Oz opposition leader suggests mature immigration debate


"What I said was that there was an anxiety among some people that this might be the case," Abbott was quoted in media here as saying.

Abbott has been criticised for saying last week that he believed some Australians were anxious that citizenship was granted too lightly. But he said there must be room for a debate on immigration, without allegations of racism immediately being thrown around.
"I think that when people see a questioning of what might be described as core Australian values, I think when people see boat people being let in in ways which look like the Government has backed down, I think this whole population issue feeds into an immigration debate," he said.

He said: "We've always had our anxieties about immigration but I have to say that by and large we've managed a really successful immigration program despite those anxieties.

"The important thing is to be able to have a mature and intelligent debate about immigration without ... the instant (that) issues are raised, people rushing around with accusations of racism."

Abbott said people came to Australia from all over the world, with all sorts of attitudes.
"But once we get here I think it is important that we remember that we are part of the Australian team," he said, adding there had been some incidents that had provoked public concern, including Muslim cleric Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali's comments about women.
"We all heard Sheik Hilali from time to time making comments which I think many people would think were pretty outlandish," Abbott said.

"... I think it's important that people understand that the essence of this country, or one of this country's essences, is that everyone gets a fair go... we don't discriminate."
Abbott later said: "I think the greatest prize in the world is to be an Australian.
"I think we can only take in a certain number of people and as long as that program is run firmly in Australia's national interest we can continue to be a great country of immigrants," he said.

In 2006, Sheik Alhilali - then the leader of Australia's Islamic community - caused a national uproar when he likened scantily clad women to uncovered meat, suggesting they were to blame for sexual attacks on them.

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