The Australian Senate voted almost unanimously Wednesday to censure Fraser Anning, a far-right senator representing Queensland, for his remarks blaming the Christchurch shootings on Muslims and “the growing fear…of the increasing Muslim presence” allowed by immigration laws in both countries.
On the day of the attack on two mosques in New Zealand, which killed 50 people, Anning said in a statement, “As always, left-wing politicians and the media will rush to claim that the causes of today’s shootings lie with gun laws or those who hold nationalist views but this is all cliched nonsense.
“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
Anning responded to the censure by claiming it was “an attack on free speech” and went on to defend his comments.
“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,” Anning said on the Senate floor.
The motion wrote that the censure was justified because of “his inflammatory and divisive comments seeking to attribute blame to victims of a horrific crime and to vilify people on the basis of religion, which do not reflect the opinions of the Australian Senate or the Australian people.”
Labor Party Senator Penny Wong, who presented the bipartisan motion with Australian Liberal Party Senator Mathias Cormann, slammed Anning on the Senate floor, saying, “How pathetic. How shameful. Shameful and pathetic attempt by a bloke who has never been elected to get attention by exploiting diversity as a fault line for political advantage.”
Anning was not formally elected to his position, according to the BBC. He was appointed in 2017 to replace a disqualified senator.
Anning received a mere 19 votes in the 2016 election, the BBC reports.
Wong added that, “This motion makes it clear he doesn’t speak for us. He doesn’t speak for the Senate. He doesn’t speak for this nation.”
Cormann, who is also the Senate leader, joined in on the public shaming, saying, “In Australia we do not accept and do not tolerate that sort of divisive, inflammatory commentary which seeks to incite hatred and which seeks to vilify people. It is why we are the most successful migrant nation in the world.”
Anning was able to avoid further punishment when a motion to suspend the controversial lawmaker from the Senate failed. Senate President Scott Ryan said that a senator’s suspension could only be upheld if “disorderly conduct” took place while inside the chamber, The Guardian reports.
Luckily for Anning, he made his comments outside the Senate halls.
In Australia, lawmakers cannot be expelled from Parliament unless they are “dual citizens, bankrupt, hold other offices, or have been convicted of an offence,” according to the BBC.
The censure is a legal way for the Senate to issue an official condemnation.
Peter Georgiou, a member of the anti-Muslim One Nation party that Anning defected from, read a speech in the chamber saying that while Anning’s comments were “untimely and therefore deemed highly insensitive, he still maintains a right to his opinion.”
Anning had been facing backlash since the attacks for more than just his divisive official statement.
While speaking to media on the day of the March 15 attack, a 17-year-old teen who goes by “Egg Boy” smashed an egg on Anning’s head mid-interview, causing gasps from the crowd of about 60 people present.
Anning responded by hitting the teen at least twice before being separated from the boy as the fight escalated.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison sided with “Egg Boy” in response to the viral video of the fight, saying, “The full force of the law should be applied to Sen. Anning.”
In the wake of Anning’s original controversial remarks, Morrison put out a statement saying, “I would normally not want to give this any oxygen, but I want to absolutely and completely denounce the statements made by Senator Anning…on this horrendous terrorist attack, with issues of immigration, in his attack on Islamic faith specifically.”