One Nation leader Pauline Hanson appeared in the Australian senate today wearing the full black covering of a burqa, drawing an immediate rebuke from the attorney-general in a speech that earned an extended ovation from the chamber.
Hanson wore the covering for several minutes before getting to her feet, when invited by the Senate President, to ask about banning the burqa in Australia “in light of national security”.
Hanson’s call is part of a long-running campaign by the controversial Queensland senator, who, when she returned to parliament last year, claimed that the country was going to be over-run with Muslims – a variation on her claim 20 years earlier that Australia was being “swamped by Asians”.
She claimed there was a “large majority of Australians” who wished to see Australia following France in outlawing the garment.
In response, attorney-general George Brandis with an emphatic “no” and then chastised Hanson for her behaviour.
“I’m not going to pretend to ignore the stunt that you have tried to pull today by arriving in the chamber dressed in a burqa when we all know that you are not an adherent of the Islamic faith,” he said.
“I would caution you and counsel you senator Hanson, with respect, to be very, very careful of the offence you may do to the religious sensibilities of other Australians.
“We have about half a million Australians in this country of the Islamic faith and the vast majority of them are law-abiding, good Australians… It is absolutely consistent with being a good, law-abiding Australian and a strict, adherent Muslim.”
Senator Brandis said he’d had responsibility for the national security for four years and intelligence and law enforcement officials worked closely with the Muslim community.
His voice quivered with emotion as he concluded his response, saying: “To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do and I would ask you to reflect on what you do”.
The senate erupted with applause as he concluded his reply and Labor senators and many on the crossbench stood to applaud.
— Michael Koziol (@michaelkoziol) August 17, 2017
Senate President Stephen Parry said that when Hanson entered the chamber, he confirmed her identity, and declined to comment on her attire.
She also had her red senator’s pin, which identifies her as a member of the chamber, pinned to the outside of her garment.
In subsequent debate, Labor’s Penny Wong said Hanson’s actions were “disgraceful” and “disrespectful”.
“I make this point on behalf of all of us on this side of the chamber, it is one thing to wear religious dress as a sincere act of faith, there is another to wear it as a stunt here in the chamber,” Wong said.
And the attorney-general’s response won praise from Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who is Muslim.
George Brandis was just brilliant in the chamber. Just brilliant. Strongest I have ever heard him.
— Sam Dastyari (@samdastyari) August 17, 2017
When question time in the senate ended at 3pm Greens senators crossed the chamber and shook hands with senator Brandis.
Hanson subsequently issued the following media release on Facebook:
Senator Pauline Hanson has attended question time dressed modestly in a full burqa and will later be delivering a speech in Parliament calling for the Government to ban full face coverings in public.
Senator Hanson said she made the decision to attend question time in a full face covering because she believed the need to ban full face coverings in public was an important issue facing modern Australia that needed to be discussed.
Senator Hanson said she wished to raise the issue of full face covering presenting a security threat not only to Parliament House, but also to the greater Australian public.
Senator Hanson said that she believed that full face covering, such as the burqa, were oppressive, presented barriers to assimilation, disadvantaged women from finding employment, were causing issues inside our justice system, presented a clear security threat and had no place in modern Western society.
Senator Hanson said that this was a debate that was happening across the world and Australia could not hide from a difficult conversation out of fear of causing offence.
Senator Hanson is scheduled to deliver a speech outlining the full extent of her position later today.
A person wearing a burqa in the seat of Senator Pauline Hanson, during Question Time pic.twitter.com/k2eNrMKcb0
— Alex Ellinghausen (@ellinghausen) August 17, 2017