Malcolm Turnbull has claimed he did not instruct ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis to contact Liberal backbenchers and warn them to be careful issuing public comments on Islam.
While Mr Turnbull denied telling Mr Lewis to make calls, he did tell backbenchers they should listen to what the ASIO boss has to say.
“Nobody tells MPs or Senators what to say, they can say what they like,” Mr Turnbull said.
“But we all have an obligation I think to make sure that we are well informed.”
He said he was only aware of two backbenchers being contacted by Mr Lewis – both Chairman of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Dan Tehan and former SAS officer Andrew Hastie.
Neither MP had complained about the call and Mr Turnbull quashed suggestions he wanted to censor politicians who link violent extremism to Islam.
Tasmanian senator and former Tony Abbott minister Eric Abetz said Mr Lewis was unwise to “embroil” himself in politics.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defended Mr Lewis, who originally warned MPs via an article in News Corp on Sunday that they should rethink public language on Islam.
News Corp reported on Wednesday some Coalition MPs were unhappy with Mr lewis’ comments.
It is believed it appeared he was mostly taking aim at Mr Abbott for his series of comments on the need for Islam to “reform” and do more to stop violent extremism by its members of the faith.
The PM said he was frequently briefed by Lewis on matters of national security and he considers no other Australian as having a better understanding of the challenges of national security.
– with AAP