THE shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, has joined the condemnation of those preaching division against Muslims, saying politicians of all persuasions, conservatives included, had a duty to resist intemperate voices.

Senator Brandis, a leading Liberal moderate, described those targeting Muslims as akin to the bullies he witnessed beating up Italian children when he was at school in the 1960s.

”It was from that experience that I formed my lifelong detestation of bullies who pick on a vulnerable minority just because they are different,” he said.

Senator Brandis’s comments, made in a pointed article written for today’s Herald (see page 17), came as the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, was forced to spell out at yesterday’s joint party room meeting that the Coalition’s immigration policy was non-discriminatory and the party’s support for multiculturalism still stood.

”We will never say to perfectly good Australians that they are not fully valued in their own country,” he said.

The Coalition was torn along ideological lines when the immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, criticised the government for paying for the relatives of the those killed in the Christmas Island boat wreck to attend funerals in Sydney. He was publicly rebuked by the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, but apologised only for the timing of his comments.

Mr Morrison was then accused by colleagues of advocating to the shadow cabinet that the Coalition capitalise on community unrest over Muslims, which he denies.

There is anger among moderates towards the South Australian senator Cory Bernardi who is Mr Abbott’s shadow parliamentary secretary. Senator Bernardi has made incendiary comments about Muslims and Islam in recent days, even criticising halal food.

The government demanded again that Mr Abbott back his words by sacking Senator Bernardi, but Mr Abbott stood by him. He told the party room that both Senator Bernardi and Mr Morrison had ”gone a little bit too far last week”.