Australia's Senate censures right-wing lawmaker over 'Muslim fanatics' comments
Australia's Senate has censured an independent right-wing senator for "ugly and divisive" comments relating to the Christchurch mosque shootings.
Fraser Anning, a senator for Queensland, said the massacre, which left 50 people dead, was a result of letting "Muslim fanatics" migrate to New Zealand.
Anning has been widely condemned for his comments, made shortly after a gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch on 15 March. He has refused to apologise.
"There is no room for racism in Australia. Sadly, what Senator Anning said after the Christchurch massacre, however shocking isn't out of character," Australian Senator Mehreen Faruqi, who is a Muslim, told the Senate on Wednesday.
"Just a week before I joined this place, he gave a speech calling for a ban on people like me coming to this country."
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28-year-old white supremacist, has been charged with one murder following the attack and was remanded without a plea. He is due back in court on Friday, when police said he was likely to face more charges.
Sitting for the first time since the attack, politicians from major and minor parties joined forces to overwhelmingly pass a censure motion against Anning - the first such public rebuke of a lawmaker in four years.
A censure motion has no direct legal consequences but acts as an expression of the Senate's disapproval.
'Blatant attack on free speech'
Anning denied he had blamed the victims, insisting the censure was an attack on his civil liberties.
"This censure motion against me is a blatant attack on free speech," Anning told the Reuters news agency in an email.
Leaders of the major parties in the Senate condemned Anning's comments, with opposition Labor Senator Penny Wong rejecting his "free speech" defence.
"There is a difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. The former is a feature of our democracy. The latter is an attack on democracy," Wong said.
"This motion makes it clear he doesn’t speak for us. He doesn’t speak for the Senate. He doesn’t speak for this nation. He doesn't represent Australian values."
Mathias Cormann, leader of the conservative Liberal-National government in the Senate, told the upper house: "Senator Anning's comments were ugly and divisive. They were dangerous and unacceptable from anyone, let alone a member of this place."
Anning's comments gained further international attention after footage of a teenager breaking an egg on the head of the senator was widely shared on social media.
Will Connolly, the teenager in question, was dubbed "egg boy" and hailed as a hero.
The Queensland senator was elected in 2017 by a fluke of Australia's proportional voting system, having received only 19 first preference votes.
Anning has courted controversy for his views, and once called for a "final solution" to Australian immigration.
He is unlikely to be re-elected when Australians go to the polls next month, the AFP news agency reported.