Australia: Premier rules out funding for halal businesses

PREMIER Ted Baillieu has quashed a Muslim organisation’s call for taxpayers to pay for the expansion of Islamic schools and halal food outlets into mainstream suburbs.

In a submission to a federal inquiry into multiculturalism, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils said Muslims were forced to live in enclaves near Islamic schools, mosques and halal food outlets.

“The Government should invest in expanding services like halal and kosher meat and food outlets as well as faith-based schools,” it said.

“If the Government and politicians cannot recognise this as essential, it should no longer accuse the Australian Muslim community of intentionally living in enclaves.”

Mr Baillieu said taxpayers helped all schools but he did not support money going to businesses because the food they offered was halal.

“All schools are supported in one way or another,” he told 3AW radio.

“So when it comes to schools that support should be on a regular basis.

“But I don’t think governments are about to get into the business of subsidising what are normal everyday commercial businesses and halal butchers would fall into the same category.”

In a sign of growing community tension, the nation’s peak Jewish authority has also called for new migrants to be put on probation while their commitment to Australian values and laws is checked.

Mr Baillieu said Victoria did not have a problem with cultural enclaves, saying every group of migrants initially congregated in certain areas.

“That’s what happens it’s a natural process,” he said.

“And as time goes by they obviously find their confidence and comfort in moving about.

“I think it’s dangerous to talk about enclaves because I don’t think they’re deliberate.

“I think it’s human nature to stick with people you know and places you are comfortable with.”

Multiculturalism, was one of Victoria’s “greatest assets”, the premier said.

Heba Ibrahim, the AFIC board member who wrote the report, told the Herald Sun there were reasons groups were drawn to certain suburbs.

“I’m saying there needs to be a greater investment generally in schools that wish to go out into other areas that are not heavily populated with particular migrant and religious groups,” she said.

Governments do not contribute to the building of new private schools, but private colleges get state and federal cash for running costs and upgrades.

For example, Springvale Islamic school Minaret College received about $10 million in recurrent financing and almost $2 million in capital expenditure in 2009, according to the latest MySchool website data.

Melbourne has several halal butchers, but AFIC wants government help to make halal food more widely available.

Houssam Dannawi, from Madina Halal Meats in Brunswick, said his customers were not limited to Muslims.

“They try it and they come back. They like the diversity of what we offer,” Mr Dannawi said.

In a separate hearing, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has told a Federal Parliament committee on migration that Australia must learn from the failed “anything goes” model of multiculturalism in Europe.

It wants migrants put on probation to enable a “confident assessment of their acceptance of Australian values and laws before granting full citizenship”.

The council’s executive director Peter Wertheim said there was concern about Islamic extremists.

“If they’re involved in criminal activity or incitement of violence or incitement of racism, that’s something that should be taken into account,” he said.

The organisation also wants mandatory English training for migrants.