I rise to speak to the notice of motion standing in my name, which concerns some of the matters I raised in my proposed amendment to the Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibition of Full Face Coverings in Public Places) Bill 2017. I call on the government to ban full face coverings in public places. The central issue in this motion before the Senate is the right of others to see a face. No-one should be permitted to hide behind a veil of secrecy while there is a security concern. No-one should be able to receive taxpayer funded support when their identity cannot be confirmed with facial recognition.
Our law recognises some cases where the right to see an individual’s face is more important than the right of another to keep their face hidden. These situations include when a person is committing an unlawful act or giving evidence to a court. In the UK, they are now debating whether a patient in a public hospital has the right to see the face of a treating nurse or doctor. In Canada, they have decided that a woman in a burqa can take the oath of citizenship.
In June this year, men disguised in burqas entered the Iranian parliament building and detonated a number of suicide devices, killing 12 people and wounding 35 others. This is not the first case of this kind, and it will not be the last. These terrorists had no fear of an earthly law. They considered themselves martyrs and bound for heaven, taking as many lives as they could.
Our laws are outdated, and we need new ones like a ban on full face coverings. While it is an offence in most states of Australia to be disguised with unlawful intent, it is self-evident that two years in jail is not a deterrent for a suicide bomber. We need laws to stop terrorism before it happens, and the ability of others to see a face is an important part of assessing risk. As you wander down the corridors of many major airports, you will see security cameras. These cameras relay information to security experts, who need facial recognition to identify terrorists and criminals. Full face coverings like a niqab or a burqa take away a valuable source of information from counterterrorism experts. Full face coverings deny us all the right to be as safe as we can be in public places.
The No. 1 job of any government is to keep its citizens safe, and that is why a number of Islamic countries, including Malaysia, Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt and the Congo have banned full face coverings. If the burqa was a religious requirement then it would not have been banned in public places in Islamic countries. The fact is wearing a burqa is not a religious requirement.
Non-Islamic countries like Switzerland, Norway, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, China and Russia have also banned full face coverings. Again, lawmakers believe a ban improves public safety and enables social cohesion.
Australians don’t like double standards. How can you justify banning the wearing of a helmet or a balaclava but not a burqa when entering a bank?
Australia is a Christian country built on Judeo-Christian values, but many Muslims see Christians as a threat to Islam because it celebrates a falsehood, and so we are progressively seeing the celebration of Christmas in public spaces withdrawn. It is a case of a small minority telling the majority how to live. Development applications for halal housing estates have been rejected to date, but it is only a matter of time before Muslims will have the numbers to get these estates approved.
There is no place in Australia for migrants who want to come here and change the foundation stones of our way of life. My message to those who want to live under sharia law is: migrate to an Islamic country, but don’t come here to Australia.
In 2014, Roy Morgan asked Australians whether or not the burqa should be banned in public places. Seventy per cent of Liberal voters wanted the burqa banned and 44 per cent of Labor voters agreed. Overall, 55 per cent of those questioned wanted the burqa banned, but still there is no support for the proposal in this parliament. Labor and Liberal senators fear losing the Muslim vote, and this was never more evident than today with their reaction to my wearing the burqa. They berated me. But let me remind you again: two men in burqas entered the Iranian parliament, detonated a bomb and killed 12 people.
On my way to this chamber today wearing the full burqa, Senator Whish-Wilson extended his hand to me, not knowing who I was, and shook my hand. He has never done that to me in all my time in this place. It was actually just symbolism—wanting to shake my hand. I’ve never seen him do that. He has not only not shaken my hand in the past, but he has not shaken the hand of any other woman just walking the corridors. It was the burqa that drew him. Was it tokenism? I don’t know.
And Senator Cameron was visibly overcome after my senator’s statement last week. Well—through you, Chair—Senator Cameron needs to do much better than call me a racist. What you need to do, Senator Cameron, is to prove me wrong with facts from reliable sources.
I will say it again: Muslims determine the electoral outcomes in up to 15 lower house seats. The Muslim vote will continue to increase in importance because of the high birth rates in Australian Muslim communities. The number of Muslims in Australia doubled in the decade from 2006 to 2016 through immigration and the high numbers of children born to Muslim families. If we do not draw a line in the sand against immigration from Islamic countries, the influence of Muslims in this country will continue to grow and Australia will continue down the path of Islamisation. We need to learn from other countries. We need to ban further Islamic immigration for at least five years, so that we can have the debate on the impact of Islam on our country before it is too late. It has been reported that fears over terrorism have caused Sydney to fall from the top 10 in key listings of the world’s most liveable cities published by The Economist Group’s Intelligence Unit.
