TO PAULINE Hanson there’s Australia, and then there’s Lakemba.
The outspoken One Nation senator recently visited the southwest Sydney suburb — of which most residents are Muslim — but she didn’t have much good to say about it.
“There are communities here, people here, who have no intention of assimilating into our society,” she told A Current Affair’s Leila McKinnon, on a stroll down the main street.
Some residents welcomed her, while others shouted profanities. One person yelled “Go back to where you came from!”
In response to this, Ms Hanson said: “Hey, hang on a minute, this is Australia, I was born here. I should be able to walk anywhere I want to in this country, go wherever I want to. Not have people like that tell me.”
Later on the show, asked if she would return to Lakemba, Ms Hanson said it was “on my big no list”.
“That was definite when we got out of the car, even before. It’s not happening,” she said.
Member for Lakemba Jihad Dib has slammed the One Nation leader’s appearance on the show as an agenda-driven stunt.
Speaking with news.com.au, Mr Dib — who has previously extended an invitation to show Ms Hanson around the area — questioned the intentions behind her visit.
“If she really was interested in helping to build a better society, she would have taken the time to get to know people in the community,” he told news.com.au. “The fact that she arrived with a film crew in tow is proof she had an agenda.”
Ms Hanson will also discuss her controversial burqa stunt on tonight’s show.
Last year, she entered the Senate covered head-to-toe in a burqa, which she has frequently criticised and called to be outlawed in Australia.
Over the weekend, she told Stellar magazine she did it to make a point about national security and social cohesion.
She also said she was shocked by then Attorney General George Brandis’s emotional response to the stunt, and insisted she believes she did the right thing.
“Brandis’s answer was really over the top,” she said. “I feel a lot of people are pandering to Muslims in this country … I got a lot of support from the public after that, tremendous (support) whenever this issue was raised.”
When asked about the stunt, Mr Dib said he believed people were “shocked” by it — especially members of parliament.
“It was a stunt, no more than that,” he told news.com.au. “I’d like to know if she’s ever actually sat down with someone who makes the choice to wear the burqa. Take the time to get to know them before making a judgment.
“The greatest irony of all is that this is a person who carries on free speech, but is willing to tell somebody else how to dress.”
— Jihad Dib MP (@jihaddibmp) August 17, 2017
When asked if he intended to raise these issues with the outspoken senator, Mr Dib said it was unlikely, because he didn’t believe she had a genuine desire to engage with the community.
“To be frank, Pauline doesn’t strike me as someone who actually wants to talk about this,” he said. “In her narrative, this group doesn’t belong. If she genuinely wanted to sit down and have a cup of tea or coffee, it would be pretty easy for her to find people (in the community) willing to engage with her.”
Ms Hanson has few friends in Parliament. She told Stellar her fellow politicians don’t so much as glance at her or say hello, saying it’s been that way since the mid-90s.
“Even now, the majority of the Greens and Labor Party won’t even say hello when passing,” she said. “Does it worry me? No. It shows the type of people they are.”
But Mr Dib did say he’d be happy to give her a tour of Lakemba, and introduce her to community leaders in the area, if she was willing to genuinely engage with them.
Asked for his thoughts on where far-right sentiment in Australia comes from, he said: “People always need someone to blame. We like to pick a group and say they’re not integrating into society because it can easily be made into slogans.
“I’m keen to know if (Pauline) has ever actually sat down with more than one Muslim. You don’t make Australia better by demonising and isolating one group.”
Ms Hanson insists she’s not racist. On those who peg her as such, she told Stellar: “I don’t agree. I am calling for equality. Criticism is not racism; people need to understand that.”
But Mr Dib says it’s all a game to her.
“This, for her, is just a political game,” he said. “There’s so much more to this issue. This is about building a society where everybody belongs.
“What Australia is, is this beautiful mosaic of so many difference histories and cultures, starting with our indigenous heritage, going right through to the last waves of migration.
“Far too many people see this as a weakness, but it’s a strength.
“It’s what makes us so exceptional.”