'Ban the burqa' call not racial discrimination: MP

Sam Hussey

A New South Wales MP has reignited the "ban the burqa" debate, insisting police should have the power to prevent all face coverings being worn in public places.

Parliamentary Secretary and Member for Davidson, Jonathan O’Dea, said “most normal reasonable people” would support his view and it is not an issue of discrimination against a particular segment of our community.

"While I support principles of inclusion and religious tolerance, it is generally not appropriate in an open society to cover your face in public," Mr O'Dea wrote in a News Corp column.

"I believe face coverings that unreasonably prevent a person from being readily identifiable in public places - ­including burqas, niqabs, motorbike helmets, balaclavas and masks, should not be allowed.

"The police should be given powers to enforce their removal, just as they are able to prevent people walking down the street with no clothes on."

The NSW government secretary said there was a growing number of political leaders suggesting face coverings should be banned but believes are too worried how such views would be perceived.

"I think that there is an apprehension from political and other leaders not to be seen to be religiously or racially intolerant," Mr O'Dea said.

MP Jonathan O'Dea said no face coverings should be allowed in public. Source: Getty Images
Crossbencher Jacqui Lambie has been vocal in her advocacy for banning the burqa. Source: AAP
The politicians claim that their advocacy is not racially motivated. Source: AAP

Outspoken crossbencher Jacqui Lambie is one politician in favour of banning the burqa.

In 2014 she tried to introduce a bill that would have seen parents jailed or fined up to $68,000 for forcing their children to wear the burqa.

“For basic security reasons and the need for assimilation, identity-concealing garments should not be allowed in Australian public or Parliament house,” Ms Lambie stated back in 2014.

Meanwhile New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties member Stephen Blanks called on newly appointed Premier Gladys Berejiklian to take a more conservative approach and dismiss calls for the burqa ban.

"We could criminalise all sorts of things some people find annoying. But when you think about it, it just doesn't work for society to do that," Mr Blanks said.

"We have to have a level of tolerance, we have to have a level of restraint."