TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, Friday 3 October 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq, burqa.

LISA WILKINSON, PRESENTER: For more we are joined now by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull here in the studio and from Parliament House in Canberra Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, good morning to both of you.



WILKINSON: Malcolm, if I can start with you, the Defence Minister David Johnston said overnight that we have to finish the job in Iraq, but isn't this just the start?

TURNBULL: Well what David is talking about is the importance of standing up to this so-called Islamic State, which I really don't think we should refer to as an Islamic State, ISIL is the term that I would rather use. We have got to stand up to them. We’ve got to ensure that their sort of marauding over in that part of the Middle East is stopped and we’re joining with our allies and I might add other countries in the region, Arab countries in the region, Muslim countries in the region. There is a grand coalition that is saying no to this sort of barbarity.

WILKINSON: There’s been a lot of mission creep on this. Surely to finish the job properly it is going to take boots on the ground?

TURNBULL: Well it may well do, but as you can see from President Obama’s lead and from what our Prime Minister has said, the boots on the ground are not going be American or Australian boots.

WILKINSON: That won't change?

TURNBULL: Well I can't really - you can't rule anything out and if anyone was going to make a forecast like that it should be the Prime Minister. Clearly foreign interventions in that part of the world has had, let's say, most generously mixed success, not a lot of success. It is really important that the major countries in that area, the major Arab countries in the region, I am talking about Saudi Arabia and others, take responsibility for securing their own region and for dealing with an insurgent terrorist group like ISIL.

WILKINSON: Tanya, last time we went into Iraq, Labor didn’t support the mission, this time you are, will you go as far as boots on the ground if that is what it takes to finish this off?

PLIBERSEK: No, we don't support Australian troops on the ground in Iraq. What we support is responding to the Iraqi government's plea to the international community to protect civilians from imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes. This is an organisation that kills anyone that disagrees with it, different religion, you can be the same religion and if you don't agree with their tactics they will kill you too. They are abducting women and raping, selling women and children in the marketplace. It is a terrible organisation. The government of Iraq has asked the international community for help and we are responding to that plea for help. But we have said we don't support Australian troops on the ground and we don't believe that there is a case for Australia to be involved in Syria either at the moment. The situation in Syria is terrible, it is a humanitarian disaster but we should be helping with extra support for the neighbouring countries that are dealing with a massive refugee burden from Syria.

WILKINSON: Alright, let's turn now to the burqa debate. Malcolm, do you like the Prime Minister, find the burqa confronting?

TURNBULL: What Australians wear is a matter for them and I don't express a view about other people's choice of clothing, it is a free country. In different countries, including in some Muslim countries, there are all sorts of rules about what people can wear and can't wear in public. But in Australia we have always been very easy going about that. So if people want to put a garment over their head so you can't see their face, that's their choice. As long as whatever security arrangements are necessary for a particular place are covered, that is a matter for them.

WILKINSON: The Prime Minister’s words on Wednesday certainly got Australia talking. And yesterday we learnt that burqa-wearing women were going to be confined behind glass in Parliament House. Last night the PM moved to overturn that decision, is that an embarrassing back down by the Prime Minister?

TURNBULL: Well, not at all. There was a decision by the presiding officers, or an interim decision by the presiding officers, which the Prime Minister asked them to reconsider. And I think he has been wise to do that.

WILKINSON: But did the Prime Minister know that that decision was in the planning?

TUNRBULL: I don't know, I can't comment on that. But can I just say this to you, very, very few women, Muslim women, wear the full face covering. There are many Muslim wearing the head scarf, there are many non-Muslim women that wear a head scarf. I mean nuns used to cover their heads up like that. It’s not exactly a- it’s not a Muslim monopoly on that. But the full face covering is very, very rare- it’s not common. I have been in parliament for ten years, I have only ever seen one woman with a full burqa in the public gallery. So it is not - it isn't very common and the thing that I am concerned about, I know that Tanya is because we are on a complete unity ticket on this, we don't want to have debates like this being turned into some sort of coded attack on the Muslim community. Can I just say again as I have said here before, the terrorists want us to demonise and alienate the Muslim community in Australia. The Muslim community is part of Australia, they are Australians. We have to pull together. We have to be at this time more than ever united. Because our enemies, ISIL, the rapists, the beheaders, the torturers that Tanya was talking about so eloquently before, they want us, they want us to attack Muslims. They want us to alienate and frighten and demonise the Muslim community so that they don't feel they are part of Australia and they feel their only home is with an extremist group. There is no point us doing the terrorists work, we have to pull together.

WILKINSON: Tanya, we ran a poll on the show yesterday and after the Prime Minister's words on Wednesday, 85% of viewers said that they wanted the burqa banned. Is the PM just reflecting the community's feelings or did he ignite this debate?

PLIBERSEK: Look I don't think that there’s- I don’t think that poll reflects the general Australian community. I think most Australians think wear what you want, we are a free country. I mean, I said yesterday I don't want to see the Prime Minister in his speedos, but it is a free country. This is a divisive debate, as Malcolm said, we are stronger together. We are a stronger community when we respect and trust one another.

WILKINSON: Okay Tanya, we will have to leave it there. We’ve run out of time, thank you very much for that. Quickly, Doggies or Rabbitohs?

PLIBERSEK: Bunnies, Bunnies!

WILKINSON: Okay, Malcolm?

TURNBULL: Well I am still getting over the Roosters getting knocked out. I am for the Bunnies too.

WILKINSON: Okay, seems to be a lot of support for the Bunnies this morning. Thanks to both of you, have a great weekend.


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