Richard Di Natale inviting a young Muslim woman on stage at the National Press Club
Greens leader Richard Di Natale has labelled his party’s walkout on Pauline Hanson’s “hateful” first speech one of his “proudest moments” and invited a young Muslim woman on stage at the National Press Club to share her story, who warned her right to exist was “constantly under fire”.
In his first address to the club since the election, Senator Di Natale declared it was not “our people” who were broken but “our system” and urged Australians to embrace a “path that is based on love and compassion, not on hatred and division”.
As he hit out at the One Nation leader, who he called a “bigoted woman attacking Muslims”, he said his speech was not for the nation’s influencers and decision-makers but for young people “being screwed right over now and see their future being ripped away”.
“I have to say one of my proudest moments was leading the team out of the Senate in response to Pauline Hanson’s hateful first speech. It was a gesture of protest, a gesture of resistance in the nation’s parliament,” Senator Di Natale said.
“It was an act of solidarity for those millions of people who would hear the echoes of their own past in her words. People like my mum who don’t just hear a bigoted woman attacking Muslims, but they hear the Catholic nun on her first day of high school saying to her, ‘Not another boat load of you bloody Italians’.
“These words have consequences. Mum remembers that. She tells me the story. Over the past 12 months, I have spoken to many people who have shared the impact that the current debate is having on them.”
Senator Hanson used her first speech to parliament to insist Australia was at risk of being “swamped by Muslims” and Senator Di Natale revealed at the time that the party had decided beforehand that they would leave the chamber “if she crosses a line”.
A whiteboard in his office showed the party had war-gamed the possibility of walking out.
Senator Di Natale paused his NPC address to give the stage to Nada, a Muslim engineer who told the audience she was “tired of being spoken about” and having her future “in the hands of people who don’t understand my contributions, my passions and my concerns”.
“There are many young people like me who are trying to create a nation that acknowledges our history, celebrates diversity and thrives on equality. But every time we take a step forward, there are forces of misinformation that push us miles back,” Nada said.
“As a young Muslim woman in this country, my right to simply exist is constantly under fire and occasionally under threat. I am a regular victim of casual and impersonal racism, on public transport, in the supermarket, walking down the street. It hurts no less each time. I not only receive snide remarks in public places but have also received more violent threats.
“I have been chased down the CBD streets by a man screaming that he wanted to kill me because of the apparent bomb under my hijab. But this isn’t the Australia I have grown up in. It is not the future that we want.”
Senator Di Natale was adamant his party could still increase its primary vote to 20 per cent within a decade despite polling 10.2 per cent in the lower house and 8.7 per cent in the upper house – losing a senator – at the July election.
“At the moment, we have never been more important in politics. Political winds are shifting all around us, we have been the force for stability. We are the genuine alternative,” he said.