A federal Labor MP has called on Malcolm Turnbull to condemn the “right-wing extremists” who oppose plans to build a mosque in Bendigo.
Lisa Chesters is also seeking funding for measures to combat the radicalisation of “predominantly white men” in the Victorian regional city.
“Just like the money on the table to combat radicalisation of young Muslim youth, the same needs to be done when it comes to the United Patriots Front and Reclaim Australia,” she said.
Ms Chesters acknowledged the prime minister’s inclusive language and emphasis on multiculturalism was helping to shift debate in Bendigo.
“It’s a good step forward that we are not hearing words like ‘death cult’ … but the prime minister needs to go further,” the Bendigo MP told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
“I call on the prime minister and his frontbench to join with the Victorian premier and condemn this right-wing extremism.”
Letter boxes in the city were being bombarded with hate speech, Ms Chesters said.
The groups are also targeting other towns where councils are considering mosque applications.
An education program needed to be rolled out giving people facts about what it means to be of the Islamic faith in order to dispel myths and misconceptions.
Nationals MP Andrew Broad, from the nearby rural seat of Mallee, said there was no problem with Islamophobia in his electorate.
“We’ve had a mosque in Mildura for 30 years, we’ve had one in Horsham for quite awhile,” he said. ”Ultimately when people interact that breaks down barriers.”
Australians could have different beliefs but still get along, Mr Broad said.