After weeks of debate, the saga over the highly controversial plan to segregate people wearing either burqas or niqabs within Parliament House is finally over, with a statement released this morning announcing that the proposal is officially in the bin.
Originally sparked by fears of a protest during a Parliamentary sitting, the plan was initially spearheaded by Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, Nationals MP George Christensen, and Palmer United Party senator Jacqui Lambie – a motley crew if there ever was one. Lower House speaker Bronwyn Bishop took up the cause, consulting security and coming up with the plan to place anyone who enters Parliament House wearing the traditional Islamic dress behind glass enclosures, away from the rest of the public – mystifyingly alongside schoolchildren visiting Canberra (the glass enclosures are soundproof so teachers can lead classes through the process of Parliament without proceedings being disturbed).
The statement issued by the Department of Parliamentary Services Monday morning says that from now on people attempting to enter Parliament House whilst wearing a burqa or niqab will be required to “temporarily remove” any facial coverings.
“This will enable DPS security staff to identify any person who may have been banned from entering Parliament House or who may be known, or discovered, to be a security risk. Once this process has taken place, visitors are free to move about the public spaces of the building, including all chamber galleries, with facial coverings in place.“
The planned segregation was announced on October 2nd, but never implemented in practice. It faced fierce opposition from the Labor party, the Greens party, human rights experts, race discrimination commissioners, religious leaders, and just about anyone with two thumbs and a heartbeat.
In fact, the plan is speculated to have greatly contributed to Bronwyn Bishop’s failure to secure a highly-regarded International position – she was soundly defeated in her bid for the Presidency of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva.
Both Bishop and Senate President Stephen Parry are facing a grilling from their respective Parliament houses over the logic and motives behind the plan.
But for now, the statement officially brings us full circle back to the point where we’ve always been at – those in charge having discovered there’s not enough dirt in the world to make their mountain out of this particular molehill.