By Recep Sakar
MELBOURNE (AA) - Australia’s Senate on Wednesday formally censured a senator widely condemned for remarks blaming Muslim immigration for last month’s deadly New Zealand terror attacks.
Senators officially censured independent Queensland Senator Fraser Anning for his Islamophobic, racist remarks in a session led by Labor Senator for South Australia Penny Wong and Mathias Cormann, the ruling Coalition's deputy leader in the Senate.
The censure motion was supported across the aisle, with only one senator in the 76-seat body voting against, and three abstaining.
Wong called Anning’s statements “shameful and pathetic.”
“There is a difference between freedom of speech and hate speech,” she said. “The former is a feature of our democracy. The latter is an attack on democracy.”
“We have to be uncompromising in our rejection of racism, prejudice, discrimination, and hate speech, and we must call it out wherever we see it,” she added.
Cormann said: "It is very important that the Parliament is unified in its condemnation of these appalling comments that have been made."
"Senator Anning's comments were ugly and divisive. They were dangerous and unacceptable from anyone, let alone a member of this place," he added.
- Victims blamed
At least 50 Muslim worshippers were massacred, with as many injured, in an alleged white supremacist terror attack by an Australian-born man on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15.
In the massacre’s aftermath, Anning tweeted: "Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?"
Despite outrage at his tweet, he later added: "The real cause of the bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place."
Birmingham said Anning had acted in a way that "would potentially fuel more acts of terrorism and violence."
"You have failed the test of character I would expect of anybody who is elected to this place," he told Anning.
Some 1.4 million people have signed a petition calling for Anning’s removal from the Senate, a sanction that requires a higher bar than the censure vote.