News National Turnbull defends new Liberal senator Jim Molan over ‘racist’ social media posts

Turnbull defends new Liberal senator Jim Molan over ‘racist’ social media posts

New Liberal senator Jim Molan has been under pressure over old Facebook posts. Photo: AAP
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Malcolm Turnbull has been forced to defend new Liberal Senator Jim Molan as he faces criticism for refusing to delete anti-Muslim social media posts.

During Question Time on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urged the Prime Minister to direct Senator Molan to remove the posts, which were shared on his Facebook page last year.

“Given the Prime Minister has just said ‘every member of the government has absolutely zero tolerance for racism’, will the Prime Minister direct Senator Molan to take down the racist and bigoted material he’s sharing?” Mr Shorten asked. 

An angry Mr Turnbull defended Senator Molan, saying the former Army General did not “have a racist bone in his body”.

“He defended Australian values in the battle against Islamist terrorism in the Middle East,” Mr Turnbull told Parliament. 

“He stood up for our values, put his life on the line, led our troops and our allies’ troops in conflict.

“He has led thousands of troops in the battle for freedom against terrorism. The Leader of the Opposition wants to describe him as a racist. That is deplorable. It is disgusting.” 

Malcolm Turnbull said Senator Molan had defended Australian values. Photo: AAP

Molan won’t apologise

Senator Molan, who was sworn in on Monday, refused to apologise for the posts, though he said the Britain First group was “appalling”.

“I put my life on the line for Islamic countries, for people to come out now and say that this is racist, or is anti-Islamic, I find deeply offensive,” he said.

In the Senate, Greens leader Richard Di Natale attacked Senator Molan’s record in the army, noting UN criticisms of the assault on Fallujah. Senator Molan led Australia’s party.

“I’ve heard some extraordinarily unedifying things … But that reflection on the service of a senior Australian army officer takes your lows to depths I did not think you could plumb,” Defence Minister Marise Payne said.

The anti-Muslim group Britain First gained prominence after US President Donald Trump shared its posts in November last year, drawing criticism from UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Mr Trump has since apologised for the posts.

Citizenship circus continues

Meanwhile, the government turned the screws on Labor over embattled Queensland MP Susan Lamb as the citizenship crisis returns to Parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby used Question Time to argue “the people of Longman need someone who they know absolutely is entitled to sit here”.

Mr Joyce was himself forced into a byelection by the High Court over dual citizenship.

Ms Lamb, who holds the seat of Longman, previously held by the Liberals Wyatt Roy, has been under pressure to resign from Parliament after it emerged she had not successfully renounced her UK citizenship.

“What will be very interesting if there is a by-election in Longman is whether the rhetoric for Longman is anything like the rhetoric for Batman,” Mr Joyce said. 

“Because we know in Batman, we have the left voting against the far left and maybe some of that left versus the far left, we can replay in a future election in Longman.”

Concurrent byelections would cause a headache for Labor, which would be forced to fight against the Greens in the inner northern Melbourne seat of Batman suburbs and against the Liberals in the seat of Longman. 

Noting the citizenship spotlight had now turned onto the Opposition after Mr Shorten lauded Labor’s candidate vetting processes, Mr Joyce earlier reporters: “We are going to let him fry in his own juices over this.”

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