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Hanson ‘grenade’ blew up migrant ambitions, court told

Pauline Hanson's comments were a rhetorical device to criticise a Greens senator, her lawyer said.

Pauline Hanson's comments were a rhetorical device to criticise a Greens senator, her lawyer said. Photo: AAP

Not only did the Greens deputy leader experience psychological trauma after a racist tweet by Pauline Hanson but minorities across Australia were also likely to be deeply affected, a judge has heard.

The One Nation leader is being sued for racial discrimination by NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi over a tweet sent in September 2022.

During closing submissions on Wednesday, Faruqi’s barrister Saul Holt KC said the wide-ranging impacts from the post were predictable, including a “bluntly sickening” flood of tweets and emails directed to the Muslim politician.

“That’s just what Twitter is. You throw the grenade and it blows up,” he told the Federal Court.

On the day Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022, Faruqi tweeted that she could not mourn the passing of the leader of a “racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples”.

Senator Hanson responded, saying she was appalled and disgusted with the Greens senator’s comments, telling her to “pack (her) bags and piss off back to Pakistan”.

Holt said his client had the right to say what she wanted to say about political matters without fear of racist attack, especially as the first Muslim in the Australian Senate,.

“That warrants a greater level of protection to ensure that these impacts don’t happen to her,” Holt said.

“Otherwise where does the next migrant woman of colour come from to go to the Senate or stand for Parliament if this is the effect?”

He took Justice Angus Stewart to evidence from nine individuals from varying minority groups who read Senator Hanson’s tweet.

Many wondered how they were protected from racist speech as ordinary citizens if this sort of thing could also happen to an Australian senator, the court heard.

Holt argued that Senator Hanson’s claims his client should just toughen up and “take it on the chin” were misconceived.

No one in any position of power whether they were the prime minister, a senator, judge, lawyer or teacher was immune to the effects of harmful or hurtful things they heard, he told the court.

“The longer we perpetuate those myths, the worse things in fact end up being because we expect people in those situations to be superhuman.”

Research, including that 33.8 per cent of Muslim women told to go back to where they came from experienced very high psychological distress, was a sobering tonic to Senator Hanson’s claims, Holt said.

Justice Stewart noted “a tension or an irony” to the One Nation leader’s arguments given that she herself had responded to a tweet in an angry, distraught and unthought-out manner.

Holt said the words of her tweet plainly targeted Senator Faruqi as a Muslim woman of colour.

This was then compounded by the history of the phrase, “Go back to where you came from” as a nationalist slogan as well as the One Nation leader’s own anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim statements in the past, the court heard.

“It is a message of exclusion from someone in a position of power and that makes it much more significant,” he said.

The trial continues.

– AAP

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