Prime Minister Scott Morrison came face-to-face with The Project host Waleed Aly last night following days of back and forth accusations about whether the PM suggested using an anti-Muslim agenda to the Coalition’s advantage in a 2011 Fairfax report, yet it appears Australia wasn’t all that interested in tuning in.
Despite the exclusive interview secured by The Project, according to last night’s OzTAM metro numbers, only 387,000 Australians tuned in to watch the PM and Project host go head-to-head.
And, judging by the rest of last night’s TV numbers, Aussies far prefer the footy with 728,000 tuning in for Seven’s AFL opener and a further 411,000 for Nine’s NRL coverage.
The ScoMo-Aly interview was the result of an emotional editorial delivered by Aly following the Christchurch terror attacks, which was shared more than 12 million times on social media.
The editorial sparked a backlash from the PM’s office, claiming Aly’s comments were untrue.
Furthermore, in the days following, many media outlets reported that Morrison attacked Aly, with the PM suggesting the allegations were a “disgusting smear” and an “appalling lie”.
A spokesperson from the PM’s office told B&T that Morrison never attacked nor criticised Aly.
“The PM wasn’t actually criticising Waleed,” the spokesperson said.
“The question he was asked [by ABC TV] was focused on the Fairfax article from 2011. That’s where the original allegation came from.
“The back and forth has been about whether that was factual or not – which it’s not – but Aly has presented it as fact.”
The ABC TV transcript about the 2011 claim says nothing about the Project and is only referencing the 2011 Fairfax article, according to the spokesperson.
The spokesperson continued: “This is not some throwdown with the Project.”
Last night’s Project interview saw Aly sit down with Morrison, questioning the PM on whether the Australian Coalition had a problem with Islamaphobia.
Morrison said: “No, I don’t believe so.”
Morrison continued by saying many Australians did not understand Islam and were afraid of it, but affirmed the Coalition did not have a problem with the religion.
The interview also saw Morrison address the allegations in a 2011 Sydney Morning Herald report that claimed he urged shadow cabinet to “capitalise” on Muslim immigration concerns, to which the PM said “never happened”.
Morrison continued to deny the government had an issue with Muslims but conceded there were some concerns across the Australian nation.
“No, I don’t think the party has a problem. I don’t think the Liberal Party, as a total group, has that problem. And I don’t think the National party does either,” he said.
When asked whether Australia had an Islamophobia issue, Morrison said: “I don’t know if Australians understand Islam very well, and that can often lead to the fear of things you don’t understand, so by definition that’s what it leads to.”