Senator Mehreen Faruqi, the Greens’ Deputy Leader, has commenced court proceedings against fellow Senator Pauline Hanson. Faruqi has accused Hanson of sending a racist tweet which she alleges violated section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
She is seeking an official declaration to this effect, as well as an $150,000 donation from Hanson to a charitable organisation of Faruqi’s choosing.
The tweet in question was sent after the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year.
Faruqi had tweeted “Condolences to those who knew the Queen. I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples.”
Hanson responded “Your attitude appalls and disgusts me. When you immigrated to Australia you took every advantage of this country… It’s clear you’re not happy, so pack your bags and piss off back to Pakistan.”
Racial discrimination laws
Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to take any public action likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone on the basis of “race, colour or national or ethnic origin”.
Section 18C does not make these acts a criminal offence – that is, they do not incur a fine or other legal penalty, but a court can make a declaration that they are unlawful and order compensation.
In 2011, a Federal Court judge declared Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt had breached the Act in articles about light-skinned First Nations people. In 2014 the Abbott Government tried to repeal Section 18C but failed.
Pauline Hanson accused of racist tweet
In a statement, Faruqi said Hanson had “crossed a line… I refuse to let [her] get away with racist bullying and harassment”.
She claimed Hanson had “doubled down” when asked to apologise and had “ignored conciliation attempts from the Australian Human Rights Commission”.
As well as a legal declaration, Faruqi is asking that Hanson be restricted from using phrases like “piss off back to Pakistan” or “go back to where you came from”.
She also requests the tweet be deleted and replaced by a pinned tweet on Hanson’s profile stating she breached the law.
In addition, Faruqi is asking Hanson to make a $150,000 donation to a not-for-profit or community organisation, undertake anti-racism training, and pay Faruqi’s legal costs.
Hanson and her party One Nation have not issued any public statement in response to Faruqi’s announcement of legal proceedings at the time of writing. The tweet remains online.