“The Muslim community are our absolutely necessary partners in this fight against extremism and we need to work very closely with them and as you can see, as we know, we have been, we are and it has been heartening to see strong statements of support for Australian values from leading members in the Muslim community, both in private meetings and, of course, in public.”

So said Malcolm Turnbull in October of last year at an anti-terrorism summit, and he has committed to expanding deradicalisation programs in the Asia-Pacific region, citing deradicalisation as a way to combat terrorism and keep Australians safer.

Yet because Dr Anne Aly, chair of People Against Violent Extremism, suggested to a court that a young man might be a candidate for just such a program, Justice Minister Michael Keenan has attacked her as a friend to terrorists: “It was a letter of support for [self-styled sheikh] Junaid Thorne, and I think that shows pretty poor judgement quite frankly.”

Fran Kelly asked Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about his comments, and Bishop replied: “Michael Keenan is quite rightly pointing out that the candidate for Cowan for the Labor Party has criticised our national security efforts. She did write a letter for the known hate preacher, Junaid Thorne, in an attempt to get him off jail time.”

After Kelly pointed out that, in fact, the letter was not for Thorne, but for his much younger co-accused, and that getting terrorism suspects into deradicalisation programs is part of Australia’s anti-terror efforts, Bishop doubled down on attacking Aly, and threw in some “stop the boats” nonsense for good measure. “She’s not supporting a number of our national security efforts, and this is a pattern across the Labor Party. We now see that there are about 50 Labor candidates and members who disagree with Bill Shorten when he says that he backs the Turnbull government’s approach to border protection.”

We think that shows pretty poor judgement, quite frankly.

Peter Fray

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