Fraser Anning listening to Penny Wong speak this morning.
Fraser Anning listening to Penny Wong speak this morning.

‘Pathetic man’: Anning humiliated in Senate

FRASER Anning has been labelled "pathetic" and "shameful" by his colleagues in the Senate over his comments in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack.

The government and opposition joined together to move a motion censuring Anning, who issued a statement just hours after the attack blaming it on Muslim immigration.

The attack targeted Muslims and left 50 people dead.

The Coalition's Senate leader Mathias Cormann spoke first.

Fraser Anning listening to Penny Wong speak.
Fraser Anning listening to Penny Wong speak.

"These comments were appalling, and sadly made even worse by Senator Anning's position in this parliament," Mr Cormann said.

"Senator Anning's comments were ugly and divisive, they were dangerous and unacceptable.

"In Australia we do not accept and we do not tolerate that sort of commentary that seeks to vilify people."

Labor's Penny Wong was even harsher on Anning.

"In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, in the aftermath of horrific acts of hatred, whilst people were grieving, whilst a nation was grieving, a senator in this place made an extraordinarily offensive and divisive statement," Ms Wong said.

"He blamed the horrific act of terror not on the extremist right-wing terrorist, but on the victims of his evil acts.

"How pathetic. How shameful. A shameful and pathetic attempt, by a bloke who's never been elected, to get attention by exploiting diversity as a fault line for political advantage.

"This motion makes it clear he does not speak for us. He does not speak for this Senate. He does not speak for this nation. And he does not represent Australian values."

Senator Fraser Anning arrives at Parliament House. Picture: Getty
Senator Fraser Anning arrives at Parliament House. Picture: Getty

Ms Wong said the issue was broader than Anning's conduct, and some members of parliament had failed to take on hate speech.

"Hate speech cannot be defended on the grounds of freedom of speech because it is an attack on our democracy. It inflicts real and direct harm," she said.

"What we saw tragically in the loss of life in Christchurch was where hate leads us."

She reminded her colleagues that some of them had shaken Anning's hand after his maiden speech, in which he called for a "final solution to the immigration problem".

The phrase "final solution" is closely associated with the Nazis' systematic murder of Jews during World War II.

"While all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims. So why would anyone want to bring more of them here?" Anning said during the speech.

"It is a disappointment to many of us that many Coalition senators lined up and shook your hand. And I'm sure many of them regret doing so now," Ms Wong said today.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale echoed her comments, saying Anning had shown himself to be "a pathetic man lacking any empathy".

He said the hugs and handshakes Anning received after his maiden speech were a sign of how "desensitised" Australia had become to hate speech.

"When you say someone has a right to be a bigot, the next step is giving them permission to act on that bigotry," Mr Di Natale said.

He said both major parties had rejected his push to censure Anning at the time. And he argued the Senate should go further than a censure motion now.

"I don't accept that it's enough simply to censure one person and accept that we have fulfilled our responsibilities against hate speech," he said.

The Greens pushed for Anning to be suspended from the Senate. But President Scott Ryan shot down that idea, explaining that senators could only be suspended if they were held in contempt, and the chamber did not have the authority to simply "treat any act as contempt".

Therefore, a move to suspend Anning for his comments, which were not made in parliament, could be unconstitutional.

The censure motion passed on the voices. Cory Bernardi was the only senator to vote against it. Anning himself had left the chamber.

Anning remained defiant and unapologetic when he spoke shortly before the vote, labelling the reaction to his comments a "witch hunt".

"This censure motion against me is a blatant attack on free speech. It is also an exercise in left-wing virtue signalling of the worst kind," he said.

"This is exactly the kind of self-righteous, left-wing intolerance of alternative views that you would expect from an extremist party like the Greens. What is shocking is that a supposedly Liberal prime minister is leading the charge.

"What is really being censured here is not me, it is the right of anyone to say something that those in power disagree with."

Anning said the reasons for the censure motion were "barely coherent".

"What inflammatory and divisive comments? What blame did I attribute to the victims? I said nothing of the sort," he said.

"After putting the immediate blame where it belonged, I looked for contributing causes. I identified that an immigration program that allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand was a key enabler of community violence.

"The claim that this somehow blames the victims is absurd. My real crime, of course, is that I simply told the truth."

Anning said the media and other politicians "ignored" terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims.

physical attack in Melbourne

He slammed Prime Minister Scott Morrison's response to the infamous egging incident, which happened a day after the Christchurch attack.

Seventeen-year-old Will Connolly cracked an egg on Anning's head at a public event. The senator responded by turning around and taking a swing at him.

Mr Morrison reacted by saying Anning should be "subject to the full force of the law".

"I was the victim of a physical attack in Melbourne," Anning said.

"While those who don't like me may have been delighted to see me attacked, we might have expected a statesmanlike response from the Prime Minister condemning that action. Not at all.

"It may have only been an idiot with an egg this time but there is a continuum which begins with this, and ends with a fanatic with a gun or a bomb."

Before Anning spoke, there was a procession of other senators rising to support the censure motion.

Derryn Hinch said Anning's Christchurch comments "sank to a new level".

"Senator Anning tried to dismiss his grotesque comments as 'freedom of speech'. As a part of free speech. Well, I was a journalist for five decades, and I believe passionately in free speech," Mr Hinch said.

"There is an adage all journalists follow, and that is the line that you cannot shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre. That is not free speech, that is reckless, dangerous behaviour.

"You besmirch this place. You should be ashamed of yourself and I hope you're soon gone."

Labor Senator Pat Dodson grew emotional as he spoke directly to New Zealanders in Maori. Translated, he said: "We are sorry for your loss. Stay strong."

The only senator who voted against the motion was Cory Bernardi. He criticised Anning, but spent most of his speech accusing Anning's opponents of using "hypocritical language".

"Senator Anning's comments in relation to the massacre were imprudent, they were impolitic, they were flat out wrong," Mr Bernardi conceded.

"Rarely have I been as disappointed in political opportunism as in the last fortnight. And it's on display here today.

"I'm disappointed in the government for adopting the language of the left."

He singled out the Greens for accusing "anyone who disagrees with them" of hate speech.

"Hate speech is whatever they want it to mean," he said.

"It is misused simply to score political points off your opponents."

One Nation abstained from the vote. Pauline Hanson was not in the Senate - she's still recovering from that tick bite - but Peter Georgiou spoke in her place, saying the party would not participate in the "public flogging of a senator".