CANBERRA -- Attorney-General George Brandis has been applauded after delivering a stinging, fiery response to an appalling stunt by One Nation senator Pauline Hanson, who mockingly wore an Islamic burqa into the Senate.
Federal Parliament further descended into high farce on Thursday as Hanson entered the chamber wearing a black burqa covering her face and head. In a stunt to draw attention to her push to ban the face covering, Hanson entered the Senate wearing the shroud, leaving her Senate colleagues shocked and open-mouthed during Question Time.
Employment minister Michaelia Cash had risen to her feet to answer a question but re-took her seat seemingly in shock as other members of the chamber turned to watch Hanson take her seat.
"What on earth?" one senator was heard to say, as gasps and groans rang around the room.
Hanson sat quietly, wearing the burqa, but eventually removed it. She then rose to ask Brandis a question about Muslim face coverings and security, and was met by a quietly seething response.
"I'm not going to pretend to ignore the stunt you tried to pull today," Brandis said.
"We all know you are not an adherent to the Islamic faith. I caution and counsel you, with respect, to be very careful of the offence you may do to the religious sensibilities of other Australians."
"We have about half a million Australians in this country of the Islamic faith, and the vast majority are good, law-abiding Australians," Brandis said.
"To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do. And I would ask you to reflect what you have done."
Upon Hanson's arrival, Senate president Stephen Parry told the chamber that a clerk had verified Hanson's identity before she entered. Senator Derryn Hinch asked whether it was appropriate for the One Nation leader to appear in such attire.
"I'd like to know, if Senator Hanson can stay here unchallenged, she's not a Muslim or of Islamic faith, can I appear here in fancy dress unchallenged?" Hinch asked.
"My rulings have always been that I'm not going to dictate the standard of dress for senators in this chamber," Parry replied.
"I'm going to reflect on the situation we have before us. I don't want to make a decision or a rash statement about that at the moment."
Hanson had earlier given notice that she wanted to debate a burqa ban in the Senate on Thursday afternoon.
Following the end of Question Time, conservative senator Cory Bernardi said while he agreed with One Nation's stance on banning head coverings, he didn't agree with Hanson's "blunt" stunt.
"I happen to agree the burqa has no place in Australia... so I accept the point but I really do think it diminished the status of the parliament," Bernardi told 2GB radio.
"I don't agree with stunts by politicians. I actually care about the standards of the parliament."