- Firebrand senator attacks Islam in maiden speech to parliament
- Hanson’s party won four Senate seats in July 2 election
Anti-Muslim firebrand Pauline Hanson used her first speech in Australia’s parliament after two decades in the political wilderness to call for a ban on all immigration and a crackdown on foreign investment.
A “push for globalization, economic rationalization, free trade and ethnic diversity has seen our country decline,” Hanson, 62, told lawmakers on Wednesday. “I’m back, but not alone,” she said, warning Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government that with three other members of her One Nation Party now in the Senate, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Hanson’s return to parliament, years after she made global headlines warning that Australia risked being swamped by Asian migrants, shows the country is not immune to an anti-immigration mood that’s swept parts of western Europe and the U.S. While One Nation received just 4.3 percent of primary votes for the Senate in the July 2 election, Turnbull may have to negotiate with the group to pass legislation as he lacks a majority in the upper house.
Eleven independent and minor-party lawmakers, most of whom are opposed to global free trade, collectively hold the balance of power in the 76-seat Senate. They have tapped into public concern that foreign purchases of agricultural land -- particularly by Chinese companies -- have increased unchecked, even as a government report this month showed just 13.6 percent of farmland is held by international investors.
“Any foreign ownership is regretful, but why are we allowing the Chinese government -- an atrocious communist regime -- to own our land and assets?” Hanson said. She called for a register of foreign ownership of any assets in Australia and a halt to all immigration, accusing the government of “flooding our country with more people who are going to be a drain on our society.”
Hanson served for less than three years in the lower house in the 1990s, before fading from public view as her party imploded amid infighting. While the then Liberal-National coalition government criticized her views on Asian immigration as misguided and dangerous, she denies being racist.
She’s called for a widespread public inquiry into Islam and a ban on the wearing of the Burqa in public. Much of her maiden speech on Wednesday focused on Muslims, who represent about 2 percent of Australia’s population.
“We have seen the destruction it is causing around the world,” Hanson said of Islam. “If we don’t make changes now there will be no hope in the future. Have no doubt that we will be living under Sharia law and treated as second-class citizens.”
Greens party senators filed out of the chamber during her speech in protest.