Prime Minister Tony Abbott is asking the department of parliamentary services to reconsider plans to put people who cover their faces behind glass if they want to watch politicians in action.
Parliamentary presiding officers Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senate President Stephen Parry recommended the new rule on Thursday, sparking concerns that Muslim women were being singled out in the wake of heightened security fears.
Following exceptional public and parliamentary backlash, Fairfax Media reports Abbott will ask the presiding officers to reconsider the intended changes.
Under the new rules, women wearing facial coverings, such as the burqa, would have to sit in a glassed-off area of the public galleries, usually designated for schoolchildren.
Today Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull said, “We don’t want to have debates like this being turned into a coded attack on the Muslim community.”
“Our enemies, ISIL… they want us to attack Muslims, to alienate and frighten the Muslim community so they don’t feel they’re part of Australia and they feel their only home is with an extremist group,” he said.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Tanya Plibersek echoed Turnbull’s statement saying, “We’re a stronger community when we respect and trust one other.”
Liberal National Party MP George Christensen said presiding officers’ rulings aren’t technically subject to any prime ministerial veto, which sets the stage for a showdown between Bishop and her prime minister over the plan.
Earlier this week, Abbott admitted he found the burqa “fairly confronting attire,” adding, “Frankly I wish it was not worn”.
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