Senator Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa, during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 17 August 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex EllinghausenPauline Hanson is a “hate preacher” seeking to divide the Australian community for her own political gain, Greens leader Richard Di Natale said, as debate over One Nation’s proposed burqa ban continues to swirl.
Both senior Labor and government MPs have admitted to feeling “uncomfortable” with the garment, but have resisted calls to support a ban.
But Senator Di Natale, who along with his party colleagues have been some of Senator Hanson’s biggest critics since her return to Parliament in the last election, said he did not see an issue.
“What is the problem here? We have a tiny fraction of our community who decide to wear a particular form of religious and cultural dress,” he told Sky News.
“It is a tiny, tiny group within [our] community and the reality is what we’ve got is a hate preacher in Pauline Hanson trying to spread fear and division in our community. What for? For her own narrow political purposes.
“There are so many important issues as a nation we should be addressing – we need to get serious about tackling dangerous climate change, and being clear about what the energy transition looks like, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to address the growing gap between the rich and the poor in Australia, and yet here we are, wasting precious time because we’ve got a member of the Australian Parliament who, for her own base political purposes, is trying to spread further fear and division in our community.”
Senator Hanson has spent the past week defending wearing the Islamic garment in the Senate chamber as part of an ongoing campaign to have it, and the niqab, banned.
The stunt was widely condemned by all sides of Parliament, with Attorney-General George Brandis’ impassioned rebuke of Senator Hanson’s actions earning a standing ovation from his political opponents.
A week later debate has continued to rage, with a Sky News Reachtel poll finding 44 per cent of respondents agreed with Senator Hanson’s call for a public ban on the garments.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he could understand people’s concerns, but would not give in.
“I am not an admirer of the burqa – I worry that it used as a means of oppressing women, that’s my reservation about the burqa,” he told 3AW radio.
“Having said that, in this country we don’t tell people what to wear.”
Labor’s Anthony Albanese told the Today show he could also understand the public’s hesitation, but could not support a ban.
“Of course I can understand it,” he said.
“I’m uncomfortable and I think people who aren’t from that culture are uncomfortable with it. That’s not surprising. There’s a big step, though, towards banning things.
“Banning things does not work. I think that’s why George Brandis made the comment that he did. There’s a whole range of behaviour from people that have different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions, that people might not be comfortable with. But that doesn’t mean you go about banning it.”
Keysar??? Trad, spokesman for the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said while he did not encourage women to wear the face-covering garments, he believed those who chose to were being left out of the debate.
“I don’t personally know of any woman who is oppressed into wearing a burqa – those who choose to wear it would speak in favour of it,” he said.
“I don’t encourage people to wear it, my daughters don’t wear it, but there are those who choose to.
“I would like those politicians who speak about it, to actively speak to women who wear it, to get their view.”
Islamic women’s groups contacted by Fairfax Media were not available to comment.
Human Rights Watch investigated the impact of a burqa ban on women when the Netherlands parliament considered the issue earlier this year.
It found any legislation restricting the wearing of the garments would “violate fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of religion and the right to autonomy”, as well as harm the women who wear it, by confining them to the home.