President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.. has accused the Australian Labor Party of trying to silence a conservative for his views after an Australian Labor politician called for British commentator Raheem Kassam to be banned from entering Australia.
“We have Big Tech constantly trying to silence conservatives and now one of the major political parties in Australia is trying to silence @RaheemKassam because of his conservative views. The insanity needs to stop!” Trump Jr. wrote.
We have Big Tech constantly trying to silence conservatives and now one of the major political parties in Australia is trying to silence @RaheemKassam because of his conservative views. The insanity needs to stop! https://t.co/vtPEZcGl47
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 31, 2019
Kassam, former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London, is scheduled to speak in Australia’s first-ever Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to take place Aug. 9-11 in Sydney.
According to the event’s website, CPAC Australia “is a conference for those that despaired at the prospect of a Shorten [Labor] government controlled by militant unions and influenced by the Greens.”
The website describes Kassam as a “British political activist, former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London, and former chief advisor to former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage. He is currently the Global editor-in-chief of Human Events, a conservative American digital-only publication.”
Labor Senator Kristina Keneally, also the party’s home affairs spokeswoman, called Kassam a “career bigot,” and urged for his visa to be cancelled.
Keneally told the Australian Senate on July 30 that in her view, Kassam “has an extensive history of vilifying people on the grounds of their race, religion, sexuality, and gender.”
Whilst CPAC may have an innocent name, it definitely is not innocent by nature.
The event marks the normalisation of the extreme right wing in Australia.
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) July 30, 2019
“He has described the (Koran), the holy book of the Muslim faith, as ‘fundamentally evil,'” she continued.
“Mr. Kassam has campaigned for ‘limited migration’ against what he describes as ‘large-scale Muslim immigration.’ He has regularly attacked the LGBTI community with homophobic and transphobic comments on social media.”
Keneally also cited a tweet in which Kassam said that Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon should have her legs taped shut “so she can’t reproduce” after Sturgeon spoke about her experience of miscarriage. Kassam has since apologized for the comment and deleted the tweet.
“We should not allow career bigots—a person who spreads hate speech about Muslims, about women and about gay and lesbian people—to enter our country with the express intent of undermining equity and equality,” Keneally said on July 30.
Following her remarks, Kassam, a former Muslim, called Keneally’s comments “defamation.”
“Australian senator @KKeneally wants me to freak out publicly over her lies about me in her Senate,” he tweeted on July 31. “I’ll see her in court if she repeats her defamation outside the chamber, where she currently hides behind parliamentary privilege.”
Australian senator @KKeneally wants me to freak out publicly over her lies about me in her Senate.
I got a massage and played ping pong instead.
I’ll see her in court if she repeats her defamation outside the chamber, where she currently hides behind parliamentary privilege.
— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) July 30, 2019
Following the remarks from Keneally, Kassam, and Trump Jr., the Australian federal government said that it doesn’t comment on individual cases but will defend Kassam’s right to free speech.
Immigration Minister David Coleman told parliament on Aug. 1, “All the applications to enter Australia are dealt with under the provisions of Migration Act. And, all non-citizens must meet the character test.
“Of course, for people who may hold controversial views, any impact of those views must always be balanced against Australia’s well-established principles of freedom of speech.”
Leader of the Government in the Senate and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann remarked (pdf) that the comments that Keneally quoted Kassam as having said are “disgraceful and highly objectionable and completely outrageous that, of course, I entirely abhor, and I’m sure anyone in this Senate chamber abhors.
“I don’t think that that is a partisan position. Those are disgusting comments and I reject them. I reject them entirely and utterly.”
But he noted that “just because you are at an event somewhere, you’re not expected to agree with everything that everybody says that is at the same event. Let me tell you, all of us have been at events in our electorates where we’ve come across people who have made highly objectionable comments.”
He wrote in a letter to the Senate on Aug. 1, “The government will always stand against divisive, inflammatory commentary which seeks to invite hatred.
“However, the way to defeat bad ideas, bad arguments and unacceptable views is through debate, especially with those we disagree with. It is not by limiting our conversations only to those who all the time share all of our views.”
Conference organiser and Liberty Works founder Andrew Cooper accused Keneally of virtue-signaling, telling the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), “Her hysterical opposition to hearing things she doesn’t like is typical … she attacks free speech and attempts to belittle those that hold alternate views.”
Australian Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker, who is due to speak at CPAC, told conservative commentator Andrew Bolt late July 31 she doesn’t think that “opinions should be the basis upon which we filter who’s an appropriate person to visit Australia.”
Stoker continued to defend her and other politicians’ scheduled attendance at CPAC.
“If we are doing our job properly as politicians we should be talking to people from all walks of life,” she told SBS News on July 31. “Trying to shame into silence anyone who would speak to a person who is wrong on an issue damages our capacity for constructive democracy.”
Liberal politician Craig Kelly, who represents the electorate of Hughes in NSW, is also slated to speak at CPAC. He referred to Keneally’s efforts to ban Kassam as among a “disturbing recent trend of attempts to silence those that hold different political views,” SMH reported.
“If we banned everyone from Australia that said something offensive on Twitter our tourist numbers would be well down,” Kelly added.
Keneally’s comments about Kassam on July 30 was part of a 10-minute speech that went into the detail of the background of specific individuals attending CPAC. Keneally prefaced her speech by accusing the CPAC speaker’s list of having on it a “who’s who of right-wing extremism, with numerous guests having long records of attacks on women, on gay and lesbian people, on Islam as well as having links to anti-Semitism.”
Among the name drops, which included Kassam, Keneally called out (pdf) Chair of the American Conservative Union Matt Schlapp, conservative U.S. Congressmen Matt Gaetz from Florida and Mark Meadows from North Carolina, for their past remarks.
In a speech in parliament on July 31, Stoker responded to Keneally’s speech, pointing out that her scheduled talk at CPAC is focused on the theme of improving Australia’s economic productivity.
“Hardly, I’d suggest, a topic that’s about to stir race riots,” she said.
“I want to respond to the insinuation from Senator Keneally that I endorse the comments made by Raheem Kassam—they’re not comments that I’d ever make myself and nor do I endorse them.”
“Had Mr Kassam threatened the safety of another person, I might be as alarmed as Senator Keneally,” Stoker said.
“But to call for him to be banned from this country for being an idiot? Well, we’d never see an English football or cricket supporter ever enter this country again,” she spoke, apparently in jest.
“Does Senator Keneally feel her opinions are so soft, her worldview so fragile, that she could not withstand or argue against opinions with which she does not agree?”
Organisers say they see CPAC Australia as a rallying point for those who identify with conservative and libertarian values centred around small government and protecting individual freedoms to gather and share their vision for the nation’s future.
Tickets are available from the CPAC Australia website.
Top sponsors of CPAC Australia include the conservative activist group Advance Australia and libertarian think tank Institute of Public Affairs.
The Epoch Times’ Melanie Sun and The Australian Associated Press contributed to this report.