Prime Minister Scott Morrison has adamantly denied allegations that he encouraged his colleagues to use community concerns about Muslim migration for political gain.
In a heated interview with The Project host Waleed Aly, Mr Morrison was asked about a meeting in 2010, held during his time as shadow immigration minister, where he is accused of saying the worries about Islam could be exploited.
However, the Prime Minister says that the object of the shadow cabinet meeting was actually to acknowledge that there were fears and his party had to address them.
Mr Morrison has consistently denied the allegation by unnamed sources, which resurfaced online in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, in which a lone gunman opened fire at two mosques during Friday prayers, killing 50 people.
“It never happened. I’ve always been deeply concerned about attitudes towards people of Muslim faith in our community,” he said.
“I was acknowledging that there were these fears in the community and that we had to address them, not exploit them.”
In a one-on-one interview with Aly on Thursday, the prime minister said he did not agree with what the host put forward, saying whoever spoke to a journalist to “smear” him in that way eight years ago was lying.
“I’ve always been deeply concerned about attitudes towards people of Muslim faith in our community,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“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,” Mr Morrison said.
Australia may not understand Islam: Morrison
Asked whether Australia has a problem with Islamophobia, Mr Morrison acknowledged the nation may not understand the faith as well as it could.
“I don’t know if Australians understand Islam very well, and that can often lead to the fear of things that you don’t understand, so by definition that’s what it leads to,” he said.
But he said he will be doing his bit to ensure people love “all Australians”, whatever their background, ethnicity or religion may be.
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“We are the most successful multicultural country in the earth, the best immigration nation of any country in the earth,” he added.
‘Patronising’ and ‘disingenuous’: ScoMo’s body language slammed
Many social media viewers who lashed out at the PM over his “disrespectful” body language and negative attitude towards Aly.
“Body language is everything and this tells me that ScoMo actually doesn’t give a f***,” one Twitter user wrote.
Others suggested the Prime Minister was slouching in his chair and showed a lack of diplomacy in his responses.
#TheProject His body language.. the smirk.. the attitude of superiority… interrupting and talking over Wahleed… classic Morrison.. the man is just a bully…just one problem… Wahleed isnt.. he just exudes integrity and intellect. .. Morrison lost.
— Mark Peasley (@peasley_mark) March 21, 2019
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say ScoMo decided to be his own media advisor for this one…. what a train wreck #TheProject
— Flicky D (@drexelent) March 21, 2019
There was only one person on that set who sounded like a national leader and it wasn't the prime minister. #TheProject
— Bill (@Billablog) March 21, 2019
who’s advising @ScottMorrisonMP?
his media minders allowed him to sit a character test on #TheProject — he failed.
the spotlight is now on the prime minister’s character: honesty, substance, humility — or lack thereof. 👏👏
— simon holmes à court (@simonahac) March 21, 2019
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