Howard and Hanson back Costello

Prime Minister John Howard has backed his deputy Peter Costello over the treasurer’s call for radical Muslims to assimilate or move to another country.

Mr Costello made a host of radio and television appearances today to hammer home his attack on what he calls “mushy multiculturalism”. He also challenged Muslim leaders to pledge their allegiance to Australia before criticising his views on immigrants and the values they brought to this country.

Mr Costello’s remarks come three days after the publication of comments by Mr Howard, accusing some Muslims of bringing jihadist views and opinions about women that did not fit in Australian society. Last week Liberal backbencher Danna Vale warned that Muslims could be in the majority in Australia within 50 years.

Muslim leaders say they are concerned about a continuing government attack on their religion and called on Mr Howard to censure Mr Costello. Federal Labor politicians accused Mr Costello of playing politics and trying to distract attention from the AWB Iraq wheat bribes scandal.

But NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma said Mr Costello was right. And former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said the treasurer had vindicated her own views.

Mr Howard said Mr Costello’s comments were fundamentally accurate and not designed to inflame or divide people. “What Peter was basically saying is that if people don’t like what this country is then they shouldn’t come here,” Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting. “That is an unexceptionable position to take.”

Sydney Morning Herald, 24 February 2006