Former PM in religious divide warning

Federal Government policies risk opening up a "bitter divide" between Muslims and other Australians similar to the hatred between Protestants and Catholics during World War I, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser says.

Mr Fraser, who has been a persistent critic of the Howard Government, made the comments in a speech at Liberty Victoria's annual general meeting in Melbourne last night, the Courier-Mail reports.

Repeating his warning last month to the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Mr Fraser said the Howard Government could learn from the mistakes made by former Prime Minister Billy Hughes during the World War I.

"His actions over the conscription debates in attacking the Catholic Church and the Irish was irresponsible and scarred Australia for over 50 years," Mr Fraser said.

"The bitterness against Catholics was extreme and in some quarters has not entirely died."

"Those in charge of affairs today seem not to understand this experience.

"There are already suggestions that this next election will be the Muslim election, as a while ago it was the Tampa election.

"It would create a terrible and unnecessary divide between Islam and the rest of the community."

Mr Fraser warns that "we have forgotten that discrimination once it starts, spreads."

"This situation is already leading to increased discrimination against Jews. It will spread from minority to minority," he said.

Mr Fraser said there was a climate of fear in some parts of the community generated in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001, the Bali bombings and the London underground bombings.

"What we do not know we often fear," Mr Fraser said.

"What we do not understand we fear.

"People from a different religion we often fear, and what we fear becomes a threat.

"The politics of these issues has bitten deeply into the Australian psyche."

Mr Fraser said he did not want to take anything away from the fight against terrorism, but he said it should not have been labelled "the war against terror."

"It should not have been called a war because if terrorism is to be overcome it will be overcome by wise policy, much better intelligence than we have had to this point and by good policing," Mr Fraser said.

"Our strongest weapons against terrorism are our own principles and belief in liberty," he said.

Government risking 'religious divide' (Courier-Mail, 27/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Who Matters? How Many? (Speech to Law and Justice Foundation, Malcolm Fraser, 31/10/06)
Malcolm Fraser (Wikipedia)
Malcolm Fraser (Australia's Prime Ministers, National Archives of Australia
Malcolm Fraser (Australian Biography)
Liberty Victoria

N chief slams religious divide theory (CathNews, 14/11/06)

28 Nov 2006