Aussie senator dons burqa in Parliament in push for its ban

One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa to the Senate (top) in Canberra yesterday, before she pulls it off (above) after 20 minutes to highlight what she said were the security issues it posed, linking it to terrorism as fellow senator
One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa to the Senate (above) in Canberra yesterday, before she pulls it off after 20 minutes to highlight what she said were the security issues it posed, linking it to terrorism as fellow senators heckled her.PHOTO: REUTERS
One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa to the Senate (top) in Canberra yesterday, before she pulls it off (above) after 20 minutes to highlight what she said were the security issues it posed, linking it to terrorism as fellow senator
One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa to the Senate in Canberra yesterday, before she pulls it off (above) after 20 minutes to highlight what she said were the security issues it posed, linking it to terrorism as fellow senators heckled her.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Australian anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson caused a furore yesterday when she entered the Senate wearing a full burqa, earning a blistering rebuke from the country's top lawyer for the "appalling" stunt.

Ms Hanson wore the all-enveloping garment worn by some Muslim women for 20 minutes before removing it in the Chamber to highlight what she said were the security issues it posed, linking it to terrorism as fellow senators heckled her.

"Will you work to ban the burqa in Australia in light of what is happening with national security?" she said after whipping off the garment to question Attorney-General George Brandis, adding: "Terrorism is a true threat to our country. Many Australians are in fear of it."

Mr Brandis said his conservative government had no such plans, warning Ms Hanson that she risked offending the Muslim community by wearing a burqa as a non-Muslim.

"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 have done," he said.

Mr Brandis, his voice cracking with emotion, also said that being a strict adherent Muslim was "absolutely consistent" with being a law-abiding citizen.

"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," he said, prompting a standing ovation from his political opponents in the Labor and Greens parties.

POORLY TIMED

In the same week that we saw white nationalism rear its ugly head in the country of our closest ally - in that week a stunt like this gets pulled in the Australian Senate... It is hurtful, it is offensive, it is wrong.

MR SAM DASTYARI, Labor senator, on Ms Hanson's move in the context of US events.

CAUSING A STIR

Pauline Hanson mocked the religion of some Australians... She made a mockery of an honourable place (the Senate).

MR DERRYN HINCH, independent senator, who called her conduct "disgusting".

Independent senator Derryn Hinch labelled Ms Hanson's conduct as "disgusting".

"Pauline Hanson mocked the religion of some Australians... She made a mockery of an honourable place (the Senate)," he told Sky News.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari accused Ms Hanson of stoking extremism for "a cheap headline".

"In the same week we saw white nationalism rear its ugly head in the country of our closest ally - in that week a stunt like this gets pulled in the Australian Senate," he said. "It is hurtful, it is offensive, it is wrong."

Ms Hanson first gained prominence in the 1990s, when she warned Australia was in danger of being "swamped by Asians". After a 12-year hiatus from politics she returned in 2014, this time targeting Muslims, and was elected to the Senate two years later as leader of the right-wing One Nation party.

In her first speech after returning to Parliament, she said Islam was "a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own".

Ms Hanson was unrepentant after her latest stunt, telling commercial radio: "Is it extreme? Yes. Is it getting my message across? I hope so."

Her party has four senators, which gives it influence when closely contested legislation is being voted on.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2017, with the headline 'Aussie senator dons burqa in Parliament in push for its ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe