news

"Here are some facts." The Project's fierce defence of Waleed Aly after 'ugly fight' with PM.​

The Project has fiercely defended Waleed Aly’s powerful speech about the Christchurch attack on Friday, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office threatened to sue the news program.

On Wednesday night, Hamish Macdonald delivered a measured address to the Channel Ten audience, claiming the PM was trying to drag Aly into “an ugly political fight”.

Macdonald said Morrison was angry that the program aired claims that in 2010, while in Opposition, he suggested to fellow Coalition party members that they capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment to win votes.

The claims were first made in a report by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011 based off sources in the room. Other people in the room deny Morrison made the comments, as does the PM himself.

Aly mentioned these reported comments as part of his moving speech suggesting that the way our politicians and other Australians with platforms speak about Muslims contributes to a culture in which far-right terrorists are born.

“Everything we say to try to tear people apart, demonise particular groups, set them against each other; that all has consequences, even if we’re not the ones with our fingers on the trigger,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Macdonald and The Project have now said that after that monologue, Morrison’s office called the show, and in a “furious exchange” they denied the claims of the 2011 report and threatened to sue the program for defamation.

Although on ABC Breakfast on Wednesday morning, Morrison told the show he would not pursue any suit, he did say he wanted “people to report the truth”.

However, Macdonald claimed the show gave Morrison the opportunity to tell his side of the story and he refused.

“Now we offered Mr Morrison the opportunity to respond live on this desk when he was due to appear on this program on Monday,” he said on Wednesday.

“Not only did he decline but his media team pulled him out of the scheduled appearance altogether.”

Macdonald said apart from “those in that room”, no one can know for sure what, if anything, Morrison said in 2010.

“But we as a country know what our leaders have been saying about refugees and immigrants and Muslims for well over a decade.”

Regardless, Macdonald said the PM’s response to Aly’s speech actually said a lot about the state of politics in the country.

“If anything paints a clearer picture on the state of Australian politics today it is this; after Waleed made that genuine, thoughtful, and reasoned contribution on Friday night — a plea for our community to come together — the Prime Minister of our country threatened to sue.

“In contrast, New Zealand’s Prime Minister invited Waleed to her country to sit down for an interview.”

Macdonald said, in fact, that’s where Aly was on Wednesday night.

He concluded by inviting the PM to appear on the show.

“And so Mr Morrison to you, personally, that invitation to come here and have that conversation that is so desperately needed is always open.”

00:00 / ???