Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Sunday vowed not to let “political correctness” get in the way of tackling immigration, signalling a tough line on the issue.
Gillard, who ruthlessly deposed former leader Kevin Rudd and solved the mining tax row that weakened him a week later, said people should not be called racist for raising concerns about asylum seekers.
“I certainly dismiss labels like intolerant or racist because people raise concerns about border security, but we’ve also got to be very alive to the complexity of this and that there’s no quick fix,” Gillard told the Sunday Telegraph.
“There’s a temptation for people to use these labels and names to try and close down debate and I’m very opposed to that. People need to be able to have honest discussions.
“So any sort of political correctness, or niceties that get in the way, I think, need to be swept out of the way.”
The Welsh-born Gillard, whose parents emigrated to Australia in 1966, has made it a top priority to slow the steady flow of asylum seeker boats that plagued the Rudd government.
She also defended former conservative leader John Howard, whose tough immigration policies were scrapped by Rudd, after he was dubbed a “closet racist” in Indian media over his failed bid to lead world cricket’s governing body.
“The suggestion John Howard should be labelled a racist, what a load of nonsense. He’s most certainly someone who’s not,” she said.