Abbott to axe Parliament burqa ban

Written By komlim puldel on Kamis, 02 Oktober 2014 | 20.01

Burqa wearing visitors to Parliament House will only be allowed to view proceedings from enclosed galleries.

Those wearing face coverings must now sit in glass-enclosed area of Parliament House. Source: Getty Images

TONY Abbott has stepped in to axe new security measures proposed by Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senate President Stephen Parry on people wearing face coverings in parliament.

Reports from Fairfax Media and the ABC say the Prime Minister will ask Ms Bishop and Senator Pary to reconsider the proposal, and it is understood the plans will be rescinded.

Mrs Bishop's office told AAP on Thursday night they were yet to have any contact from the prime minister on the matter.

The news of Mr Abbott removing the new security measures comes after visitors to Parliament House wearing facial coverings such as the niqab were about to be forced to sit in glass enclosed galleries — not the public gallery — as a part of new arrangements.

Following days of debate about banning the burqa in the building, the Presiding Officers decided to immediately make changes.

SECURITY: Peta Credlin supports burqa ban in Parliament House

CONTROVERSIAL: Jacqui Lambie's burqa ban crusade continues

They included making people with facial coverings sit in the glass enclosed galleries of the House of Representatives and the Senate, instead of the public gallery.

It meant they "can continue to enter the Chamber galleries, without needing to be identifiable".

A statement issued by the Department of Parliamentary Services said the new security modifications were designed to enhance and strengthen existing security arrangements at Parliament House.

"The Presiding Officers have indicated that their first priority was the safety of Parliament House, particularly its occupants," the statement said.

The Presiding Officers have sought advice from security agencies about "screening policies relating to identity coverings", the release said.

"Whilst these policies are under review, and given the large number of visitors to Parliament House, it is prudent to implement an additional lawyer of security controls."

Other immediate changes include the suspension of sponsored passes, as well as photo ID being required to sign in escorted visitors.

The new measures follow an earlier decision to lock down the Ministerial wing of Parliament House and to scrap the use of unaccompanied passes in the building.

Not happy ... Greens leader Christine Milne described the new rules as "disgraceful". Source: News Corp Australia

On the back of the announcement, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale said "we're at risk of creating some sort of Muslim apartheid."

He argued the debate is creating an underclass of Australians, with Muslim women now "under attack".

"Now's the time to try and put a lid on this, to show some leadership, to demonstrate this isn't a real threat."

It's a "non-existent problem," Senator Di Natale said.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie joined those critical of the new rule.

"The decision by the Government to isolate, in their own rooms, burqa-wearers observing the Parliament has no security merit at all," he said in a statement.

"The segregation of one group of people like this is nothing more than religious apartheid and deeply wrong."

Greens Leader Christine Milne immediately took to Twitter to express her disgust at the decision.

"Just found out Muslim women wearing facial coverings are to be relegated to part of parliament reserved for rowdy school kids. Disgraceful," she wrote.

Controversial ... Senator Jacqui Lambie told a respected Muslim community leader the burqa concealed their "beautiful faces". Source: YouTube

Meanwhile, controversial Senator Jacqui Lambie's crusade against the burqa continued on Sunrise this morning, when she told a respected Muslim community leader the garments concealed their "beautiful faces".

Again insisting burqas posed a threat to national security and should be banned wholesale, Senator Lambie said the same rules should apply from Parliament House to the corner shop.

"It doesn't matter whether it's for customs, the police or in parliament. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for the corner shop and for the people that are walking on the streets," Senator Lambie said.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he found burqas confronting and wished they weren't worn.

"Frankly, I wish it was not worn but we are a free country, we are a free society and it is not the business of Government to tell people what they should and shouldn't wear," Mr Abbott said.

But Mr Abbott said he's not aware of a person wearing a burqa ever trying to enter Parliament House.

Labor minister Tony Burke has slammed the Prime Minister for 'hurtful' comments about banning the burqa.


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