The Nationals MP behind a push to ban the burqa has vowed to continue the campaign despite the party’s conference voting against making it official policy.
North Queensland federal MP George Christensen argues a ban on burqas, niqabs and other facial coverings is needed in government buildings and public spaces for security reasons – but also says his party is “bleeding to the right” on the issue.
The motion was defeated 55-51 in a vote of delegates at the Nationals’ federal conference in Canberra on Sunday.
It follows Pauline Hanson’s stunt in parliament last month, where the One Nation leader wore a burqa in the Senate.
Mr Christensen said his electorate strongly supported the ban and he would continue to push for it to become government policy.
“We bleed to the right on these issues where we do not listen to our constituents,” he told the conference.
My statement on @The_Nationals federal conference motion on banning facial coverings. #auspol pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/qtnjYGrfaJ
— George Christensen (@GChristensenMP) September 9, 2017
“Why do you think Pauline Hanson recently took up this issue? Because people support the banning of it, full stop.”
He wrote on Twitter shortly after the narrow defeat that several delegates in favour of the ban hadn’t been able to be present for the vote.
Mr Christensen’s fellow federal MPs Matt Canavan, Kevin Hogan and David Gillespie supported him during the debate.
Their federal colleagues Mark Coulton and Keith Pitt and NSW upper house member Wes Fang spoke against the motion.
NSW party member Jessica Price-Purnell was the only non-politician to speak on the motion and she won applause for telling the elected members off for hijacking the conference.
“You guys have enough forums,” she said.
She also argued the motion went against the party’s tenets of freedom of speech and religious activity.
Mr Coulton – the only other speaker to win applause – said the conference shouldn’t be used for MPs to debate things that could be thrashed out in the party room and doubted the supporters’ insistence it was simply about public safety.
“Despite George’s eloquent introduction to this, tomorrow’s headlines will be the Nationals are banning the burqa and the Nationals … are anti-Muslim,” he said.
“I’m worried that this is part of a bigger cause where we can look as Australians and, if things aren’t going as well as we’d like, we can look to people who are different and say it’s their fault.”
If it were about security, his electorate would be banning sunglasses and hoodies.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said his party wasn’t scared of political debate but had to make sure it didn’t insult another religion.
“In the (agriculture) sector, we do a lot of business with Islamic countries,” he told ABC TV.
“I get along with them, they get along with me, and I just want to make sure that relationship continues on.”