Pauline Hanson arrives at court.
The legal team of Pauline Hanson (second left) will continue closing arguments. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

Court could bar One Nation leader saying racial slur

Miklos Bolza May 1, 2024

Senator Pauline Hanson could be made to pay $150,000 to a Sydney charity aiding Indigenous Australians and non-English speakers while being barred from telling migrants to go back to where they came from.

The One Nation leader is being sued for racial discrimination by NSW Greens deputy leader Mehreen Faruqi over a tweet sent in September 2022.

During closing submissions on Wednesday, Senator Faruqi’s barrister Saul Holt KC said the post had caused a “bluntly sickening” flood of tweets and emails directed to the Muslim politician.

Australian Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi (file image)
 The tweet plainly targeted Senator Faruqi as a Muslim woman of colour, her barrister said. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

“That’s just what Twitter is. You throw the grenade and it blows up,” he told the Federal Court.

On the day Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022, Senator Faruqi tweeted she could not mourn the passing of 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 the Greens senator’s comments, telling her to “pack (her) bags and piss off back to Pakistan”.

It was a matter of “blindingly obvious logic” Senator Faruqi had been targeted as a Muslim woman of colour, Mr Holt told the Federal Court.

“It’s bluntly just classical racial hatred,” he argued.

Senator Faruqi is seeking court orders forcing her One Nation rival to pay $150,000 to western Sydney charity Sweatshop Literacy Movement as well as restraining her from saying things such as “go back to where you came from”.

The One Nation leader had been “disingenuous” in her evidence to the court regarding why she claimed she made the speech and had made up “post-fact justifications” for her actions, Mr Holt said.

“When Senator Hanson … tells a brown migrant Muslim woman to piss off back to Pakistan, the notion it wasn’t because she was a Muslim and brown and from Pakistan is just one that makes absolutely no sense,” Mr Holt said.

Pauline Hanson
 Senator Hanson tweeted in an angry, distraught and unthought-out manner, the judge noted. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

The barrister said his client had the right to say what she wanted to say about political matters without fear of racist attack, especially as Australia’s first Muslim senator.

“That warrants a greater level of protection to ensure that these impacts don’t happen to her,” he said.

“Otherwise where does the next migrant woman of colour come from to go to the Senate or stand for parliament if this is the effect?”

Mr Holt argued Senator Hanson’s claims his client should just toughen up and “take it on the chin” were misconceived.

No one in a position of power whether they were the prime minister, a senator, judge, lawyer or teacher was immune to the effects of harmful or hurtful things they heard, he told the court.

“The longer we perpetuate those myths, the worse things in fact end up being because we expect people in those situations to be superhuman.”

Justice Stewart noted “a tension or an irony” to the One Nation leader’s arguments given that she had responded to a tweet in an angry, distraught and unthought-out manner.

Kieran Smark SC (file image)
 “Politics has involved assailing one’s opponents, insulting one’s opponents,” Kieran Smark SC said. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

Senator Hanson’s barrister Kieran Smark SC said his client had engaged in a political debate with the Greens deputy on a day of significance.

“It’s hard to think of a plainer example of matters connected with government and political matters,” he said.

A reasonable reader would have understood Senator Hanson’s tweet had pointed out the hypocrisy of someone who criticised the Queen but still took advantage of the benefits that living in Australia offered, he told the court.

After being asked three times by Justice Stewart to explain how a “highly focused personal attack” was political speech or commentary, Mr Smark said that was just the nature of politics.

“Politics has involved assailing one’s opponents, insulting one’s opponents, offending one’s opponents as part of the persuasive process and effectively so,” he argued.

He will continue his closing submissions on Thursday.