Why The Greens' Hanson Walkout Meant So Much

16 September 2016
Wednesday afternoon I picked G up from preschool. He was finishing off a Lego creation, which his teacher deemed of such structural integrity as to merit being placed on the display shelf. And I was thinking of that lovely lady later that evening, who has taken my son under her wing since my husband and I separated a year ago; cheering him up on his sad days, gently integrating him into the group, always there for a cuddle. I was thinking how much this hijab wearing lady and my blonde son love each other, because that's Australia isn't it?

I was thinking of her, and thousands like her, as newly elected Senator Pauline Hanson declared, in her maiden speech, that "we are in danger of being swamped by Muslims, who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own...Australia is now seeing changes in suburbs predominantly Muslim. Tolerance towards other Australians is no longer the case. Our law courts are disrespected and prisons have become breeding grounds for Muslims to radicalise inmates. Muslims are imprisoned at almost three times the average rate. The rate of unemployed and public dependency is two to three times greater than the national average. Muslims are prominent in organised crime, with associated violence and drug dealing. Antisocial behaviour is rampant, fuelled by hyper-masculine and misogynist culture. Multiple social surveys find that neighbourhoods of Muslim settlement are suffering from collapsing social cohesion and fear of crime. Australians, in general, are more fearful...There is no sign saying 'good Muslim' or 'bad Muslim'. How many lives will be lost or destroyed trying to determine who is good and who is bad?"

I was thinking of her, and the Muslims I've worked with, studied with, talked and laughed with, and how they must feel listening to this, not welcome in their own country because of an elected representative who makes a living peddling hate, and I felt like crying.

(Incidentally, I've never been told I should be blown up, burned alive, or had a picture of my then baby son posted with a caption calling me a dopey breeding cow by a Muslim. I cannot say the same for Hanson supporters).

Is this what we have become as a nation? Recycling racism, views best left to alt-right blogs being proudly proclaimed in Federal Parliament and in the pages of national newspapers?

Which is why it was so important that the Greens senators, in protest of what Ms Hanson was saying, walked out on her speech.

Photo: Fairfax.

In five years of Greens membership, I've never been so proud to be part of the Greens. They stood up and said we will not legitimise your views by sitting here and listening to them. They stood for decency, cohesiveness, an Australia of tolerance and diversity - an Australia I love. Disrespectful to Ms Hanson - no. They went in, prepared to listen to what she had to say. But they were prepared to leave if they had to. Ms Hanson disrespected herself, and millions of Australians, by her words accusing Muslims of being criminal terrorists, and accusing victims of intimate partner violence of being responsible for their own deaths,  (someone wiser than me said, should men who kill people out of frustration be given custody of their kids?). Disrespectful to one woman to walk out? It was disrespectful to many more to sit and listen.

Some labelled the walkout childish, a stunt, but walking out is a traditional form of silent protest. The parliamentary Liberals do it all the time, such as during the apology to the Stolen Generations, or when Bill Shorten spoke of closing the gap, or the time Abbott and Pyne absolutely covered themselves in glory by sprinting out of the chamber to avoid accepting Craig Thompson's vote.

But I was proud, proud to be part of the party that stands up against this bigotry; and I hope the people who were the targets of this venom felt some pride and comfort too. We are all Australians, you are not alone, and there are people, good people, who will not let this hatred stand. There's a nasty fight coming up in the next three years, we will not give up.

I'll leave the last word to Greens leader Richard Di Natale:


  1. Well said, Sika - your words are always straight from your heart and right to the point. Good on you.

  2. Thank you Mike - it means a lot to me.


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