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9 Nov 2023

Pauline Hanson withdraws comments made to Mehreen Faruqi to avoid Senate censure │The Guardian

By Amy Remeikis 

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has avoided further censure by withdrawing ‘unparliamentary’ comments made to Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi, but not before her party sent out fundraising emails accusing the Greens of trying to “shut Pauline Hanson down”.

Hanson was temporarily gagged from speaking in the senate on Wednesday after she refused multiple requests from the senate president to withdraw comments made against Faruqi.

Hanson said she would take the Pakistani-born Faruqi “to the airport and put you on a plane and wave you away” in comments Greens senator Larissa Waters said were “repugnant” and “despicable” race-based personal remarks.

““It is tantamount to saying go back to where you came from,” Waters said.

“As if Senator Faruqi is not an Australian. As if Senator Faruqi is not a citizen of this country. As if she is not an elected representative for the people of New South Wales.”

Hanson, who is being who is being sued by Faruqi for similar comments she made in a tweet earlier this year, refused to withdraw the comments, instead saying she would need time to think about it, and offering Faruqi a tissue.

After senate president Sue Line’s final request to withdraw was ignored, Lines used her discretion to gag Hanson from speaking in the senate until she had reviewed the comments and reflected on whether further censure action would be needed.

Hanson’s party responded by sending out a fundraising email claiming the Greens were attempting to have Hanson banned from the parliament, an act neither a political party or the senate itself has the power to do over comments.

But further action as negated when Hanson walked back into the senate just before 7.15pm and told the almost empty chamber “I withdraw any remarks considered unparliamentary this week”.

That action meant Hanson fulfilled the senate president’s request, which put a halt to any further censure attempts.

In a statement released on Thursday, Faruqi said said Hanson should be held to account for her statements and hoped the senate had sent “a strong message to Senator Hanson that she cannot continue to make this parliament an unsafe workplace for people like me day in, day out”.

“If Parliament is to be a safe workplace, then it needs to set a standard that any form of bigotry and racism are unacceptable,” Faruqi said.

“…People who look like me have all been told to ‘go back to where they come from’ at one point or another, and it is harmful and unacceptable every single time. I’ve copped it more times than I can count, and so have many others in the community. Enough is enough!”

In a rare joint statement to the senate, Lines and the senate deputy president, Liberal senator Andrew McLachlan reminded senators “that unparliamentary language and personal reflections against senators no longer have any place in this senate”.

“We have a strong view that Senators must take responsibility for their actions and their words,” Line said.

Of course, we do have standing orders which ensure that highest standards are upheld. But ultimately what is said and done in this space is the responsibility of each and every senator. We urge senators to always withdraw any language and actions which offend others and to do so willingly.”

The major parties recommitted to upholding higher standards in debate, which has been an issue which has plagued both houses of parliament over the past few years, with MPs from across the political divide raising instances of abuse, bullying and personal attacks.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she did not believe anything would truly change until the independent parliamentary standards commission was established, along with punitive powers. The commission, which is a recommendation of the Kate Jenkins ‘set the standard’ review, has been delayed by a lack of consensus from the major parties over what powers it will be able to hold. Under the constitution there are limited ways to punish a member of parliament, as their ultimate fate lies in the hands of the voters they represent. Waters said there needs to be a middle ground to deal with issues such as Hanson’s comments.

“We are urging both of the large parties in this place to work collaboratively to get that independent commission up and running, so that this code is not up to us to stand up for our colleague when racist language is used to impugn her, so that actually that’s the standard that we are all bound by that is independently enforced.

“Let’s set the standard in this place for the rest of the nation because people deserve to be safe and feel safe.”

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