The far-right Dutch MP speaks to media in Perth after the secretive launch of ALA, saying belief in cultural equality the ‘biggest disease in Europe today’
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“You will have millions of people coming to Australia, like we do in Europe, and you will not be able to handle it,” Wilders said. “You should be a sovereign country that closes your borders to those kinds of immigrants.”
“Those kind of immigrants” are Muslims. Opposing Islam is the central tenet of Wilders’ Party for Freedom, which has been leading the polls in the Netherlands since August. It is also the key policy of the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA), the new party that Wilders flew to Australia to launch.
Tight secrecy surrounding the visit succeeded in concealing the location of the party launch, which was held somewhere in Perth on Tuesday night. But it failed to shield Wednesday’s press conference. It should hardly have been a surprise since the chosen venue, the fern garden at Perth’s Parliament House, is perhaps the most public and well-known press stage in the Western Australian capital.
When parliament is sitting, as it was on Wednesday, the small area hosts about two press conferences a day. It was unclear how the choice of location complied with the premier Colin Barnett’s veto on supporting Wilders’ visit, which was repeated on ABC radio in Perth on Wednesday morning.
“I do not support him and I don’t support the things he says, and I have made it clear and insisted that no government-owned venue in Australia will be available for any of the meetings,” Barnett said.
Journalists hoping to attend the press conference had to fill out an extensive accreditation form. It included listing previous published works, and an agreement to a set of terms and conditions such as having their details passed on to police, waiving responsibility for any risk and conceding that accreditation was not transferable.
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They then received a text message on Tuesday with the time and location of the press conference. One ALA organiser confessed to Guardian Australia that the fern garden had been chosen out of desperation – everywhere else cancelled.
Wilders’ private security staff dotted parliament grounds dressed in ill-fitting suits and, oddly, sporting umbrellas – one of which was used by the aviator-wearing head security guard like a baton to direct his troops.
Eight of them formed a solid line behind him as the press pack crowded in. At least six WA police officers stood watch nearby.
As the protesters chanted, Wilders, whose visa for Australia at one stage appeared in doubt, took aim at the immigration policies in Europe he believed would soon flow on to Australia. Given some of his past comments, which have included comparing the Qur’an to Mein Kampf, it was quite tame.
“I believe that one of the biggest diseases in Europe today is cultural relativism, [the belief] that cultures are equal,” he said. “Well, they are not.
“People are equal, cultures are not. If you look at the Islamic culture [and] you compare it to, for example, Christianity, Judaism, you see a lot of differences.”
Wilders predicted the ALA would have electoral success in Australia, saying he had been approached, anonymously, by many people in Perth the past few days who supported his views. “If you read their manifesto it is clear that they are the freedom fighters of Australia,” he said.
“They have none of the political correctness that so many of the leaders in the world have today … and if there is a style of a new party that has none of this political correctness, and wants Australia to stand firm and stay Australian without the appeasement and giving in to multiculturalism, I think it will have a lot of support.”
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That’s the hope of Debbie Robinson, the president of the ALA and newly announced 2017 Senate candidate for WA, who addressed the media before Wilders arrived. With her were Kiralee Smith – the founder of Halal Choices, a group opposed to halal certification on the grounds that it funds Islamist extremism – who will stand as the ALA’s Senate candidate in NSW, and Bernard Gaynor, who will run in Queensland. Both have built a public profile on the back of their opposition to Islam.
Raising her voice to speak over the chant of “Racists are not welcome here”, Smith said she would run on a platform of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Provided that religion was not Islam which, she said, “is divisive in this country and is being imposed”.
The location of the party’s launch on Tuesday night remained a closely guarded secret. The strongest hint came from a woman named Mary, who called the ABC morning program on Wednesday.
Mary said it had been an “excellent meeting” but she wasn’t allowed to say where it was. She explained the conundrum to the radio host John McGlue: “Well, because if we say where it was – it was about 90 minutes out of Perth – if I say where it was, the naughty people might go up there and do bad things to the people who have acknowledged that they have accepted to have the meeting there.”
She did not expand further on the identity of the “naughty people”.
The ALA’s media spokesman, Andrew Horwood, said only members of the party, plus Wilders and his security detail, had been allowed to attend the launch. The reason for secrecy was Wilders himself, who Horwood said had survived an assassination attempt in Texas this year. Protecting the guest of honour required a degree of cloak-and-dagger organisation.