Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was accused of hypocrisy after he announced $55 million in grants for security upgrades at religious schools and places of worship in the wake of the New Zealand tragedy.
The money will be given to the country’s mosques, churches, synagogues and religious schools so that worshipers can “practice their faith in safety,” Morrison said on Monday at a meeting of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne.
The grants range from $50,000 to $1.5 million, and are expected to cover the cost of security upgrades such as CCTV cameras, lighting, fencing and alarms.
“Our Government is committed to keeping every Australian safe. No one should have to fear for their safety. That’s why today we’ve announced we’re extending the Safer Communities Fund following the terrible terrorist attack in New Zealand. We’ll deliver $55 million for grants that will prioritise safety enhancements at religious schools and places of worship, such as CCTV cameras, lighting, fencing, bollards, alarms, and security systems.” – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Morrison said the money will be available through the “acceleration and extension” of a community fund that supports local schools, preschools, community groups and local councils. The prime minister also promised that religious organizations will be given priority access to public funds. “It grieves me that this is necessary, but sadly it is,” he said, alluding to the recent terrorist attack on a New Zealand mosque that claimed the lives of 50 worshipers.
The prime minister asserted that the measures are necessary to protect religious freedom, which he said is “important to the very cohesion of our society” because it’s impossible for many Australians “to separate their faith from their culture.” Morrison also said that he wants to unite the country, and urged people to confront the “militant and lazy” group in society that seeks to turn one part of Australians against the other.
However, angry comments poured in as local TV streamed Morrison’s speech on Facebook. Most users were quite skeptical about the prime minister’s appeal.
One person suggested that Morrison was simply “point scoring” in the wake of the Christchurch tragedy, while another called the prime minister “a puppet” who is unable to make “Australia strong.”
Tensions also flared on Twitter as many people questioned the need for such generous expenses.
“What an outrageous grandstanding waste of taxpayers money. How dare you.” – AngryMan, @AngryManAust.
Commenters suggested that authorities should put more effort in controlling extreme right-wing groups, reforming gun laws, and enhancing “ground first response capabilities” instead of wasting money on “useless infrastructure.”
“So rather than pouring $55 Mill into useless infrastructure, how about increasing on the ground first response capabilities, have the courts hand out adequate sentences to offenders, fine tune gun laws & talk to people who actually work in the industry rather than the bureaucrats.” – Nigel C Brown, @nigelbrown61.
“Spend the money on stopping hate speech, shutting down extreme right wing groups, etc……but suppose that might put you and your mate Dutton at risk.. .” – Col In Paradise, @ColInParadise1.
Many social-media users found Morrison’s claim that the country needs to unite hypocritical, as the politician is known for his tough stance in relation to immigration policy. In February, he said that “no one who attempts an illegal boat journey to Australia will ever be allowed to settle here.”
Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are sent to detention centers on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus. Last month, Morrison sought – albeit unsuccessfully – to block a bill that would let sick asylum seekers in offshore centers to receive treatment in Australia.
“The actions you have taken regarding asylum seekers is creating the radicals that commit these atrocities,” one person wrote.
“The crap your government talks about ‘boat people’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ and the actions you have taken regarding asylum seekers is creating the radicals that commit these atrocities. YOU should be apologising, not throwing money at people to keep them at bay.” – Joshua Campbell, @Joshua_JGC.
Other users insisted that investment should be made in building stronger communities and “changing the culture” instead of “walls, security and separation.”
“Why the investment in stronger walls, security and separation rather than investing in building stronger, better-connected communities? We need to break down artificial divisions and build understanding, not amplify “otherness” and “stranger danger”. – Justine Tiller, @jbtiller.
“@ScottMorrisonMP how ridiculous!Stop politicising the issue,conveniently right near an election. What you need to do is stop stirring the pot around refugees and our borders. You and your government should try changing the culture we would all be instantly “safer”.” – Ann Howe, @howie2719.
A number of people chose to react sarcastically, with one wondering if there’s anyone who had brought an “egg for this guy” in reference to the incident involving Australian senator Fraser Anning on Saturday. Anning, who had earlier said that the shooting in a Christchurch mosque highlighted the “growing fear over an increasing Muslim presence” in both New Zealand and Australia, was attacked by a teenage protester with an egg as he was talking to reporters in Melbourne.
A 28-year-old Australian-born man named Brenton Tarrant killed 50 people in a mosque in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand on Friday. The shooter livestreamed the attack on Facebook using a GoPro camera. Shortly before the rampage, he posted a lengthy ‘manifesto’ in which he called for “revenge” against “Muslim invaders.”