Australian senator rebuked for wearing burka to parliament

Disorderly scenes after Pauline Hanson enters chamber wearing the religious garment

The leader of Australia's rightwing One Nation party has been rebuked by the Turnbull government for entering the Senate chamber wearing a burka.

Pauline Hanson caused a commotion by arriving in the senate chamber for the daily question time session dressed in a black burka, which was designed to underscore a call she intended to make to ban the religious garment, citing national security concerns.

But Ms Hanson was rebuked sharply for her behaviour. The leader of the government in the senate, attorney general George Brandis, told the One Nation leader the ruling coalition had no intention of banning the burka.

In remarks that secured him a standing ovation from the opposition Labor Party, and the Greens as well as other crossbench senators, Mr Brandis warned Ms Hanson against indulging in behaviour that Muslim Australians would find offensive.


“Senator Hanson, no, we will not be banning the burka,” Mr 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 burka when we all know you are not an adherent of the Islamic faith.

“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.”

Mr Brandis reminded Ms 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 co-operation with the Islamic community.

Disorderly interjections

He rebuked Ms Hanson 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.”

Ms Hanson smiled throughout Mr Brandis’s comments , and visibly delighted with the commotion caused by her intervention, left the senate chamber shortly after her designated question.

Mr Brandis’s rebuke prompted Labor, 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 Labor senator Penny Wong, said if the standing orders permitted, she would have issued a vote of thanks to Mr Brandis for his remarks.

Ms Wong, also clearly infuriated, told Ms 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.”

Ms Hanson’s call for the banning of the burka prompted disorderly interjections from across the chamber.

The One Nation leader's question was posed to Mr Brandis along the following lines: "In light of our national security of this nation, will [the government] work with me to actually ban the burka in Australia considering there have been 13 foiled national threats against us with terrorism, three that have been successful that Australians have lost their lives?

“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 burka.”

The Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who is of Iranian heritage, and a non-practising Muslim, shouted that Ms Hanson was a threat to national security, and a "disgrace".

Another Labor senator interjected that Ms Hanson would next enter the chamber wearing a white hood – a reference to white supremacist groups.

Ms Hanson later took to Facebook to double down on her behaviour in the parliament.

Her 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.

Guardian service