Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

BILLS - Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibition of Full Face Coverings in Public Places) Bill 2017 - Second Reading

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (16:06): In the restricted time we have this afternoon, there are a number of people who are willing to make some contributions, so it will only be a chance to taste the debate, Senator Lambie, as you expect. But I think it is important that we do have the discussion, and our rules do not very often allow us the chance to actually talk about issues that are important to people personally and how we move it forward.

In terms of the issues around security and in particular this area of face covering, this is not a new debate. In this place, we have for a while been trying to work through, as Senator Fierravanti-Wells has put on record, the important area of how we balance a genuine, agreed position around our whole country that we are in a time of security threat whilst not wishing to exaggerate the process and cause undue fear. I think what we have been trying to do for a period of time is engage with the community so that we all take ownership of exactly how we feel about our society, what our values are and what we want to do together to ensure that we do reach that point of balance, that we know that we have to have responsibilities as citizens, or as visitors in this country, to live by the laws that are in place and to understand that internationally there has been increased violence, increased threat and also a call for division. That is not what we want to see happen in this community. We want to ensure that, while we are working together to effectively contemplate what the issues of security are, we maintain at every point a clear desire and a process that engages rather than rejects or divides the community.

On the issue of veiling, one of the other real problems we have is that there is a great lack of understanding and throwing around of terminology about people who cover their heads, their faces-their mode of dress. Whenever this discussion happens, it inevitably comes down to the issue of Muslim women. We have all read your bill, Senator Lambie, so we are not labelling; we are just saying that the bill does talk about all forms of face covering, but I guarantee that any media coverage and any commentary in the community will not mention balaclavas. They will not mention headgear of any kind. What they will talk about, hopefully correctly, is the kind of veiling that various Muslim women wear. The stats prove that in Australia not many women use the full cover, not many at all. In fact, it is still something that causes people to be concerned and look because it is so rare. Most Muslim women who choose to wear covering in this country tend to wear scarves to cover their hair, not their face. Your bill relates to things that stop facial recognition, and I think that is something that we need to understand and also put into the balance.

There are also limits in the bill around moments of severe security alarm, so it is not just all the time. So your bill does look at limiting the restriction. However, in terms of the current level of debate in Australia, the current level of understanding in Australia and indeed the current level of terror threat, I believe this bill does not build engagement or communication; it actually creates more division and fear. If I had more time I would go into my concerns about the way, already, there is a lack of understanding, moving beyond that lack of understanding into actual attack and vilification of a number of people that follow the Muslim religion, and particularly women. They are the most obvious in terms of being public supporters of Muslims, of Islam. The evidence is so clear that already there are attacks, personal insults and deep offence being caused to women who are veiled.

What we need to do is take the information that is available and engage in this community discussion. I believe moving forward with this type of legislation is premature. I do not agree with it, Senator Lambie-and we talk sometimes about these things. I do not agree with it, but I think the issues you raise need to be openly discussed, and having the discussion should not automatically cause yelling and upset and people being labelled. The best thing to do is to put it out clearly, to work through the issues and to see whether we can come to an agreement.

We have clear evidence in New South Wales and in my own state of Queensland that, where issues of identification have been brought into place, mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that that occurs. That is the positive side of how we can work together. I do not believe the bill actually gets there. I think it raises issues, and when we have a wider opportunity to talk about it more people can get involved and go into a process where we can really work through the intent, how we can do it and how we can do it without further division, because I do not want to divide society to try to pretend to make it more safe.