A Labor senator has accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of "scaremongering" over national security and using the situation in Iraq as a "shield" to deflect from its budget mess and to improve his position in the polls.
West Australian Senator Sue Lines says the government's "Team Australia" rhetoric is "threatening" because it tells groups within the community they can are either "in or out".
The government has used question time this week to focus on the threat posed by home grown terrorists, activated by the establishment of a caliphate in Iraq, by the barbaric terrorist group Islamic State.
Labor senator Sue Lines
Ms Lines says the tactic shows the government is only interested in "scaremongering".
"[The Prime Minister] is just using this as a shield to try and deflect from the awful mess they're in with their budget," she told Fairfax Media.
"This is just the government dead keen to get out there and try and improve its ratings with the Australian public," she said.
Asked whether she was trying to politicise the national security debate, Senator Lines said, "I'm not politicising security; the Abbott government is doing that by its constant scaremongering".
Ms Lines said she believed the director-general of ASIO David Irvine had outlined only a "mild threat" and said some response was needed to curb the growth of Islamic State across Iraq but it needed to be formulated in a calm way.
Government MP Alex Hawke has seized on the comments, labelling them "foolish" and "false".
Mr Hawke says it is a test for Bill Shorten and called on the Labor leader to "rein in" his senator.
"If Bill Shorten can't control the Left of his own party on national security, which he says is above politics, then he is unfit to hold the leadership."
Mr Shorten refused to say if he reprimanded his backbencher, but said Labor would not engage in any point scoring when it came to national security.
"I've spoken to Senator Lines; our position is that we will work in the best interests of our nation," he said.
"I'm not going to get into politics here. I and Labor recognise that national security is a matter which goes above the day-to-day politics," he said in Canberra.
However, senior Labor MP Kate Ellis distanced herself from Senator Lines' comments. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions," said Ms Ellis. "I certainly wouldn't have voiced it in that manner."
But Labor frontbencher Kim Carr appears to have partially endorsed Senator Lines, who accused the government of wanting to talk about everything but the budget.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told the ABC that anyone who didn't believe Islamic State posed a "real threat" to Australia was a "muppet".