Australia’s race discrimination commissioner has hit out at anti-immigrant politician Pauline Hanson and pleaded for tolerance, as a new poll shows 49 per cent of the country would support her proposal to ban Muslim immigration Down Under.
Ms Hanson, who shot to fame for her attacks on Asian immigration as an MP in the 1990s, made a return to parliament in July, 20 years after she was first elected.
The firebrand politician who is leader of the One Nation party, has wasted no time placing herself back in the spotlight, using her first speech to the senate last week to warn that Australia was in danger of being “swamped” by Muslims.
The Essential poll asked whether Australians would support or oppose Ms Hanson’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration.
A staggering 49 per cent supported the idea–with the main reason being “they do not integrate into Australian society”–and 40 per cent opposed it.
The survey measured the attitudes of 1,075 respondents and was conducted online.
Muslims made up just 2.2 per cent of Australia’s population at the 2011 census, with 61.1 per cent of people identifying as Christian.
Race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane hit out at Ms Hanson’s speech in an opinion article for The Guardian, calling on Australians to resist attempts by politicians to divide the country.
“Those sympathetic to populist political rhetoric about race, immigration and Islam are, of course, entitled to their view,” he wrote.
“But they are not entitled to engage in vilification or discrimination. They are not entitled to be coddled or be protected from criticism.
“Everyone has a right to free speech and to call out prejudice, racism and bigotry. If people don’t want to be called racist or bigoted, they can begin by not doing things that involve racism or bigotry.”
Mr Soutphommasane continued: “When politicians target particular groups with their rhetoric, it can affect what children experience in the schoolyard, and what their parents experience in their workplace.”
Ms Hanson’s comments echo those of US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has warned of the supposed risks of accepting Muslim immigrants.
In a rebuke on Tuesday, President Barack Obama pressed nations to do more to take in and support migrants and called the refugee crisis a test of common humanity.
Mr Obama said screening refugees based on their religion would reinforce terrorist propaganda that nations like the US are opposed to Islam. He says that’s an “ugly lie” that all countries must reject.