Dr Anne Aly is Muslim. The Western Australian expert in Islamic deradicalisation became just the second Muslim MP elected to the federal parliament in 2016, and the first woman, alongside Labor’s Ed Husic.
Yesterday in the Senate, crossbencher Fraser Anning delivered his maiden speech, calling for an end to Muslim immigration and a return to the White Australia policy.
But one line in his speech, which referenced a “final solution”, term best known for its strong association with the Jewish Holocaust in WWII, sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from all sides of politics today.
Calling for a national vote on immigration, Anning said “The final solution to the immigration problem, of course, is a popular vote.”
The One Nation defector, who’s only been in parliament for nine months and signed on with Bob Katter’s Australian Party in June, has refused to apologise for his comments. Anning has been on radio, TV, and elsewhere in the media today claiming the criticism of his speech is an attempt to shut down debate on immigration.
Both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten condemned his comments as offensive.
Turnbull said it was a “shocking insult” to Jewish people.
Anning’s party leader, Bob Katter, called the speech “absolutely magnificent”.
Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, whose Jewish mother fled the Holocaust, called on Anning to apologise.
“These comments by a member of the Australian parliament were ignorant and insensitive, they were hurtful and they were divisive,” he told Sky News.
Even his former leader, Pauline Hanson, described his views as “straight from the Goebbels handbook for the Nazi Germany”.
It was Hermann Goering, head of Germany’s armed forces and Hitler’s successor and deputy, who gave the 1941 for the “the intended final solution of the Jewish question”.
Egyptian-born Aly tried to stifle her tears in parliament today as she thanks her colleagues for their support in repudiating the senator’s views.
She said she’d fought comments like his for 30 years and was tired of fighting.
“I’m tired of having to stand up against hate, against vilification, time and time and time again,” she said.
She abandoned a prepared speech to address the parliament off the cuff and thank her colleagues of various sides of the chamber for their support and defence in condemning “those terrible words”.
Here’s Dr Aly in parliament today:
And here’s her address to parliament:
I came in here with a speech prepared.
I came in here ready to roll up my sleeves and to fight and to defend as I’ve had to so many times over the last 30 years, Mr Deputy Speaker.
I’ve sat here over the last hour and I’ve heard the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and, yeah, even the Minister for Home Affairs, and the Member for Chifley speak and the Deputy Prime Minister speak and I’m tired of fighting.
I’m tired of having to stand up against hate, against vilification, time and time and time again.
And I wrote in this speech that I had that I was proud to be a Member of the Labor Party, that today honours the tradition of Bob Hawke in 1988 when he stood up and put a motion to this Parliament confirming Australia’s non-discriminatory immigration policies.
But I’m also proud to be a Member of this Parliament that is united today — thank you, I needed that — that is united today in its condemnation of those terrible words that were spoken in the other place yesterday.
But that pride is tinged with sadness.
It’s tinged with sadness that we’ve had to do this for 30 years — for 30 years.
You know, I once attended a seminar that was put on by young migrant kids in my electorate. And they all got up and they stood about all the challenges in their young lives. You know, these were kids that were 15, 16 right up to the age of 18. And I sat there listening to them and I started crying.
I’m a big sookie la la at the best of times, let’s just put that out there. Weddings, funerals, speeches in Parliament, everything.
And they came up to me and they said “Anne, we didn’t mean to make you cry.” And I said “no you don’t understand. Your challenges today are the same challenges that I had 30 years ago.”
And I just want to know when it’s going to change. I just want to know when it’s going to change for our future generations. When it’s going to get better for them.
But today, this morning, I see hope.
I see possibilities.
I see opportunity.
I see leaders on both sides who are willing to stand up and I see that I don’t have to fight alone anymore.
Thank you for that, thank you. It means a lot.
It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my kids, it means a lot to my Mum who was told to stand at the back of the line every time she went to get on a bus. While she struggled with two toddlers.
Told to stand at the back of the line and told to repeatedly say “please” and “thank you” before she was allowed on that bus.
This, today, means something. It means something.
It means something to Australia.