Lebanon was once a safe place for Christians in the Middle East, but that was long ago. Today the majority of Christians live to the north of Beirut and the Muslims to the south and east, and towards the northern borders. No-one knows how many Muslims and Christians there are in Lebanon, because the last census was conducted in 1932. Since that time it has been considered too sensitive to know the actual numbers of Muslims and Christians. What we do know is that in 1932, the Christians outnumbered the Muslims, and now Muslims outnumber Christians. Christians in Lebanon are threatened from Sunni and Shiite radical Islam. Christians are in real danger and could face the same fate as other minorities in the Middle East who have needed to leave to survive. Many have found their way here to Australia, for a peaceful life in a country where they feel safe. It is a disgrace that the Labor Party has been silent on the plight of Christians in Lebanon but outspoken in its support for a Palestinian state run by Muslim terrorists.
Australians expect everyone who migrates here to be an active citizen and to work to make Australia a better place. Many Muslims want to adopt our values and way of life, but to gain my trust they need to call out radical Muslims with extreme views. If they are not willing to work to keep their fellow Australians safe then, in my view, they should leave and go to live in an Islamic country.
I want to return to the need for a general ban on the Islamic veil and the burqa in public places. Has anyone ever considered the plight of women forced to wear the burqa and who cannot speak up? That is the issue here. I’m sure there are a lot of women who wish to get rid of the wearing of the burqa, but it’s forced on them by their husbands, by their fathers and by men within their family. Many migrants have come here to avoid living under Islam and are deeply worried by the Islamisation of Australia and the failure of parliamentarians to take action. I turn to the fact that I got in a taxi and the Muslim driver recognised me. He said, ‘I actually was born a Muslim. I left the faith at 14.’ He said, ‘I am happy here in Australia. This is my home. But because I have left the Muslim faith my uncle has told my father now he must murder me.’ He said, ‘You are right in what you are doing. We have to stamp out the extremism in this country, and we must live by Australian values, ways and culture in this country.’
Another big issue is genital mutilation. Cutting is illegal in Australia, but still the practice continues, and at least 60 children have ended up at Westmead Children’s Hospital as a result of savage injuries in the name of Islam. The meaning of the Islamic veil, niqab or burqa has varied over time. But what has never changed is the way that the wearer is separated from everyone else. This separation is a barrier to the formation of the relationships that are necessary to integrate into the Australian way of life.
More and more taxpayer money is being spent to keep us safe from homegrown Islamic terrorism. We pay for security at airports, hospitals and in public buildings, and we put the lives of police and others in danger because of thousands of radicalised Australian Muslims. I don’t know the cost of keeping Australia safe from extreme and violent Muslims, and invite the government to publish those figures annually. The threat from radicalised Australian Muslims was recognised in a recent decision by the New South Wales Land and Environment Court, when the court agreed with a submission made by Waverley Council that the building of a new synagogue could attract the attention of Muslim terrorists. The Jewish people are no threat to religious freedom in this country, nor to any other freedom, and there have been no plots by Australian Jews to take the rights of others away. But they have paid the price for radicalised Australian Muslims.
Any further outdated immigration policies which support Islamic migration can only drive up the cost of providing safety against Muslims; money that could otherwise have been spent building schools and hospitals. Banning full face coverings in public places is a low-cost safety measure for the taxpayer and it is one step that should be taken, because that is what the majority of Australians want.
The case for a general ban on full face coverings in all public places rests on the need for social cohesion and for the ability to identify and confirm eligibility in a variety of situations and for public safety. Social cohesion rests very largely on the relationships we form as we go about our daily lives. These relationships are built slowly over time, one by one, and these relationships act like the glue that keeps society peacefully together. We have migrants from over 250 countries in Australia, and we value those relationships. Sydney is the largest immigrant city in the world, with some 60 per cent of people born overseas, whilst 75 per cent of Australians claim a heritage other than Australian, but still we cannot take social cohesion for granted. Our social cohesion is founded on seeing one another’s face; on a common language, English; and on a willingness to integrate into an Australian way of life.
