Language that suggested the position of Muslims in Australian society was “highly negotiable” divided a nation at a time when terror groups worked to instil fear into the wider population, Muslim representative Tasneem Chopra has said.
The final episode of ABC’s Q&A for the year examined the ongoing threat posed by terrorism, economics and climate change.
The panel, which included Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Shadow Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, debated approaches to the growing conflict in Syria and the mass exodus of refugees from the country.
Following terror attacks in Paris on November 13, fears had circulated that violent extremists could pose as refugees to move from Islamic State (IS) strongholds in Iraq and Syria to other parts of the world, including the European Union.
Greece’s former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said with the influx of people from the conflict zone, many of whom had fled to Greece, it was entirely possible “a couple of [IS] insurgents infiltrate”, but that it did not exemplify a major source of the problem.
People would be radicalised, regardless of their origin, but it should not be a reason to turn asylum seekers away, he said.
It was a sentiment echoed by Ms Chopra from the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights.
She said groups like IS were “the entity most delighted” with divisive language.
“When you are a Muslim in the West and painted with the same brush as being part of this organisation that’s inherently evil, it leaves you with little wriggle room when you want to be part of the discussion of what can happen.”
On Monday, former defence minister Kevin Andrews called for special forces to be sent to Syria to fight Islamic State, but it was not a sustainable undertaking, Mr Hunt said.
“There has to be tough action across the border from the air,” he said.
“But in my view sending an expeditionary force on to the ground would ultimately be a quagmire.”
An end game for Syria should be decided by the Syrian people, Mr Albanese said, and should form part of current discussion around the country.
But Australia could pave the way for other nations in combatting terror.
Eurozone ‘like a sausage’
Mr Varoufakis held the finance ministry in the Greek Parliament for seven months between January and September this year, but resigned after the third Greek bailout – a document he was opposed to – was passed.
He described the Eurozone as “utterly dysfunctional”, with a structure that made it “ungovernable”.
“We have created the largest, most substantial and significant social economy in the world, the Eurozone, and created at the same time absolutely no legitimate functional, efficient system of governing that economic area,” he said.
“The Euro group is a bit like a sausage. If you know what’s in it, you don’t want to touch it with a barge pole.”
Currently, England, Greece and Finland are among the countries to be considering shaking the burden of the Eurozone.
‘Wall Street will be underwater’
Australia will seek to reach a “genuine global agreement” on climate change at a major UN climate summit soon to start in Paris.
Updates on domestic progress towards 2020 targets will be released later this week, and we are “on track to meet and beat” them, Mr Hunt said.
But Australia needed to set “more ambitious” targets to address climate change, according to journalist and author Geraldine Brooks.
“We cannot afford not to do it because Wall Street will be under water and there’ll be no viable economy if we don’t get serious about addressing this,” she said.
“We have cut investment in renewables by 80 per cent last year. That puts us down somewhere like Myanmar. I don’t think we are taking the leadership role we are capable of taking.”
See video of the debate – and a special end of season performance – below
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) November 23, 2015
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) November 23, 2015