More than 1.1 million people have signed a petition calling for Queensland Senator Fraser Anning to be removed from parliament for vile comments he made hours after the Christchurch mass shooting.
Senator Anning said that he was opposed to violence of any form but “what [the shooting] highlights is the growing fear within our community, both in Australia and New Zealand, of the increasing Muslim presence.”
“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place,” Anning said in a statement that attracted international condemnation.
A Change.org petition by Sydney doctor Kate Ahmad and Melbourne author Harris Sultan calling for Senator Anning, who received 19 primary votes at the last election, to be removed from the parliament has become the biggest online petition in Australian history, according to the platform.
“Senator Fraser Anning’s views have no place in the government of our democratic and multicultural country,” the petition reads.
“Within the bounds of Australian law, we request that he be pushed to resign from his position as Senator, and if appropriate, investigated by law enforcement agencies for supporting right wing terrorism.
“We call on the Australian government to assist in demanding a resignation from this man who blames victims for their own violent deaths, and uses references to genocide to further his hateful agenda.
“There is no place in Australian government for Neo-Nazis. There is no place for bigotry. There is no place for hate speech.”
Writing for The Conversation, University of Sydney constitutional law expert Professor Anne Twomey said that unless the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 was amended, there was no possibility for a member to be expelled, and MPs face disqualification after being convicted of a criminal offence and not for behaviour that may bring the house into disrepute.
But Dr Ahmad said it was important to make a point with the petition.
“It’s to make clear that this kind of hate speech won’t be accepted by the community or the country as a whole, that there are repercussions for this behaviour,” she told Nine newspapers.
“Politics has degenerated to the point where extreme views have become mainstream and have a veneer of legitimacy.
“It’s a problem we have an elected member of parliament like this and he must take responsibility for his actions.”
Change.org executive director Sally Rugg said it was not only the petition with the most signatures since the platform began but it was also the fastest-growing, with close to 250,000 signatures in the first 18 hours.
“The message is clear: Australians reject hate speech in our parliament and hate crimes in our communities,” Rugg said.
As well as his vile “final solution” maiden speech to parliament, Anning has also caused outrage for comments in the Senate describing gender diversity as “garbage” and the Safe Schools anti-bullying program as “child abuse” and “sexually deviant propaganda”.
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