In Depth

Pauline Hanson stuns Australian Senate with burka stunt

Leader of anti-Islam One Nation party slammed for turning up to debate in black gown and veil

170817-_burka.jpg

An Australian senator drew gasps and jeers from her colleagues after entering the chamber dressed in a burka to promote her party's bid to ban the Islamic garment. 

Pauline Hanson, the leader of the far-right One Nation party, strolled into the senate in the floor-length black gown and face veil on Thursday morning, hours before it was due to vote on a motion calling for a ban.

A microphone in the chamber picked up one senator's stunned "What on earth?", while others merely rolled their eyes.

Rising to her feet to speak, Hanson whisked off the garment. "I'm quite happy to remove this, because this is not what should belong in this parliament," she said. 

Citing recent terror attacks and foiled Islamist plots, Hanson reiterated her party's call for a ban on the Islamic face veil for reasons of national security, interrupted at times by the jeers of her colleagues. 

Shared outrage elicited a rare moment of cross-party unity, as representatives from all major parties took Hanson to task.

"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," said Labor senator Penny Wong.

George Brandis, senate leader of the ruling Liberal Party, slammed the stunt as "appalling" and castigated Hanson for insulting Australia's 600,000 Muslim citizens.

"We all know that you are not an adherent of the Islamic faith," he said. "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 reflect on what you have done." 

Hanson is well known for her outspoken views on race, immigration and Islam. In her maiden speech in Parliament in 1996, she warned that Australia was at risk of being "swamped by Asians". As the topic of Asian immigration faded from public debate, Hanson and her One Nation colleagues have followed the lead of other far-right movements, focussing their ire on Muslims, says Quartz.  

After being elected to the Senate in last year, she echoed her 1996 speech, this time suggesting the country was being "swamped by Muslims".  As well as supporting a burka ban, the One Nation party opposes the construction of new mosques and has called for a freeze on Muslim immigration to Australia. 

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