CANBERRA -- Prime Minister Tony Abbott has denied he is whipping up hysteria about Islamic State ahead of the September 19 Canning by-election.
Abbott has again compared Islamic State with the Nazis of World War II, as his government considers a U.S. request to expand military action in the Middle East.
The Government is widely expected next week to approve joining coalition airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria.
Abbott has likened Islamic State to Adolf Hitler’s Nazis for at least a year, but today he stepped up the comparisons.
“The Nazis did terrible evil, but even they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it,” he told radio 2GB host Alan Jones.
“These people boast about their evil. This is the extraordinary thing.”
“They act in the way of medieval barbarians acted, only they broadcast it to the world with an effrontery which is hard to credit.”
Pressed at a later media conference, Abbott denied he explicitly said ISIS was "worse than the Nazis", but still stood by his earlier comments.
"Look, I'm not in the business of trying to rank evil, I'm not in the business of ranking evil, but I do make this point, that unlike previous evil-doers, whether we're talking about Stalin, Hitler or whoever that tried to cover up their evil, this wretched death cult boasts about it," he told reporters in Melbourne's east.
In July, the Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned against overstating the threat posed by Islamic State, saying it risked turning the counter terrorism debate into a “caricature.”
Turnbull said the danger posed today was not as grave as past threats to national security, such as Adolf Hitler.
“Daesh is not Hitler's Germany, Tojo's Japan or Stalin's Russia,” he said.
But, the remarks have again upset Jewish groups in Australia, which say there is no comparison.
During the Holocaust, the Nazis and their collaborators killed more than six million Jews.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has opted to not join the Prime Minister.
"IS is terrible, but I don't think I would equate it with World War II," he told reporters in Perth.
"I agree with Mr Abbott that IS is evil. We are in it together for fighting terrorism, where it appears and in whatever form. I will not go to the Second World War analogies."
The Prime Minister has rejected suggestions he is whipping up hysteria to ensure Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie wins the knife-edge Canning by-election.
“This is nonsense,” he said.
“Turn on your televisions. Look at what is happening. The latest atrocity was four young men strung up and burned alive.”
Abbott says the government is “utterly committed” to the campaign against the terrorists which still control vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.
He says a decision on whether Australian fighter jets will strike targets in Syria will not be made while the Defence Minister is out of the country.
Yesterday, the visiting former CIA boss and former commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, David Petraeus, encouraged Australia to expand the fight into Syria.
"Taking such an action, together with the other coalition members, will do damage to ISIS,” the retired four-star general predicted as he gave the Lowy Institute Lecture in Sydney.
Petraeus also briefed Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
”He was of the view that there is inescapable logic that if you are attacking Daesh and seeking to defeat this terrorist organisation in Iraq, you must appreciate that it is actually one theatre of war, because Daesh is operating across the Syrian-Iraq border, “Bishop told the ABC’s AM program.
“And so he was supportive of Australia taking that role, but of course, it is a matter for our country.”
“We are discussing it with other coalition partners. We are seeking legal advice.”