POLITICS

Right-Wing Hate Group Targets Sam Dastyari In Melbourne

"Go back to Iran".

09/11/2017 12:32 AM AEDT | Updated 15 hours ago

CANBERRA -- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has condemned racial abuse piled on Labor Senator Sam Dastyari in a Melbourne pub by members of a far-right group.

The prominent Iranian-born politician has also spoken about the filmed four-minute incident in which he was heckled as a "terrorist" and "monkey", describing it as "hurtful", "disgusting", "confronting" and he is considering his legal options.

"I cop a fair bit of this. I get stalked pretty much by white, racist hate groups," he told Seven's Sunrise program.

A small group of men, who called themselves 'Patriot Blue' confronted Dastyari with "you terrorist" and "you little monkey" at an advertised book event for the senator at the VU Bar in Melbourne's Footscray.

Surprisingly, one of the men in the video Neil Erikson on Thursday denied it was a racial attack and defended the use of the word 'monkey'.

"I am not a racist. I am not a racist," the known member of the far-right group United Patriots Front told Sky News.

But, the Prime Minister has called it racism.

"There is no place for racial vilification in Australia," Turnbull told Channel Seven on Thursday.

"We are the most successful multicultural society in the world and that is because its built, our society is built, on a foundation of mutual respect. And so we should have zero tolerance racism and racist abuse like that."

Labor leader Bill Shorten has described the men who ambushed the senator as "idiots".

One of the men accosting the senator was wearing a uniform from the company Toll Holdings.

Toll has told HuffPost Australia that the man had been a staff member, but had not been it is employment for several months. It has been trying to get the former employee to return the uniform, but he has, so far, refused.

"Toll can confirm that the individual wearing the Toll polo shirt is not employed by Toll, and has not worked for us for several months.

" The actions of these individuals in no way reflect the beliefs and values of Toll. No member of the community should have to endure the behaviour displayed overnight and we do not tolerate such behaviour at our company.

" At Toll, we celebrate our diverse community and we expect all of our people to behave in a manner that is consistent with our values at all times.

Toll statement

Toll also told HuffPost that it has reached out to the senator to discuss the matter and is waiting to for him to return it calls.

The mobile camera footage, filmed by the men and posted to Facebook, shows them approaching Dastyari at the bar ordering drinks as one of them shouts, "I've got some money from China, mate. Want some money?", before the abuse rapidly becomes more aggressive.

"You terrorist, you little monkey" is screamed at him as the men move in close around Dastyari, telling him to "go back to Iran".

Dastyari responds to the men's aggressive taunts with apparent calmness, smiling and telling them to "say hello to the United Patriots Front for me".

After collecting his drinks, Dastyari turns from the bar to walk back to the table he had been seated at, but is followed by the aggressive men, one of them appearing to poke the senator in the back while demanding why he won't answer their "questions".

Once seated, the white nationalists continue to film and jostle around behind Dastyari, before he again tells them, "mate, you're a bunch of racists, go away".

"What race is Islam?" the men respond, before Tim Watts moves into the camera-frame, looks directly into it and asks "what race is dickhead?"

The video appears to have since been deleted from the Patriots Blue Facebook page.

Dastyari said he cops a lot of abuse due to being a non-practicing Muslim and being from Iran, but he's disgusted by what happened overnight.

"It is hurtful. It is disgusting. It is confronting. It does take its toll," he said.

The senator has accused One Nation leader Pauline Hanson of empowering white nationalists in Australia.

Hanson has attempted to distance herself from the attack, but has not condemned it and called Dastyari a "pipsqueak".

"I was not there. I don't know what was said," the senator told Sky News. "I have only seen cuts of it that that's happened, coming across on the news."

"He is a big boy. Let him stand up for himself as I have done all these years myself.

"I think he is just using this to get publicity to sell his book. I don't see anything in this. I really don't."

After airing the video on his show, Paul Murray tweeted out an edited version of the video, condemning the behaviour of the abusive men.

"I don't get along [with Sam Dastyari]. But there is NO EXCUSE for the harassment he copped at a pub today. It's Un-Australian and the people who did it are a disgrace," Murray tweeted on Wednesday night.

Others, including opposition leader Bill Shorten, used social media to voice their disgust over the ugly verbal attack.

Dastyari posted his own video of the confrontation to his Facebook page late on Wednesday night, showing his hecklers from a different angle.

"I don't normally like to post about these people -- it gives them oxygen -- but tonight I'm making an exception," he said in an accompanying comment.

Earlier in the evening, the backbencher addressed the incident on Twitter with a degree of humour, acknowledging Watts for the way he intervened.

Others were also keen to applaud Senator Watts for his well-timed one-liner.

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