I have thought a long time about whether to write this post, not because I have any qualms about what I am about to write but over whether the energy is wasted. I mean, I can’t believe that I am having to write about this subject at all but sadly, here we are, in the 21st century and it’s still happening.
I refer to the recent news that the Speaker of the House, Bronwyn Bishop and the President of the Senate, Stephen Parry, recently announced that all women wearing a burqa who entered the Australian Parliament would be segregated behind sound proof glass for security reasons. But wait, it gets better. You see, the sound proof area is also where the school kids, those pesky existential threats to Australian democracy, also sit when they visit Parliament House. So apparently, the people wearing the burqa are such a security threat that we need to put them behind glass but not such a security threat that we can’t put little kids visiting our nation’s capital on a school excursion in there with ‘them’. This is doublespeak of the highest order.
As Waleed Ali recently pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald, what most Australians called the Burqa is in fact a Niqab, or more usually a Hijab. The point is, in such a ridiculous discussion about an item of clothing, they cannot even get the terminology right when they are trying to tar and feather. This speaks volumes about the intelligence of Bronwyn, Tony and the rest of these fools.
Of course, what has not been mentioned by Bishop and Parry is that EVERY visitor to the Australian Parliament House goes through an x-ray machine AND the security regime at Parliament House already includes a protocol to identify people who have their face covered. So, to me, all the rationalisations supporting this abomination pretty much dissolve away at the first pass of the light.
Tony Abbott has already come out saying that he finds the burqa ‘confronting’ however being the Prime Minister, he cannot be seen to be getting down in the weeds and risk upsetting the newest members of ‘Team Australia’ which such an insulting segregation so first he sent out his Chief of Staff to blow the dog whistle for the true believers before asking Bishop and Parry to announce this rubbish from their supposedly independent positions. That way, they can hoist it up the flag pole and see who salutes before Abbott needs to jump off the fence. He waited a few days to test the wind before jumping down and commenting that the debate has gone a bit far.
I would suggest that there are far more drastic threats to Australia’s democracy to worry about, such as our supposedly independent Speaker of Parliament who still attends Liberal Caucus planning meetings, who hosts costly Liberal Party fundraisers in her speakers’ office and whose record of disciplining members of the house is farcically lopsided.
UPDATE: This ridiculous rule has been quietly revoked earlier this week when Parliament resumed. Coincidentally, the Speaker of the House was unavailable to comment due to ‘urgent house business’. Anyone who knows Bronwyn Bishop knows how unlikely that scenario is.
UPDATE 2: The tragic attack in Canada shows that there are genuine security measures that need to be implemented across many of our vulnerable places in the country. This fiasco makes the implementation of those measures that much harder to sell to a tired and cynical public.