Australia is a true democracy based on gender equality and freedom of expression where everyone is equal under the law. Most Australians like it that way, but not radical Muslims. Radical Muslims want sharia law, where women are not treated equally to men and homosexuals are not tolerated. The Muslim world has yet to learn that secularism avoids religious conflict. When you look at the Middle East, you can see the conflict created by Islam.
In Australia, the ability to see a face is essential to communication and the formation of relationships on which our society is founded. Non-verbal communication is essential to understand the content of verbal communication.
Section 116 of the Australian Constitution prohibits the Commonwealth from making any laws which prohibit the free exercise of any religion, but the courts have made it clear there are limits to that freedom when conduct is inconsistent with the maintenance of civil government. Let me say it again: wearing a niqab or a burqa is not a religious requirement. Courts around the world have decided that an individual’s right to wear religious face coverings in public is secondary to the rights and freedoms of others.
The New Zealand District Court held that two women from Afghanistan would have to remove their full face veils to give evidence. It was argued that the barrister needed to see their faces to be able to understand their evidence. The court found it was not necessary to decide whether a full face covering was or was not a religious requirement, because in all cases the human right to freedom of religion was secondary to the human right to justice.
In late 2016, Judge Balla in the Sydney district court was faced with a similar problem. She decided not to hear evidence from Moutia Elzahed, the second wife of Islamic recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi, because she would not reveal her face. Hamdi Alqudsi’s other wife, Carnita Matthews, was imprisoned for falsely accusing a police officer of trying to remove her veil, but—bad luck for her—the incident was caught on a car camera, and the footage showed she had lied. It also showed she could not be properly identified behind the veil, and the conviction was overturned on appeal. Is this parliament willing to do anything at all to support the police and the courts to work smoothly, or are senators satisfied to do nothing and let three per cent of Australians decide whether or not someone wearing a full face covering can waste taxpayers’ money and precious police and court resources?
The argument about full face coverings and human rights has been lost. The European Court of Human Rights in 2014 held 15 to two that a ban on full face coverings did not violate human rights. This is a problem with full face coverings, whether they are Islamic veils or burqas, a mask or any other covering, like bandages. Full face coverings isolate people on both sides of the covering, denying important non-verbal information to set the context of verbal communication. We have immigrants from over 250 countries, many of them from non-English-speaking backgrounds. How do we expect people to integrate into the Australian way of life when faces are covered?
It is clear that Muslims, particularly those with extremist views, have chosen to live separately from other Australians in a way no other religious group has done in Australia. The 2016 census shows us that no other religious group is so strongly concentrated and so alienated from other Australians.
In closing, I want to say that everyone has the right to their own religious beliefs, but it is only Islam that threatens our way of life. The members in this Parliament agreed to spend $16 million to upgrade security here because of a threat from radical Islam. Why don’t senators show some leadership and ban the burqa in public places? It is outrageous that we allow hate preachers to be here, but women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali are unsafe in our country.
This needs to be debated, and I’m pleased that it is on the floor of the chamber today so we can hear other people talk on this matter, because Australians want this debated. Australians want to hear what our members and the leaders of this nation have to say about banning the burqa. As I said in my statement, a large percentage of Australians, over 70 per cent, believe that banning the burqa is necessary and important. They are confronted by it. Two of our former prime ministers, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, have also indicated they found it confronting. Standing in this chamber today with the burqa on, even Senator Hinch wanted to see my face. Every Australian will want to see a face. It may be that, in coming into this chamber with a burqa on, what I did was radical. Yes, it was. But it was a case of saying I do not believe that at any point in time in the future any full face covering should ever be worn in this place.
Every Australian who watches or hears this has the right to see the face of everyone in this chamber to ensure that it is the right person. And I will say again: when I walked from my office down to this chamber, I was not challenged once by any security guard to check to see that it was me under that veil. We have a real problem. My coming here today wearing the burqa was also to prove the point that we in this chamber have to ensure that the person taking their place in the chamber has the right to be here. We have to ensure full safety. I go back to this: the Iranian parliament building was bombed. Do not always consider that this is the safest place. It is not. We have a better chance here than many people out on the streets of this nation.
Chamber Senate on 17/08/2017 Item MOTIONS –“Link to the official transcript National Security” Speaker: : Hanson, Sen Pauline/ Parliment of Australia Transcript used for news reporting