Australia’s Attorney-General received a standing ovation on Thursday after delivering a heartfelt condemnation for a farcical stunt by Pauline Hanson that saw the One Nation leader wear a burqa into the Senate.
Hanson caused audible gasps when she wore the Islamic dress into Question Time while calling for a ban on full-face coverings, with Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam proclaiming, “oh, what on earth”.
Senator George Brandis was close to tears while criticising Hanson for attacking the Islamic faith and undermining relations with the Muslim community.
“To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do,” he said.
“I would ask you to reflect on that.”
Brandis ruled out banning the burka which led to Labor and the Greens giving him a standing ovation.
Attorney General George Brandis told Hanson:
“We will not be banning the burqa. Now Senator Hanson I am 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 you are not an inherent of the Islamic faith. And I would caution you and counsel you, Senator Hanson, with respect, to be very, very cautious of the offense 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, and Senator Hanson, it is absolutely consistent to be a good law abiding Australian and be a good strict adherent Muslim.
“Now, Senator Hanson, for the last four years I have had responsibility, preeminently amongst the ministers, subject to the Prime Minister, for national security policy, and I can tell you Senator Hanson, it has been the advice of all of the attorney generals of security with whom I have worked, and each commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, with whom I have worked, that it is vital for their intelligence and law enforcement work, that we work cooperatively with the Muslim community... and 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.”
Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong backed Brandis’ remarks, saying: “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.”
Hanson initially sat quietly wearing the burqa, but eventually removed it. When she rose to ask Brandis about Muslim face coverings and security, he delivered his thoroughly seething takedown.
When Hanson arrived in the chamber, Senate president Stephen Parry told those present that her identity had been already been established.
Senator Derryn Hinch questioned the appropriateness of Hanson’s attire, asking if he would be “unchallenged” if he entered the chamber in fancy dress.
Parry replied that he would not dictate the standard of dress worn in the chamber.
Hanson had earlier given notice that she wanted to debate a burqa ban in the Senate on Thursday afternoon, saying that “she believed the need to ban full face coverings in public was an important issue facing modern Australia that needed to be discussed”.
Following the end of Question Time, conservative senator Cory Bernardi said while he agreed with One Nation’s stance on banning head coverings, he didn’t agree with Hanson’s “blunt” stunt, HuffPost Australia reported.
“I happen to agree the burqa has no place in Australia... so I accept the point but I really do think it diminished the status of the parliament,” Bernardi told 2GB radio.
“I don’t agree with stunts by politicians. I actually care about the standards of the parliament.”
Hanson has been a polarising figure in Australian politics and has often been accused of racism with her opinions on race, immigration and Islam causing wide debate. She founded the One Nation Party in 1997 and spent 11 weeks in jail in 2003 for electoral fraud before her convictions were eventually overturned.