POLITICS

Coalition MPs Are Fighting Each Other About Islam

Russell Broadbent regrets not standing up to George Christensen sooner.

08/11/2016 9:16 AM AEDT | Updated 08/11/2016 9:50 AM AEDT
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Russell Broadbent and George Christensen are having it out in public

Adding to what has already been a wild week in federal politics -- and it's only Tuesday morning -- Coalition colleagues George Christensen and Russell Broadbent are at each other's throats over Islam in Australia.

Broadbent, the Liberal member for McMillan, made a withering speech in the House of Representatives on Monday night decrying Christensen, the Nationals member for Dawson, and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson for "peddling policies of fear and division".

"A bit of humble representation from the powers that be wouldn't hurt. It's time for us to rise above the politics of fear and division because our love of diversity, difference, and freedom will endure," he said.

"Our love of the rule of law, respect for one another, tolerance for one another will endure."

In a long speech, Broadbent said he regretted not speaking up against Christensen in September, when the Queensland MP echoed One Nation by calling for restrictions on Muslim immigration and stoked fears about Sharia law.

"That I did nothing, said nothing when my turn on the adjournment did come, is not something I can be proud of. Controlling my tongue on the basis that saying what I thought would only result in the Member for Dawson receiving more attention than his contribution deserved, was not the right thing to do," Broadbent said.

The public spat between Coalition colleagues will be yet another headache for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is already facing off constant pressure from dumped predecessor Tony Abbott as well as continual niggling from the conservative wing of his party. The marriage equality plebiscite was defeated in the Senate overnight, which will again put pressure on Turnbull to move to a free vote on the issue -- which his conservative colleagues won't agree to.

Broadbent took aim at Hanson's maiden speech, in which Broadbent said she "played on the fears of those Australians feeling economic and social exclusion" and made "bogus claims" about "dangerous Muslims who were arriving with their violent extremism." Broadbent spoke of the "the unfortunately different views that exist on my side of politics."

"Only 1.9 percent of Australians gave their first preference to One Nation party. Family First, the Australian Democratic Party and Nick Xenophon Team all received greater vote than One Nation. Why then is someone on my side of politics cuddling up to Hansonite rhetoric?" he said.

"Those propositions and policies will only hurt the Coalition parties in the long run in the same way the once great Labor party now is the captive of the Greens relying on their preferences to win 31 of their seats in this house."

On Tuesday morning, Christensen returned fire on his Coalition colleague, saying Broadbent was a "politically correct hand wringer" and "part of the elitist set here in Canberra".

"Islam is a religion and we have freedom of religion in this country. Radical Islam or Islamism is an ideology and a dangerous one at that. Nowhere in the speech Mr Broadbent has criticised me for will anyone find any criticism of Islam," Christensen said.

Interestingly, there was one thing both men agreed upon.

"All of us in the parliament should reflect on our relationship with the Australian people. Right now it's broken," Broadbent said in his speech.

"This is why many people are coming to the conclusion that politics is broken: MPs of all political persuasions don't listen much at all to the public's concerns and they hardly ever act upon them," Christensen said.

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