By Katharine Murphy
17 Aug 2017
The leader of Australia’s rightwing One
Nation party has been rebuked by the Turnbull government for entering the
Senate chamber wearing a black burqa.
Pauline Hanson caused a commotion by
arriving at the Senate chamber for the daily question time session dressed in a
black burqa, which was designed to underscore a call she intended to make to
ban the religious garment, citing national security concerns.
But Hanson was rebuked sharply for her
The leader of the government in the Senate,
the attorney general George Brandis, told the One Nation leader the ruling
Coalition had no intention of banning the burqa.
In remarks that secured him a standing
ovation from the opposition Labor party, and the Greens party, as well as other
crossbench senators, Brandis warned Hanson against indulging in behaviour that
Muslim Australians would find offensive.
“Senator Hanson, no, we will not be banning
the burqa,” Brandis told the Senate on Thursday. “Senator Hanson, 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 you are not an adherent of the
“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, and Senator Hanson, it is absolutely consistent with
being a good law abiding Australian and a strict, adherent, Muslim.”
Brandis reminded Hanson that as attorney
general, he held preeminent portfolio responsibility for national security, and
the advice from intelligence agencies was clear – countering the risks of
extremism required close cooperation with the Islamic community.
The attorney general, who was clearly
infuriated by Hanson’s behaviour, rebuked her sharply for causing offence to a
faith community. “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 your behaviour.”
Hanson smiled throughout Brandis’ answer,
and visibly delighted with the commotion caused by her intervention, left the
Senate chamber shortly after her designated question.
The Brandis rebuke prompted Labour, Greens
and some crossbenchers to stand and applaud. Some but not all government MPs
also applauded but kept their seats.
The leader of the opposition in the Senate,
the Labour senator Penny Wong, said if the standing orders permitted, she would
have issued a vote of thanks to Brandis for his remarks.
Wong, also clearly infuriated, told Hanson:
“It is one thing to wear religious dress as a sincere act of faith and another
to wear it here as a stunt in the Senate chamber.”
Hanson’s call for the banning of the Burqa
prompted disorderly interjections from across the chamber.
The One Nation leader’s question was posed
to Brandis along the following lines: “In light of our national security of
this nation, will [the government] work with me to actually ban the Burqa in
Australia considering there have been 13 foiled national threats against us
with terrorism, three that have been successful that Australians have lost
“Terrorism is a true threat to our country.
Many Australians are in fear of it. What I would like to ask on behalf of the
Australian people, considering there has been a large majority of Australians
wish to see the banning of the Burqa.”
The Labour senator Sam Dastyari, who is of
Iranian heritage, and a non-practising Muslim, shouted that Hanson was a threat
to national security, and a “disgrace”.
Another Labour MP interjected that Hanson
would next enter the chamber wearing a white hood – a reference to white
Hanson later took to Facebook to double
down on her behaviour in the parliament.
Hanson’s One Nation party proposes
anti-Islamic policies including a ban on Muslim immigration, and a royal
commission into Islam. Hanson has also called for a Trump-style travel ban on
Muslims entering Australia.