MP calls for crackdown on burqa
POLICE lack power to demand someone to remove a burqa or a veil that is covering their face when they're trying to identify them under Queensland's laws.
But Member for Nicklin, Peter Wellington, is determined to see this changed.
Mr Wellington has introduced a Private Member's Bill in parliament calling for a change in the legislation which will allow police, Justice of the Peace, Commissioners of Oaths and court security staff to instruct someone to remove their head gear, even if it is worn for religious purposes.
Mr Wellington said he was "appalled" with New South Wales case where a judge overturned the jail sentence of a woman because he believed her identity couldn't be verified as she was wearing a burqa.
The former policeman and solicitor decided to investigate Queensland's laws after the New South Wales laws were amended and discovered we could find ourselves facing a similar situation.
"It became very clear to me when our Queensland officers talk about identifying someone, they talk about producing a driver's licence or an address," he said.
"If a person has a veil covering their face, the situation may arise that a police officer may not be able to prove the identity of the person.
JPs and Commissioners of Oaths should also be able to identify a person, security officers which guard our courts should also have the power to require someone from removing anything that covers their face."
He explained his decision to introduce the Bill to parliament two session ago had "nothing to do with religion and religious beliefs, it was purely based on respect".
"This particular case had, in my opinion, made mockery of our legal system," he said.
"If my face is covered you cannot prove who I am, therefore you cannot convict me.
"I believe if a person is wearing a motorbike helmet he or she should remove it when asked to do so by a police officer. The same with a hood that covers the face, or for that matter, anything that covers the face."
He didn't believe however, that it was necessary for the Bill to extend to a turban and the wording was limited to facial cover.
"The turban does not inhibit the ability to identify the wearer, so in my Bill the face was clearly described as the area between the forehead and the chin and from ear to ear," he said.
"I am not calling for a ban on the burqa, just respect for our laws."
His Bill has been welcomed by Sunshine Coast lawyer and Muslim leader Haset Sali.
Mr Sali, a former president for the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said the wearing of the burqa had nothing to with Islam.
"Get rid of them (burqas and veils), they're primitive and have nothing to do with Islam," he said.
"If you read the Koran it very clear both women and men shall dress modestly and women shall cover their breasts," Mr Sali said.
"Three cheers for Peter Wellington for introducing the new Bill."
Mr Sali said the burqa was introduced from "countries where Bedouins carry a fair amount of influence".