While the debate about false equivalence played out in public, Guardian Australia has also confirmed that one of the minister’s advisers cited the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion as an example of a troublesome leftwing organisation during a telephone conversation with a member of the public who sought to query Dutton’s controversial intervention in the debate.
Matthew Noel, an engineering student from New South Wales, says he rang Dutton’s ministerial office in Canberra on Tuesday morning.
Noel says he telephoned to try to establish exactly who the minister was referring to when he raised the spectre of leftwing terrorism.
The student says he spoke to an adviser who identified himself as Mark. Noel says the adviser over the course of the call identified the group Extinction Rebellion as an example of leftwing terrorism. Noel says he said to the adviser: “Are you saying Extinction Rebellion are a terrorist group? [The adviser] replied, yes.”
Dutton’s office has confirmed the call took place. But a spokeswoman disputes some of Noel’s recollection of the conversation.
Dutton’s spokeswoman told Guardian Australia: “The allegation that a member of staff nominated Extinction Rebellion as an example of a leftwing terror group is completely false.
“When asked by the caller, the staff member advised that the group is an example of a leftwing extremist group, not a terrorist group.”
Asked whether the adviser was reflecting the minister’s view during the conversation, the spokeswoman said: “The minister does not believe this group is a leftwing terror organisation.”