Bigoted, anti-Islam party wins 4 seats in Australian Senate

Published 04.08.2016 07:56
Updated 04.08.2016 16:11

The anti-Islam One Nation party has won four seats in the Australian Senate, giving it an important balance-of-power position, final election results confirmed yesterday.

The Australian Electoral Commission has finalized the results four weeks after the July 2 national election.

The One Nation party is led by Pauline Hanson, who was first elected to parliament 20 years ago and who in her first speech said she believed Australia was in danger of being "swamped by Asians." Some of Hanson's policies include stopping Muslim immigration, installing CCTVs in mosques and schools and banning the wearing of full face veils in public.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative coalition saw its Senate numbers shrink from 33 to 30 in the 76-seat upper chamber when the Australian Electoral Commission announced the final results of the July 2 election.

The reduced minority in a more fractious Senate increases the difficulty of passing cost-cutting and revenue-raising bills that rating agencies demand if Australia is to retain its rare AAA credit rating as the economy slows.

Turnbull formed the government after his coalition won a majority of just one seat in the House of Representatives, where the majority party forms the government, but its Senate minority status means it will need support to pass any laws.

The opposition center-left Labour Party has 26 senators and the Greens party has nine senators, which means Turnbull will need the support of at least nine of the remaining 11 senators to pass any laws.

Parliament resumes on Aug. 30 for the first time since the election left the government with a single-seat majority in the House of Representatives where parties form government.

Racism, Islamophobia and anti-migrant sentiment has long been viable in the country. On Thursday, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts told a news conference that the country's anti-racial discrimination laws should be changed because he said they limited free speech.

Meanwhile, human rights groups accused Australia on Wednesday of deliberately ignoring the alleged abuse of asylum seekers being held at a remote Pacific island detention facility in a bid to deter future refugees from trying to reach the country by boat.

"Australia's policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat is cruel in the extreme," Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International, said in a statement. "Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom."

Australia has a troubling race relations record. The White Australia Policy, which was only dismantled in the late 1960s, favored European migrants over non-whites. Australia's Aborigines were administered under flora and fauna laws until then and remain far behind the rest of the population in literacy, health and economic standards.

There have also been racial flashpoints before. In 2005, riots broke out in the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla between white residents and Lebanese residents from other suburbs, gaining international notoriety.

The rise of One Nation in Australia echoes what has been seen in Europe, where centrist governments are being challenged by anti-immigration parties after hundreds of thousands poured in, fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

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