“We will stand by multiculturalism in this state at every opportunity, and we want to demonstrate to the world that multiculturalism in this state is working well,” Premier Ted Baillieu told representatives of the multicultural media at a press conference Monday night.
The comments come as anti-Islamist Dutch MP, Geert Wilders tours Australia. Already, the MP has spark protests, with over 50 police dispatched to control a Melbourne crowd.
Mr Wilders’ Melbourne meeting, despite being moved to a secret suburban location, was met with 100 local protesters.
Protest organiser Feiyi Zhang told The Age: “we’re here to show we will not stand for Wilders’ racism and Islamophobia”.
Initially, the meeting was to be held in the CBD, but the venue cancelled the event fearing uncontrollable crowds.
Audience members at the event had to go through a metal detector, bag searches and identity checks.
Minister for Cultural Affairs and Citizenship, Mr Nick Kotsiras says Mr Wilders’ views don’t apply to Australia.
“You cannot compare our two countries, that’s where the problem arises,” he said.
“If something has not worked, whether it’s the blame of the government because of lack of policies, you just can’t compare to what’s happening overseas and in Europe by nature to what we’re doing in Australia”.
The Premier has vowed to ignore the Dutch MP, and has championed multiculturalism in the country.
“I’m a proud advocate of multiculturalism, and I’ll say to Mr Wilders at every opportunity, ‘you’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong,'” Mr Baillieu said.
Mr Wilders told a Melbourne audience that Islam could not integrate into Western societies.
“Islam is totalitarianism … Islam and freedom are incompatible,” he said.
Organiser of Mr Wilders’ visit, Andrew Horwood from the Q Society, said he was concerned about any assault on free speech in Australia.
“We need to be able to talk about issues that concern the future of this country and we need to be able to discuss them frankly,” he said.
“We would like to think that in Australia in 2013 that a group of adults could sit down and have a discussion without any protests.”
At the press conference, Mr Baillieu also outlined his international strategy for Victoria, and took the time to criticise Canberra’s lackluster approach in international relations.
“We believe that our international engagement is streets ahead of Canberra, and they have all of that resource,” Mr Baillieu said.
The State government is about to embark on its fourth visit to India and it’s third to China, growing on the economic success previous visits created for the State and business partnerships. After the last China visit, over $1.5 billion of trade revenue was generated for the State.
Another group will be going to the Middle East shortly, while the government will be engaging with Singapore, Indonesia and South East Asia for the same reasons this year.
Mr Baillieu concluded that Australia’s unique culture makes it a great international competitor and partner.
“We have a multicultural basis here that the world is generally interested in,” he said.