An emotional Attorney-General George Brandis has been given a standing ovation in Parliament for slamming One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s decision to wear a burka into the Senate.
Senator Hanson caused audible gasps of shock when she wore the full Islamic dress into Question Time, calling for the dress to be banned in Australia.
Liberal senator from Tasmania Jonathon Duniam was heard saying, “oh, what on earth”, before Senate president Stephen Parry said Senator Hanson had been identified before entering the chamber.
Senator Brandis was close to tears while criticising Senator 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. I would ask you to reflect on that,” he said.
Senator Brandis ruled out banning the burka.
Labor and Greens senators stood and applauded Senator Brandis after his answer to Senator Hanson.
Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong congratulated Senator Brandis.
“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,” she said.
‘They did not ask to see my face’
Senator Hanson said it was an extreme way of getting her message across to attempt to highlight what she sees as security risks.
“I am very much against the burka,” she told radio 2GB.
“It is not a religious requirement. This is brought in by men who want to cover up their women. It is oppressing women.”
Currently, no federal MPs wear religious garb in Parliament, but Senator Hanson said if anyone was fully covered in future, it could be a problem.
“How do I know that if you have someone continually wearing the burka in that chamber it is that person who walks in the chamber every time?” Senator Hanson said.
She said security staff accepted the word of her fellow senator Brian Burston, who vouched for her identity when she walked into the Senate chamber.
“They did not ask to see my face,” she said.
Senator Hanson foreshadowed that all Australian women might eventually be forced to wear burkas.
“With the amount of kids that these Muslims are having and breeding here in Australia … possibly one day maybe not in the next five years but further down the track, it might be my daughter or grandchildren will be told, ‘You must cover up’, as is the case in many countries who are demanding women to cover up,” she said.
Fellow One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts defended his party leader, telling Lateline he was proud of Senator Hanson’s “commitment to this country”.
He brushed off suggestions the move was offensive, and said Senator Hanson was “a woman with courage standing up for women”.
The Federal Government has routinely rejected her calls to ban the burka from Government buildings and places where people need to be identified for security purposes.
Senator Brandis told Senator Hanson he had been responsible for national security for the past four years and that each director-general of security and federal police commissioner he had worked with had advised him it was vital for their intelligence and law enforcement to work cooperatively with the Muslim community.
Senator Parry said he would not dictate how senators dress in the Upper House.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who is not known for praising the Attorney-General, also congratulated Senator Brandis for a “strong, impassioned, and personal response”.
“I want to thank you for showing leadership in this chamber, leadership that is so often lacking in this Parliament,” Senator Di Natale said.
In an extremely rare event, Greens and Labor senators and crossbenchers, including Derryn Hinch, applauded and gave Senator Brandis a standing ovation for his strong response.
His Coalition colleagues did not join the standing ovation, but about half joined in the clapping, including Mathias Cormann, Arthur Sinodinos, Simon Birmingham, James Patterson, Dean Smith, Mitch Fifield, Jane Hume and Anne Ruston.
Crosssbench Senator Nick Xenophon accused Senator Hanson of displaying “toxic behaviour” and he praised Senator Brandis for speaking “like a true statesman”.
“He displayed the leadership and clarity of purpose that this country needs on issues such as this. Good on you, George,” Senator Xenophon said.
But Senator Hanson said it was not good enough for Senator Brandis to have rejected her question so bluntly.
“Let Australians have their say. I think you cannot, like Senator Brandis did, just get up to his feet and say no and shut it down,” she said.
“The people of Australia want more than that.”
Conservative senator Cory Bernardi said he was “literally scared” when he saw Senator Hanson wearing the burka in the Senate chamber.
“I jumped back — my heart skipped a beat — I jumped back and went, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ and then I realised that Pauline Hanson was making a particularly blunt point,” he told 2GB.
Senator Bernardi said he agreed with the point Senator Hanson was making about burkas, calling them a “flag of fundamentalism”.
But he disagreed that she did it in Parliament.
“I don’t agree with stunts by politicians. I care about the standards of the Parliament,” he said.
Sources: ABC News