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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1235

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (16:21): Libertarians have mixed feelings about the burqa. We believe people should be allowed to make their own choices, including wearing what they want, so long as they are not harming anyone else. Occasionally, I see women wearing niqabs and burqas at the shopping centre in my home suburb of Drummoyne in Sydney, and they are not harming anybody. But unfortunately, the sight of a burqa is confronting. It is the closest thing we have to a uniform for fundamentalist Islam, an authoritarian ideology that does harm people. Apart from the obvious excesses of terrorism, there is no room in this country for a belief system that would subjugate women, oppress gays and lesbians, and punish people for saying the wrong thing. I fully understand why some people want one of the most identifiable symbols of this creed banned. But I will not be voting to ban the burqa.

The government already dictates far too many things: what we can do, who we can marry, and what we can say. We should be wary of all kinds of authoritarians: whether they are Islamists, the government, or even the Greens. But I have practical objections as well as ideological ones. The idea behind this bill is that a ban will improve security. I disagree. If someone wandering around the ACT, Northern Territory or an airport, which is where this bill would apply, wants to identify themselves by wearing a burqa, we should not discourage them. As politically incorrect as this no doubt sounds, I can scarcely think of anything you could do to put security on higher alert than wearing a burqa, other than carrying a neon sign with an arrow pointing at you that says 'potential terrorist'.

We should also not discourage or disparage anybody working at an airport security checkpoint, or a police officer who has reason to suspect criminality, for carefully screening someone wearing a burqa. It is their job to use their common-sense to keep us safe. This idea will no doubt offend the delicate sensibilities of the progressives, but it is worse than absurd to pretend Islamists are not a statistically higher security risk; it is dangerous. Anyone who is committed enough to consider terrorism will not be inconvenienced if there is a law against burqas. It's just as easy to hide a bomb under a loose gown as under a burqa. And if you are planning to blow yourself up, you will not be worried if a surveillance camera captures an image of your face before it gets blown to bits.

Rather than engaging fashion police across the ACT and Northern Territory, a much better long-term solution to safeguard Australia would be to make sure immigrants are compatible with our values in the first place. One vote one value, the right to a fair trial, freedom of association, freedom of speech and the separation of church and state are great and hard won doctrines of our culture. It is not racism, bigotry or even jingoism to defend them. It is about protecting the rights of individuals. It is our job.

I recently suggested a written citizenship test to the website based on my belief that we should put a higher value on Australian citizenship. Some of the questions include: Should there be a law banning female circumcision—better known to the civilised amongst us as female genital mutilation? Should there be a law banning adults from homosexual acts and relationships? should there be a law banning a wife from leaving the home against the wishes of the husband? And should there be a law banning blasphemy? Immigrants who fail a test like this are not going to fit in, and are probably better off finding a home somewhere else anyway.

Ultimately, it is the values immigrants bring to this country that matter more than their clothes or their customs.

I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.