Federal Politics


Peta Credlin backs burqa ban in Federal Parliament

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's most senior adviser, Peta Credlin, has told Liberal National MP George Christensen she is sympathetic to a burqa ban in Parliament House on security grounds, but warned him not to inflame community tensions while debating the head wear.

Fairfax Media can reveal that Ms Credlin, who is considered one of the most influential figures in the Abbott government, spoke to Mr Christensen about the prospect of a ban last week soon after the MP said that: "Team Australia needs to make this decision [to ban the burqa]" in public spaces.

Pressure on PM to state his position: Peta Credlin says she is sympathetic to a burqa ban in Parliament House.
Pressure on PM to state his position: Peta Credlin says she is sympathetic to a burqa ban in Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It is understood Ms Credlin told Mr Christensen to be careful not to conflate the need to identify someone for security reasons with the broader debate in the Australian community about the wearing of burqas.

She also expressed support, for the sake of consistency, for the burqa to be banned for the same reason that motorbike helmets and balaclavas are banned from Parliament.

Fairfax Media has also been told by people familiar with the conversation that she stressed to Mr Christensen he should make his case for a ban based on security concerns, not on religious grounds.

Ms Credlin said during the conversation that she supported people's right to wear the burqa in public.


Mr Christensen, by contrast, has backed an outright ban on the garment in public places.

During the conversation, Ms Credlin is said to have urged the MP to make a submission to Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senate President Stephen Parry to express his support for a ban.

The pair are considering a ban after it was proposed by South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi last week.

News of the conversation between Ms Credlin and Mr Christensen has slowly filtered out to federal Coalition MPs in the past week, with some expressing surprise that she has effectively sided with the small but vocal group of burqa opponents in the Coalition including Mr Christensen and Senator Bernardi.

Her support for a ban will also potentially place pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make clear whether he supports a ban in Parliament House.

Mr Abbott said during last year's election campaign that he found the burqa "confronting" but people were "entitled to make their choice" to wear the Islamic attire.

Security at Parliament House has been upgraded in recent weeks after police agencies detected "chatter" about a possible terrorist attack on the building.

Last week, Senator Bernardi wrote to Ms Bishop and Senator Parry, the presiding officers, to request a ban on the burqa being worn in Parliament House on security grounds.

Ms Bishop and Senator Parry will meet intelligence officials on Wednesday before making their decision. 

Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd has previously said law enforcement agencies have never asked for the burqa to be banned.

Palmer United Party senator Jacqui Lambie, who has previously described the burqa as a "national security" risk, wants to introduce a private member's bill to ban "identity concealing religious garments".

 But two leading lawyers say that could violate the Australian constitution.  

Mr Christensen declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister confirmed Ms Credlin had spoken to Mr Christensen but said a final decision on a ban was for the presiding officers.

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