The ban on wearing a burqa in Parliament House has now been reversed. The department of parliamentary services has advised members of staff that visitors still need to remove facial coverings for security at entry point, but once inside Parliament House, they are free to move about in public areas. This is a reversal of the decision, made by Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senate President Stephen Parry on 2 October, which stated those wearing burqas were to be made to sit in separate glass enclosures.
It has now been revealed that the ban was put in place in response to a media rumour of a planned protest by men in burqas at Parliament House on 2 October. This rumour started on talkback radio, then Channel 9 sent a film crew to Canberra. Parliamentary personnel then passed on the information to Ms Bishop and Mr Parry. The rumoured protest was apparently not investigated by ASIO or the Australian Federal Police (AFP) before the ban was instated.
Questions are now being asked as to why the ban has been reversed. On 3 October Prime Minister Abbott said he had asked the Speaker to rethink the ban. But speaker Bishop claims that the prime minister had not done so. “In a word, no” was her reply when quizzed on this point.
Labor MP Tony Burke is continuing to pursue reasons for the two-week backflip
“It’s been an absurd fortnight as we’ve waited for a backdown that logically had to occur and… both the Speaker and the President need to explain why on earth this farce was initiated.”
Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald
Read more at The Guardian online
In the heat of debate about the threat of a pretender state in the Middle East, many politicians said silly things. But few reacted as foolishly as Parry and Bishop with their burqa ban.
And now, two weeks later, it’s all over, and those wearing head coverings can now move freely around our Parliament House. It has now come to light that the original ban was put in place in response to a media rumour, which started on radio, and was picked up by a TV channel. You may well ask if our security decisions are being made in a rushed response to media rumours, what kind of discipline the ‘adults’ in parliament are following? And if there was to be a protest, couldn’t this have been managed by the AFP rather than slapping a general ban on an item of headwear that has never been associated with trouble in the house in its entire history? Of greater concern is the suggestion that it was a request from the Prime Minister which has led to an overturning of the burqa ban. And despite this request being made publicly, the Speaker is categorically denying the PM asked for such a review.
Whether you feel personally threated by someone else’s headgear (I don’t) or not, there are serious questions about the decision-making processes associated with security at Parliament House.
What do you think? Was the burqa ban a stupid law from the start? Or did you support it? And if you did, what do you think about the backflip?