Greens senator sued Hanson to draw a 'line in the sand'

The federal Greens deputy leader has roundly rejected accusations she is using a hate-speech lawsuit against Pauline Hanson as a political soapbox to push her agenda.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi is suing the One Nation leader in the Federal Court over alleged racist discrimination via a September 2022 tweet.

The Greens deputy tweeted that she could not mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II as the leader of a "racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples".

Senator Hanson responded, saying she was appalled and disgusted with Senator Faruqi's comments and telling her to "pack (her) bags and piss off back to Pakistan".

Australian Greens Senator Mehreen (file image)
Senator Faruqi says her motivation to sue was to draw a line in the sand. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

As the trial began on Monday, Senator Faruqi explained her reason for launching a lawsuit over a single tweet.

"My motivation on taking this to this court was to draw a line in the sand," she said.

"There are too many people in this country who are harmed by racism and Senator Hanson's brand of racism and it was time that we highlighted that."

She told Justice Angus Stewart she had never before experienced trauma like that felt as a result of the One Nation leader's post and the comments that followed.

The Greens deputy denied suggestions by Senator Hanson's barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC she had made up this alleged distress to create a soapbox for her political advantage.

"One of the reasons you've brought this action against my client is because she's a political opponent," Ms Chrysanthou said.

Sue Chrysanthou
Ms Chrysanthou says Senator Faruqi's tweet was designed to provoke a response. (Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS)

"No," Senator Faruqi replied.

She rejected allegations she was a hypocrite who was only against racism towards minorities but turned a blind eye to racism against whites, including from her own son Osman.

She was taken to a December 2017 tweet by her son Osman.

"Mediocre white people. They should be in the bin but instead they own everything but are every f***ing where," he wrote.

Senator Faruqi denied the post was racist.

"Racism when it's about people's ethnicity and skin colour is also about who holds power in this country," she told the court.

In her openings, Ms Chrysanthou called the lawsuit "unmeritorious".

She argued her client had responded to an offensive tweet by the Greens senator which was designed to provoke a response, giving a fair opinion without targeting one particular race, colour or ethnic origin.

"The wording used by my client ... is directed to Senator Faruqi and Senator Faruqi alone," Ms Chrysanthou said.

Senator Faruqi's barrister Saul Holt KC told the court earlier on Monday the One Nation head's tweet had been targeted at his client as a Muslim woman of colour who had migrated to Australia.

Senator Faruqi and Senator Hanson (file image)
Senator Faraqui is seeking court orders Senator Hanson donate $150,000 to a charity. (Lukas Coch / Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

The tweet had to be understood in the wider context of racism which was "pernicious and deeply harmful" as well as Senator Hanson's tendency to say racist things, he said.

"A tweet of this kind in the Twittersphere, the dogwhistle doesn't just stand on its own," Mr Holt said.

Senator Faruqi is seeking court orders the One Nation leader donate $150,000 to a charity of the Greens senator's choice.

Senator Faruqi was a hypocrite posting about the Queen in this way as she had previously sworn an oath to the former monarch when she became an Australian senator, the court was told.

For five hours after the Greens senator had posted the tweet, she experienced a barrage of racist comments before Senator Hanson even responded, Ms Chrysanthou argued.

The tweet was a fair comment based on Senator Hanson's honest opinion and did not fall foul of the Racial Discrimination Act, the court was told.

Ms Chrysanthou argued the specific provisions in the act relied on by Senator Faruqi should be struck out as they imposed a "substantial and significant burden" on the implied constitutional right of political communication.

Representing the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Craig Lenehan SC rejected this, saying any burden was "very small".

The trial continues on Tuesday.