Page 3513 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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“Luddite” and “totalitarian” were also used in relation to my contribution to the most recent debate. I am not going to address those second two, but it is important to me to have it very clearly on the record that at no time today did I say I was opposed to population growth. In fact, at no time do I ever say I am opposed to population growth. In fact, my PhD thesis was a project undertaken partly to refute the belief of some environmentalists that zero population growth will automatically bring environmental sustainability. It is very important to me to have it on the record that I do not oppose population growth per se because I have put so many hours and words into presenting a sophisticated argument against this very view.

It being past 6.00 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the motion for the adjournment of the Assembly was put.


Muslim headscarves

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (6.03): I want to touch on two issues. Recently some of my Liberal women colleagues have received some notoriety because of their desire to ban Muslim women wearing headscarves in government schools, apparently on the grounds that they are a symbol of defiance. I have followed the debate. Some of their critics missed the point when they said that, for the most part, people should be able to wear what they like, implying that there is no such thing as symbolism. We take a very dim view of anyone wearing Nazi paraphernalia because of its symbolic association with mass slaughter. We have seen the opprobrium attached to Prince Harry for his indiscretion in that regard.

I would disagree with Mesdames Bishop and Panopoulos on two points. I do not think that the headscarf symbolises defiance; I think it is a religious symbol and a symbol about modesty. I know that the vast majority of Muslims and the vast majority of headscarf-wearing Muslims and those of my acquaintance do not support the excesses of militant Islamists and al-Qaeda. I do not think you can stop such manifestations; that, itself, would lead to defiance. By suppressing cultural manifestations we create many more problems for ourselves.

I was very concerned about the things that were said by Mesdames Bishop and Panopoulos about the dominant culture in Australia. It needs to be said quite sternly that moderate Muslims, even worse than westerners, are victims of the sorts of things that were said. Things like this send the message that all Muslims are the same. It would be unfortunate if non-Muslims came to believe that all Muslims are the same, and it would be disastrous if Muslims did.

The other issue I wish to touch on is that, yesterday in the adjournment debate, Ms MacDonald made an intervention. I have one point of correction and two observations to make on that intervention. First, to the point of correction: Ms MacDonald alleged that my statement that education minister Gallagher is a product of the sixties is, in her words, “indeed incorrect”. I said that Ms Gallagher is “literally” a child of the sixties. This is certainly true as Ms Gallagher was born in March 1970. But that only serves to undermine Ms MacDonald’s claims.

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