By: Richard Willingham
The Liberal Party has preferenced the controversial anti-Islam Rise Up Australia Party ahead of Labor and the Greens in the Victorian Senate race.
The news follows comments from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Monday that some parties were ”frankly racist” and should be preferenced last, behind the Greens.
Rise Up Australia founder and Senate candidate in Victoria Daniel Nalliah has been caught up in controversy several times for his anti-Islam views. He denies the party is racist, saying it has a multi-ethnic policy for Australia. Its campaign slogan is ”Keep Australia Australian”.
”I’m anti-Islam and the teachings of Islam. But I do absolutely love the Muslim people because I don’t think I can brand or pull down any person because I’m a Christian minister and, according to the teachings of Jesus, I’m called to love people,” Mr Nalliah said.
He said the teachings of the Koran were incompatible with Australian culture and the party’s platform wants to ban Islamic headdress for women.
Mr Nalliah, a pastor in the Catch the Fire Ministries, said there had been no deal done with the Coalition but there had definitely been discussion between the parties.
In 2009, Mr Nalliah caused a storm when it was widely reported that he had linked the Black Saturday bushfires disaster to God punishing the state because of Victoria’s abortion laws. Mr Nalliah on Tuesday denied the comments.
On Monday Mr Abbott was asked where the Coalition would be placing the Greens.
”There are one or two parties that are frankly racist and they have been put behind the Greens, but everywhere, everywhere, no exceptions, the Greens are behind the Labor Party because they are economic fringe dwellers,” Mr Abbott said.
Mohamad Tabbaa from the Islamic Council of Victoria warned the decision could cost votes. ”It is very disturbing that they would preference an overtly Islamophobic group, and such a move is a good way to lose Muslim votes,” Mr Tabbaa said.
Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach said there were 39 groups and nearly 100 candidates on the Senate ballot in Victoria.
”The Liberal Party has preferenced Rise Up Australia very low on our Senate How To Vote card,” Mr Mantach said.
”The only preference deal of importance across the nation is the deal done by Labor to preference the Greens in the hope of sneaking back into government.”
Mr Nalliah’s party has enough candidates to be granted above-the-line status and the ballot draw was a boon for Rise Up Australia, with Mr Nalliah drawing the No. 1 spot.
The party will begin television advertisements for the party’s 93 candidates this week and Mr Nalliah is buoyant about his chances.
In 2012 Mr Nalliah campaigned against the construction of a new mosque in Melbourne’s south-east.
In Victoria, Labor has placed Rise Up Australia second-last ahead of some independents and the Greens have placed it last.