Racism debate in Australia as One Nation party gathers seats
Like Trump in the US, party leader Pauline Hanson wants end to Muslim immigration
Protesters in Sydney, Australia, with pamphlets of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson during a rally organised to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters
The ruling Liberal-National coalition may have won a majority of just one seat in Australia’s recent general election, but it is in the upper house – the senate – that prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is likely to face real problems.
Because Mr Turnbull called a double dissolution election – rather than the normal half-senate election – all 76 upper house seats were voted for and so half the usual quota was needed to get elected.
This led to more seats for minor parties and independents. The senate count is not complete, but the anti-immigration One Nation party has won at least three seats and possibly as many as seven.
One Nation’s leader Pauline Hanson was first elected to parliament in 1996. In her maiden speech she said Australia was at risk of being “swamped by Asians”, and now she says time has proved her right. But Muslims now concern her more. Like Donald Trump in the US, Hanson wants Muslim immigration stopped.
Sitting beside Labor senator Sam Dastyari on a TV show this week, Hanson asked, “Are you a Muslim?” when he asked if she would have banned him from coming to Australia. Dastyari arrived in Australia from Iran aged four.
Hanson wants an inquiry into Islam by a royal commission – Australia’s highest level of public investigation, which has quasi-judicial powers and is generally chaired by a retired or serving judge. As she says the halal certification of food is “connected to Islamic organisations . . . such as the Muslim Brotherhood”, presumably that would form part of any inquiry.
Dastyari has twice offered to take Hanson for a halal snack pack – a mix of kebab meat, chips, cheese, and chilli and garlic sauce – but she has refused.
Less frivolous was the intervention of TV host Sonia Kruger, who this week also called for a ban on Muslim immigration, saying “there is a correlation between the number of people who are Muslim in a country and the number of terrorist attacks”. And before you could say, “I have a lot of very good friends who are Muslim”, Kruger said, “I have a lot of very good friends who are Muslim.”
Previously better known for hosting Dancing with the Stars than political activism, Kruger broadened her attack.
Despite the backlash, Kruger did not resile from her comments, though did “acknowledge my views . . . may have been extreme”. She further angered some by tweeting “as a mother, I believe it’s vital in a democratic society to be able to discuss these issues without automatically being labelled racist”.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young was one of those who turned #asamother into a trending hashtag, saying “#asamother probably best not to use children as an excuse for ignorance or intolerance of adults”.
Hanson-Young will be sitting within metres of Hanson on the senate crossbenches, which should make for interesting debates.