Australia: NSW government opposes veil ban bill

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally says her government will not support a ban on the burqa, the head and body veil worn by some Muslim women, because “such a ban has no place in multicultural NSW”.

Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile had called on both major parties to allow members a conscience vote on his private member’s bill, which was introduced into Parliament in June. Mr Nile wants NSW to follow a growing number of European countries trying to ban women from wearing in public the burqa and the niqab, a veil with a narrow opening for the eyes.

However, at an interfaith dinner with about 300 religious leaders last night, Ms Keneally announced that cabinet had decided to oppose the Full-face Coverings Prohibition Bill, which is modelled on legislation recently passed by the Belgian Parliament.

“We are fortunate to live in a largely harmonious state where differences in language, culture and faith are rightly seen as things which enliven and strengthen our society,” Ms Keneally said. “It is in this spirit that the NSW Government has decided to oppose the bill seeking to create a criminal offence of wearing a burqa in public places.”

Sydney Morning Herald, 24 August 2010