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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1232


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (16:11): Let me start by describing what the Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibition of Full Face Coverings in Public Places) Bill 2017 does. It prohibits anything that substantially covers the front of a person's head from the top of the forehead to the base of the chin in a way that conceals the identity of the person, whether or not part of the person's face can still be seen.

Under this bill, Superman would be banned, Spiderman would be banned, Batman would be banned, the Phantom would be banned, Wonderwoman would be okay—actually, Superman might be okay, but Clark Kent could be in trouble because his glasses conceal his identity. The fact is that this ban would only apply when the threat of terrorism is probable, expected or certain. But is that not when we want our superheroes to be able to help us? Do we not want them to be ready and willing to help when the threat is probable, expected or certain? I think it is really important that we understand how this bill would impact on the ability of our costumed superheroes to respond to terror threats, because those costumed superheroes only exist in the realm of fantasy fiction—and that is where this bill belongs. That is before we even get to where the bill would operate.

Could Spiderman go into a Centrelink office to fix up his youth allowance? Could Batman go into a Medicare office to arrange a rebate? We do not know the answer to these questions, because the answer probably depends on whether the Centrelink office is owned by the Commonwealth or leased. Ultimately we do not know, because the question of what a Commonwealth Place is has never really been tested. On the other hand, the Phantom could go into places that are not Commonwealth places, like a housing office or a primary school or a magistrates court, providing he is not in the Northern Territory or the ACT, because of course they are Commonwealth places.

The truth is that Senator Lambie must have been watching too many Hollywood movies, because with this bill she is responding to the 'Phantom Menace'. This bill is aimed squarely at Muslim women who wear the burqa or the niqab. As Senator Lambie pointed out, France did legislate to ban facial coverings in 2010. They did it for the reasons that Senator Lambie nominates. But, in the first year the ban came into effect, who were the only people charged? They were Muslim women wearing a burqa or niqab—20 of them in that year. Is France safer because of it? I do not think so.

It is very difficult to see the correlation here between the intent of the legislation and its impact. We know that there is no credible security advice to the effect that there are large groups of Muslim women out there in the suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne hiding bombs in their burqas just waiting to cause carnage. There is nothing that would indicate that there is a serious security threat. Of course, that might seem trivial now that we live in this Trump-fuelled post-truth world of alternative facts and fake news, but I do scratch my head about it. Even if there were women who were wearing burqas and who presented a security threat, how is it that banning the burqa would keep us safe? I just do not get it. The whole thing is just so silly.

I do understand that Senator Lambie talks about the impression that Australians feel unsafe when they see people wearing full face coverings in public. Yes, for many people, it is confronting. But I will tell you who does not feel safe right now. You do not feel safe right now if you are a Muslim living in this country, catching public transport, walking down the street and minding your own business if you are being yelled at, vilified and targeted now by some of the most hateful and divisive rhetoric that this country has seen in many decades.

Obviously, it comes on the back of the election of President Trump, who has shown himself to be somebody who is prepared to use hate to divide people. We have the likes of One Nation in this place. We have those whackos Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front. All of them enabled and encouraged by a media—and let's name it here: the Murdoch media—who today, for example, launched an extraordinary attack on Yassmin Abdel-Magied. She is a young Muslim woman who is 25 years old and who engaged in a trip, funded through DFAT, to try and encourage people in ostensibly Muslim countries to come and visit Australia and to engage in trade and tourism with our country. And yet, we saw this attack on this young Muslim woman, really based on the fact that she is a Muslim. Of course, you have the whole sewer that the online world has become where this hatred and vilification spreads.

If you speak to Muslim people right now in Australia, you actually get a sense of how they are feeling. In this place, I told the story of Sara, a woman who was caught up in Donald Trump's immigration ban. I told the story of another young woman who was a health professional, who, when she revealed to her patient that she was a Muslim, was basically told, in front of her son, that she would not be welcome in his home if she was wearing the hijab. I have spoken to women who say they do not want to put down their religion on the census or, indeed, their name on the census because they fear what might happen to them. I have spoken to families who say, 'We don't want to buy a house and put down roots in this country because we are worried about where things are going.' That is how people are feeling right now, and it is this sort of legislation that contributes to that. It contributes to that feeling of not being welcome in this country.

Let me say, for me, this is personal. This is very personal. When I see an attack on people of the Islamic faith, I see the same sort of attacks that were launched on my family when the Italians first came: 'They smell. They dress in black. They treat their women terribly. Their food is weird. They speak a strange language. They have these big families. They bludge off the state. They are all criminals and part of the mafia.' We are seeing the same sorts of things repeated now, but all we are seeing is a different group being targeted.

I just say to Senator Lambie and I say to other voices in this place: these are people; open up your heart and your mind; accept an invitation to visit a mosque.

Senator Lambie: What if we can't identify people on the street?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Back ): Order!

Senator DI NATALE: Don't bury your head in the sand. Don't choose ignorance and fear. That is the obvious path. Choose one that promotes peace; one that promotes inclusion and diversity. Get to know a Muslim person. Speak to them. They will welcome you into their home. You will see that, like you, they share a common humanity and have the same dreams and hopes for their families: to put a roof over their head, to feed their children, to give them an education and to contribute to this country.

Don't base legislation in this place on tired stereotypes that are based on fear and prejudice. I get that, right now, Muslims are an easy target. People in this place are falling over themselves to see who can be the most vicious and the most hateful towards our fellow Australians. But that is the low road. Take the high road. This bill is not about protecting people or keeping people safe. This is about targeting people. This bill targets women.

Let me finish with the words of a really inspiring young Muslim woman, Tasneem Chopra. She is the chair of the Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights. It is an outstanding organisation that works with, and advocates for, Muslim women on a range of casework, research, outreach and referral services. In response to this bill, she said that in their experience, the issue 'of forced faced coverings has not emerged as an issue' within the community. But she says: 'What has emerged are the countless cases of discrimination, vilification and violence experienced by women from the wider public. Further, the ongoing policing of women's choice of dress, equating personal expressions of faith with loyalty to Australia, as if being Muslim and being Australian were inalienable, remains a gross abuse of human rights, experienced as state-sanctioned violence. Any proposed curtailment of freedom of movement premised on faith-based dress codes is antithetical to the democratic freedoms this nation champions.'

Australia's greatest quality is the openness of our society. We are a free, open society; an inclusive society. We are a nation founded by immigrants. We are a nation that comes together to celebrate the many diverse cultures that make Australia home. This country is better because of the contribution of people from right around the world. It is what makes us the most successful multicultural nation on earth; indeed, the most successful nation on earth. So I just say again to all those people in this place who seek to use fear and division—perhaps not intentionally, but because of their own prejudices, insecurities and anxieties—open your heart and your mind, talk to somebody who might be different from you but shares the same dreams, goals and aspirations, and what you will find is that we all share a common humanity. And that is something to be celebrated.