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THE HON MICHAEL DANBY MP
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION,
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR MELBOURNE PORTS

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (10:01):  I commend the Victorian Minister for Education, James Merlino, who has criticised comments by a school principal in Melbourne that Daesh, the Islamic State, is a Western plot.

Minister Merlino described these comments as ‘incredibly reckless and dangerous’. They were made to 2,000 students at a large Victorian school, the Al-Taqwa College, telling students not to join IS because it is a scheme devised by some Western countries.

Victorian teenager Jake Bilardi went to Syria to fight with Da’esh and killed himself and 17 others as a suicide bomber in March 2015

I have a message for the principal of that school. The reasons people should not join IS are its barbaric behaviour and ideology—having young children, including Australians, holding up severed heads; the murder of large numbers of Christian and minority people, the Yazidis, across northern Iraq; and the destruction of ancient civilisations and culture. These are the reasons, Principal Hallak, that no Australians should be involved in these kinds of schemes or activities of Daesh. You ought to be educating your students in a way that fits in with the broad mainstream of Australian public life. As James Merlino said:

“We have a multicultural and harmonious society. The best way to tackle radicalisation is through the education of our young people. The worst way is to put reckless and dangerous ideas into their heads.”

I have written to the Victorian minister congratulating him on his stance, and I have written to the federal minister saying that they need to take this up with Victorian principals. Any organisation which is publicly funded, either by the Victorian or the federal government, needs to take responsibility for these things.

This is not just a matter of aesthetics. This is a matter of danger to Australian society. We have a number of young Victorians who have gone off and fought with this barbaric group in the Middle East. They pose a threat and a danger to Australian citizens if they return to this country. For the principal of their school to be telling them that it is a Western plot and that is the reason they, as young Australians, should not be involved with Daesh is an absolute disgrace.

I want to commend the Islamic community. The Islamic Council of Victoria, for instance, said they do not support Mr Hallak’s views and that he might ‘muddy’ the message that Islam is peaceful, positive and non-violent. Keysar Trad, a person I do not normally agree with or cite, also said that this was a mistaken strategy for them to be involved in and that the Islamic State has ‘done unprecedented damage to the image of Islam’.

The principals of Victorian schools are regularly asked about the challenge of radicalisation of students and parents at their schools. One Melbourne principal told The Age that two children in his government primary school had parents fighting for the Islamic State in Syria. This is a very serious situation. I am pleased that the Victorian state minister has addressed this so frontally, and I am sure that Minister Pyne will do the same thing.