Responding to backlash over the comments, Alex Hawke said the Labor Party was “fixated on identity politics and appears constantly triggered by everything and everything”.

Liberal politician accuses first female Muslim MP of thinking ‘her diversity is better than others’

A debate in the House of Representatives on the importance of multiculturalism in Australia turned sour on Thursday after Assistant Defence Minister Alex Hawke attacked Labor MP Anne Aly for thinking her diversity is “something better than other people’s diversity”.

Egyptian-born Dr Aly was the first Muslim woman to be elected to Federal Parliament after she won the West Australian seat of Cowan in 2016.

The controversial comments came after Dr Aly disputed claims by Mr Hawke that “most” of the politicians in the room were either born overseas or had a parent that was, as part of a speech on the success of multiculturalism in Australia.

“When the member opposite likes to cite her diversity as something better than other people’s diversity she ignores reality,” he said, resulting in shouts of “shame” from Labor MPs.

“The member for Cowan should reflect that people have come from all parts of the world to Australia, over many years. Just because you’re a migrant from one country doesn’t make you better than another.”

Mr Hawke, the Member for Mitchell, was responding to calls by Labor MP Andrew Giles for urgent action from politicians on the rise of racism and anti-Semitism in Australia. 

Citing the attack of a heavily pregnant Muslim woman in Parramatta in November last year, he said Australia was “witnessing a creeping normalisation of hate”.

“Let me be clear: the vast majority of Australians abhor racism, but we need national leadership, setting the standard and leading by example. This has been sadly missing in this place,” Mr Giles said. 

Mr Hawke defended the comments on Friday morning, accusing Labor of “feigning outrage and falsely claiming racism” in order to shut down debate.

“Labor under Anthony Albanese appears fixated on identity politics and appears constantly triggered by anything and everything,” he said in a statement to SBS News. 

“Every MP has the right to engage in robust debate – certainly Labor members did in this discussion.”

Mr Hawke clarified that he was trying to make the point that Labor was misrepresenting the reality of multiculturalism in Australia, which he said is a “free, fair and tolerant place and the greatest multicultural success story in the world”.

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“This constant erosion of debate threatens our freedom,” he said.

During the 2019 federal election, Ms Aly was the target of “racist” flyers which used her full Egyptian name, Azza Mahmoud Fawzi Hosseini Ali el Serougi, and accused her of proposing “blasphemy” laws to ban any criticism of Islam.

Dr Aly’s office has been contacted for comment.