In the hours after he was called a ‘terrorist’ at a Melbourne pub, Labor senator Sam Dastyari has used the attack to call out right-wing extremism in Australia.
“Extremism needs to be called out wherever it is, be it on left or right side of politics,” he told SBS News on Thursday.
“There’s certainly been an increase in extremist groups on the right, in the past few years. Frankly, it’s attributable to the rise of the Donald Trumps and Pauline Hansons of this world.”
Pauline Hanson refused to condemn Wednesday night’s racist attack on Senator Dastyari.
A group of far-right campaigners called him a “terrorist” and “you little monkey”, and demanded to know if he was a Muslim by a far-right campaigner.
Speaking with SBS News, Senator Dastyari took aim at right-wing extremist supporters.
“It’s hurtful, it’s confronting – but in one day I got to see some of the best and some of the worst of Australia.”
Senator Dastyari said he felt more sorry for children who had to put up with racial abuse than he did as a politician.
But he warned of the feared consequences if politics continued down the path of extremism.
“This is where a lot of the politics in this country is heading,” he said.
“We’re heading into a very, very ugly place… a lot of the times [it is] fair part of political debate, people are entitled to different views, but there’s also a deep darkness to a lot of this.
“There’s a lot of racism and a lot of Islamophobia.”
Senator Dastyari said Australia was seeing an increase in extremism within politics.
“Those groups end up resulting in things like Charlottesville… I remember being in Sydney during the Cronulla riots,” he said.
“We are not immune to these types of race-based groups building up hate.”
Senator Hanson told reporters she felt Senator Dastyari “played up the whole thing” to get publicity and that she felt he was “nothing but a pipsqueak”.
“I’ve got absolutely no time for him whatsoever – I think he’s smart arse,” she said.
Her chief of staff James Ashby also told AAP: “Sam Dastyari gets heckled because he’s a wanker … and not because he’s a Muslim.”
One of the three men who approached Senator Dastyari at the Footscray pub was far-right group member Patriot Blue Neil Erikson.
Speaking with ABC radio on Thursday he said the senator “gave as good as he gets”.
“Sam’s a strong bloke, he’s got a thick skin, he’s been in politics for a long time,” Mr Erikson said.
“He called us rednecks, which is a racist term, in fact, so look, he gives as good as he gets.
“I think he’s playing the victim a little bit.”