Friday, 16 September 2016

Australia's Pauline Hanson marks political return with anti-Muslim speech

Hanson marks comeback with fiery anti-Islamic speech
Aussie politician calls for ban on mosques and Muslim immigrants
By Jonathan Pearlman, In Sydney, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2016

Australian right-wing firebrand politician Pauline Hanson delivered an inflammatory anti-Islam speech to mark her dramatic return as a Member of Parliament.

"I'm back," she said, before calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants and new mosques yesterday, prompting the Greens MPs to walk out of the Chamber.

Ms Hanson's highly anticipated speech came 20 years after her notorious maiden speech in the House of Representatives, in which she warned that Australia was at risk of being "swamped with Asians".

This time, she said the nation was in danger of being "swamped by Muslims", and that Australia was at risk of being taken over by radical extremists advocating syariah law.

Ms Hanson, 62, said Australia should ban the wearing of the burqa, monitor all mosques and Islamic schools as well as ban the construction of any new such Muslim institutions. "We are in danger of being swamped by Muslims who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own," she said.

"Australia is now seeing changes in suburbs that are predominantly Muslim. Tolerance towards other Australians is no longer the case… Australians, in general, are more fearful."

Ms Hanson also denounced foreign investment in Australian land and assets, particularly from China.

"Why are we allowing the Chinese government, an oppressive communist regime, to own our assets?" she said.

Ms Hanson was delivering her maiden speech in the Senate, or Upper House, after gaining a seat at the July 2 election, along with three colleagues from her One Nation party.

But she is now in a much more powerful position than she was in 1996. The four One Nation MPs could prove a significant bloc in the 76-member Chamber, where no party has a majority.

Ms Hanson used her speech to warn against "aggressive multiculturalism" and called for a suspension of further migration.

"High immigration is only beneficial to multinationals, banks and big business seeking a larger market while every day, Australians suffer from this massive intake," she said.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned before the election that Ms Hanson was not welcome in Parliament, but has since reached out to her and the other crossbenchers after his failure to secure a majority in the Senate.

Ms Hanson became rather infamous for her 1996 speech. It sparked occasionally violent scenes as protesters lambasted her attacks on multiculturalism, Aboriginal welfare and Asian migration.

Since her defeat in the 1998 election, Ms Hanson, a divorced mother from Queensland, was jailed briefly in 2003 for electoral fraud - the convictions were later quashed - and has attempted countless political comebacks.

The success of her party this year was partly due to Mr Turnbull's decision to hold a double-dissolution election, in which all senators are up for re-election. Typically, only about half are elected. Ms Hanson's three One Nation colleagues in the Senate are largely unknown but have already begun to cause controversy.

Her Queensland colleague Malcolm Roberts used his maiden Senate speech on Tuesday to call for Australia to leave the United Nations. Likening the move to Britain's vote to leave the European Union, he said: "We need an OzExit."

"Australia's values and way of life are also at risk from insidious institutions such as the unelected swill that is the United Nations," he said.

A staunch climate-change sceptic, he said the UN's modelling on future global warming was "wrong".

Mr Roberts has accused the UN and other agencies of manipulating data as part of a global conspiracy to create a worldwide government.

"We are not worried what the establishment says about us," he said. "We are not here for the establishment. We are here for everyday people and our nation."

In the 1990s, Ms Hanson's political stint ignited fierce debate and enormous media interest. Her speech yesterday could spark a new wave of heated debate about immigrants, multiculturalism and political correctness.

Explaining the decision to stage a walkout as she spoke, Greens leader Richard Di Natale, in a tweet last night, said: "We'll call out racism wherever it occurs, including Parliament."

He added: "Racism has no place in Parliament but that is what we have just heard from Senator Hanson. I stand with those people hurt by her words."

A case of deja vu, with an extra dose of power
By Jonathan Pearlman, The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2016

SYDNEY • For long-term observers of Australian politics, it seemed something like deja vu.

Once again, Australia's notorious anti-migrant MP Pauline Hanson was back in Parliament, delivering a speech against globalisation, immigration and foreign investment.

Notably, unlike in 1996, her main target was no longer Asians, but Muslims.

Yesterday there was another significant difference. When she delivered her famous tirade in 1996, she was an independent member of the House of Representatives who had been shunned by the ruling Coalition because of her incendiary views.

She had a strong public following - and the media followed her tirelessly, hoping for further controversy - but she was effectively powerless to influence policy.

Twenty years later, Ms Hanson stands at the head of a party with four MPs out of 76 in the Upper House.The ruling Coalition does not have a majority in the chamber and will need the support of her One Nation party, or another minor party or Opposition MPs, to secure passage of much of its legislation.

As veteran political commentator Michelle Grattan observed, Ms Hanson was "clearly relishing the potential power she holds second time around". Following the close election result in July, the major parties cannot afford to treat her as a pariah.

Ms Hanson has already held meetings with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former leader Tony Abbott and several frontbenchers.

Mr Turnbull, who is on the progressive side of the Coalition, is unlikely to show much sympathy for her rant against migration and foreign investment. But he will need to find areas of common ground, perhaps on his savings measures, or run-of-the-mill legislation on communications policy or rural investment.

The Coalition has only 30 MPs in the Senate: It will need to find the extra votes somewhere, and Ms Hanson's party now has four.

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