It means something that all of us here stand up against this racism, stand up against this hatred, and stand up against the disgraceful, disgraceful use of that terminology.
That neo-Nazi, white supremacist terminology.
It wasn’t an accident. That wasn’t an accident, I won’t accept that that was an accident.
That was a deliberate use of a heinous, heinous word that brings back so many painful memories and sets a precedent for the future of our country that we need to stand up and stop it.
So I just want to rise here today and say thank you.
I’m not going say any of this speech that I wrote.
I just want to say thank you.
Thank you to our leaders for showing that leadership.
The national parliament’s other Muslim MP, Ed Husic, Labor’s shadow minister for employment services, the digital economy and the future of work, had this to say in the chamber:
There are often occasions I can’t believe I’m here. There are probably instances, with the way that I carry on, where some of you on that side and even on my side probably agree with that statement.
They probably rushed a bit too quick to agree to that, but I put that aside!
The reason why it’s hard for me to believe I’m here is because my parents were a product of poverty. I visited my mum’s place in rural Bosnia and the house that she grew up, which is probably no bigger than this area.
There were eight people crammed into that house, and my dad’s place wasn’t much different. In fact, I took my dad back to Bosnia for his 60th birthday and he show me this beautiful bit of land. He said, ‘This was ours until my dad gambled it away.’
They made it here in the late sixties, and Australia opened its doors to allow us to have the chance to be here.
My old man got to work on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Dad worked with his hands. Mum worked at home to make sure that we had a family that was able to take advantage of all the great things in this country.
I mention this to you, because like many kids of migrants I carry around a debt, a debt of gratitude to this country that we were able to achieve. I got to go to university. I could count on one hand the folks in my family from my parents’ generation that got to do that and Australia gave me the chance to do that here. I now get to serve in this place.
Regardless of my faith, the commitment to my community is the thing that I’m judged on, which I’m very grateful for. I’ve learned in this place that you can always make yourself taller by standing on the back of someone else. As much as weapons wound, so do words but actions mean more. Actions mean more, the way that they bind us together.
There are few and probable things in this place. One of them that is remarked on from time to time is my friendship with the member for Kooyong. The two of us are probably the biggest dags in parliament. I don’t know if that’s parliamentary but we are.
There we are joined at the ‘unhip’.
We are from different parties, from different parts of the country and from different faiths, but actions matter more in terms of being able to find common ground. In my contribution today, we can focus on the people that are trying to divide us or focus more on the things that bring us together as a country.
This is a moment that is supposed to do just that.
When he used to be known as the member for Wentworth, and now is remarked as the Prime Minister, I remember on my election here him calling me to congratulate me on my election, which I’ve never forgotten.
We all in this place can recognise moments where we’ve taken a little bit of a step together as a nation. The things that bring us together matter more. The things that can allow us to be a better country are things that are worth celebrating.
That’s why I focus on these things today, not to focus on the things that divide us, that have caused great anger and annoyance and those that have sought to drive division or fuel fear but to recognise that this is a moment that we will be judged on both sides—not so much in terms of my words, but the actions of a Prime Minister or of a Leader of the Opposition in bringing the country together.
They remind us that we’ve all got an obligation to make the place a better place.
I will end on this observation. People ask me, ‘Because of my Muslim faith do I have a problem with the Lord’s Prayer at the start of parliament?’ No, I don’t. When you hear God’s words, you hear God’s words.
They are good words. In particular, ‘and forgive us for our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’.
It’s not an exhortation for the moment; it is a reminder for us to live a better life that is not mired in the negative but in something that’s better, and this is the moment that we can build on.
There are a lot of people in different parts of the world who want to make their country great again. We’ve already got a great country.
We can make it better, and we can make it better by working together and not focusing on the division and not focusing—if I can make this remark—on ignoring words that are used in a debate that have in times past caused great pain to people.
When you use those two words about final solution—and I spend time with my great friends from the Jewish community, and I know the pain that they’ve gone through and that they’ve felt—you don’t want that on anyone else, and you certainly don’t want to remind people of the pain that they have been through.
We are going to use this as a moment to recognise the great things about our country, but call out the times where we’ve made those missteps and say we can do better.
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