Did Australia's Prime Minister Tell Muslims: "Adapt or Leave"?

Julia Gillard

Stefan Postles/Getty Images

A viral message purports to quote former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard demanding that Muslim immigrants learn to speak English and adapt to Australian culture or else leave the country. But the inflammatory statements should not have been attributed to the PM, who never uttered them. The message appears to be an attempt to stoke American nationalism and Islamophobia.

The Hoax

The viral message about the Australian PM features the heated rhetoric common to such internet missives:

Fw: Australia says NO, again
Too bad WE can’t be more like the Aussies!
She's done it again.. She sure isn't backing down on her hard line stance and one has to appreciate her belief in the rights of her native countrymen. A breath of fresh air to see someone lead. I wish some leaders would step up in Canada & USA. ...
Prime Minister Julia Gillard - Australia
Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks..
Separately, Gillard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying she supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques.
Quote: 'IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.'
'This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom'
'We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society. Learn the language!' ...
'This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'.' 'If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.'
Maybe if we circulate this amongst ourselves in Canada & USA , WE will find the courage to start speaking and voicing the same truths. If you agree please SEND THIS ON and ON, to as many people as you know

Debunking at the Source

The hoax's nativist argument for the defense of "Australian" culture in the viral message had previous versions attributing similar words to former Australian Prime Ministers John Howard and Kevin Rudd. Julia Gillard, along with her predecessors, never uttered these words. It is true that Prime Minister Howard, in an effort to reduce the spread of terrorism, authorized the government to spy on mosques, but he did so in 2005, five years before Gillard took office. There is no evidence to suggest that she endorsed Howard's plan.

The source of this text is actually an editorial by U.S. Air Force veteran Barry Loudermilk. It has been slightly edited to fool readers into believing that the words were said by Australia's prime minister. Some of the errors are telling—for example, the reference to the nation's "pledge." In fact, Australia has an Oath of Allegiance, not a Pledge of Allegiance. Loudermilk's passionate screed was written in response to supposed attacks on "our sovereignty and our national identity." His original words have nothing to do with Australia, but they were generic enough to be appropriated and made to look otherwise.

By attributing Loudermilk's words to Gillard, the creator of this hoax probably hoped to give the impression that the sentiments expressed were mainstream enough that at least one world leader—Julia Gillard, in this case—was comfortable saying them aloud. The message ends with the hope that Americans might "find the courage to start speaking and voicing the same truths." In this way, the hoax preys on the reader's ignorance to encourage fear of outsiders and immigrants.

There are certainly others who share Loudermilk's views, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard isn't one of them.

Resources and Further Reading

Christensen, Brett M. “Julia Gillard Tells Muslims To Adapt or Leave.” Hoax-Slayer, 11 Jan. 2013.

Govt Prepared to Move in on Mosques: PM.” The Age, 25 Aug. 2005.

Loudermilk, Barry. “This Is America. Like It or Leave It.” Vietnow National Magazine, Internet Archive.

Ramsey, Alan. “Getting a Rise out of All Australians.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Sept. 2006.