopardising the fight against terrorism, as coalition MPs came to the immigration minister's defence.

Mr Dutton has blamed Fraser government immigration policies for problems such as radicalisation and gang violence 30 years on, pointing to figures showing 22 of the past 33 people charged with terrorism-related offences were from second- and third-generation Lebanese Muslim backgrounds.

Responding to a national security speech by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday, Labor leader Bill Shorten told parliament the immigration minister had insulted people who had given their all for Australia.

"His ignorant comments contradict ... every briefing I have ever received from our security agencies who explain to us how best to counter radicalisation about defeating extremism" Mr Shorten said.

"Loud, lazy, disrespectful, wholesale labelling of entire communities for the actions of a tiny minority, aid and abet the isolation and resentment that the extremists pray upon."

Attorney-General George Brandis told parliament the government had a "high order" of cooperation with the Muslim community to counter terrorism.

Senator Brandis said he had met with ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis on Tuesday and he had not raised any concerns about Mr Dutton's comments.

"Nothing that Mr Dutton has said has in any way compromises or prejudices that engagement and I've had no suggestion from any of my agencies or my department to that effect."

Counter-terror expert and Labor MP Anne Aly says she has received threatening emails following Mr Dutton's comments.

The comments had stoked fear and division and jarred with the prime minister's assertion that an inclusive nation was the best weapon against terrorism, she said.

"If Malcolm Turnbull believes that, if he really believes that, he would have come out and slapped down Peter Dutton's disgraceful comments against migrant Australians who have helped to build this nation," Dr Aly told reporters in Canberra.

"These are comments that are very typical of the politics of fear and the politics of division, the kind of politics that we really don't need right now in Australia."

Nationals MP Andrew Broad had little sympathy for the unpleasantness being directed Dr Aly's way.

"I got some wedgies in school so, you know," he said.

Liberal MP Andrew Laming said the minister's comments were "prima facie correct".

Lebanese Muslims were over-represented in terms of carer and disability payments and the dole compared to their share of the population.

"We need to work towards giving their children the education they need, the youth the training they need, and the young adults the jobs they need so they can share in the Australian dream," the Queensland MP said.

"And until we do that, we'll continue to reap the seeds of terrorism-related offences."

Labor MP Peter Khalil, a son of Egyptian migrants, blasted Mr Dutton: "The minister has displayed a breathtaking ignorance of the success of generations of Lebanese Australians."

Ian Macphee, who was immigration minister in the Fraser Liberal government, labelled Mr Dutton's comments "outrageous".

"We have had a succession of inadequate immigration ministers in recent years but Dutton is setting the standards even lower," he said.

Greens senator Nick McKim labelled Mr Dutton a "racist idiot", sparking a heated exchange with Senator Brandis.

"That is a disgusting thing to say, he ought to be ashamed of himself, he ought to be censured by the Senate," the government leader said

Senator McKim welcomed a censure, telling Senator Brandis: "There are opportunities available".

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the idea Mr Dutton's comments would jeopardise Australia's counter-terrorism efforts was complete nonsense.

"The government's record on this is very, very good," he told Sky News on Wednesday night.

He urged Dr Aly, if she had concerns about her security, to contact his office and report any threat to police.

"MPs are subject to threats unfortunately in this business on a pretty regular basis."

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