Far-right leader Pauline Hanson wants a public vote on Burqa ban alongside same-sex marriage poll
Right-wing Australian politician Pauline Hanson wants to attach a vote on banning religious face coverings to the postal vote on whether to allow same-sex marriage.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is pushing ahead with plans for a public vote on equal marriage next month without permission from Parliament.
The leader has insisted that the change needed to be directly put to voters, but opponents have accused him of opening a Pandora’s Box of hate speech after a string of homophobic incidents in the country.
Sure enough, he is now facing pressure to hold more public votes on controversial issues.
Pauline Hanson, the controversial leader of the far-right One Nation Party, has this week called for a separate question on whether to ban religious face coverings to be added to the ballot papers, ahead of the equal marriage vote.
She said: “Perhaps while the Government are conducting their plebiscite on same sex marriage, we include the question as to whether Australians want to ban all full face coverings in government buildings and public spaces.”
Polling from Sky News has found that 56% of Australians would support a ban on the burqa if put to a public vote, with just 31% saying they would vote against such a measure.
LGBT rights campaigners say the calls are a consequence of permitting basic human rights issues to be put up to a public vote in the first place.
Ms Hanson attracted fury earlier this month for wearing a Burqa in Parliament as a publicity stunt.
Her party, which enjoyed a controversial voting alliance with the governing Liberals in West Australia earlier this year, has faced scrutiny over a string of homophobic election candidates.
Ahead of the vote there has been a surge in homophobic hate speech in the country, with leaflets distributed in Sydney bearing the slogan ‘stop the fags’ and linking gay people to ‘child predators’.
The ‘Coalition for Marriage’ has recently put out materials suggesting that letting gay couples marry will deprive children of a normal childhood and make them transgender.
Meanwhile, leading politicians have brandished the slogans ‘it’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve’ and compared gay weddings to marrying the Eiffel Tower.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently defended the vote despite the string of incidents, responding by telling people to hug their gay friends.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has been harshly critical of the PM for pushing ahead with a postal vote.
He said: “There will be no protection against ballot fraud, electoral bribery, intimidation, interfering with the electoral roll or publishing misleading and deceptive material.
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“[The Prime Minister] is giving his blessing to billboards, websites, pamphlets, TV advertising and online material that will vilify and demean LGBTI Australians and their children.
“We know this bile will end up in the playground, in the schoolyard and on the sporting field. The slogans will be shouted at the children of same-sex couples. Young people who are gay will be confronted by it on social media every day.
“I loathe the trolls and the haters but I expected more from the Prime Minister. I hold the Prime Minister responsible for every hurtful bit of filth this debate will unleash.
“That is not because the Prime Minister has said it, not because the Prime Minister agrees with it—he clearly doesn’t—but because the Prime Minister has licensed this debate.
“You are the leader, Mr Turnbull; you have given permission. I will never hold you in the same light again. I hold the Prime Minister responsible and Australians will too.”