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Pauline Hanson’s hate speech trial has begun

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Pauline Hanson has been accused of using hate speech against Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi in a 2022 social media post.
Pauline Hanson's accused of using hate speech against Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi.

A hate speech trial against One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson has begun in the Federal Court.

Hanson was accused of racially discriminating against Greens Deputy Leader Mehreen Faruqi in a social media post from 2022.

Hanson and Faruqi will both face questioning during the five-day hearing. Faruqi is seeking an apology and compensation from Hanson.

Here’s what you need to know.

The post

In a social media post following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022, Faruqi wrote:

“Condolences to those who mourn the Queen. I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples.” She called for a “Treaty with First Nations, justice & reparations for British colonies”.

In response, Hanson told Faruqi to “piss off back to Pakistan”.

Censure

Shortly after the tweets were posted, Faruqi moved to ‘censure’ Pauline Hanson in the federal Senate.

A censure is a formal statement of disapproval of a federal politician’s actions or policies. However, it doesn’t have legal consequences.

Faruqi urged her fellow senators to condemn Hanson’s “divisive, anti-migrant and racist statement”, which she said had unleashed an “avalanche of hate”. Instead, Labor and Coalition senators passed a general motion condemning “racism and discrimination in all its forms”.

Faruqi then lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

However, when Hanson refused to participate in an investigation, Faruqi pursued legal action instead.

Faruqi alleges Hanson “engaged in unlawful offensive behaviour” in breach of racial discrimination laws.

Faruqi has also provided expert analysis of social media users’ responses to Hanson’s post.

Hanson’s reply

Hanson denies the tweets were made based on race. Her lawyers have two main defences:

  1. The post is protected by fair comment on a matter of public interest, arguing Hanson therefore had a right to make a statement defending the monarchy.
  2. The post is protected by an implied (not expressly stated) right of political communication — meaning Hanson and Faruqi have a right to engage in political debate.

What next?

Faruqi appeared as a witness today, where she argued Hanson’s tweet was racist and faced questioning from Hanson’s lawyers. Faruqi said she feels like she’s “been silenced on colonisation”.

Hanson is also expected to take the witness stand tomorrow, where lawyers from both sides will question her.

Faruqi is asking for an apology from Hanson and $150,000 in compensation, which she has said will go towards a charity.

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