07:08 GMT26 February 2021
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    Although the motion, which condemns "white racism" and "attacks on Western civilization," was voted down 31-28 on Monday, it was backed by a number of government ministers. Senators from the left, in turn, have bashed the motion as a "racist stunt."

    The upper house of Australian parliament has turned down, by a narrow margin, a motion against "anti-white racism."

    "It's OK to be white," a provocative motion brought forward by Pauline Hanson, who leads the right-wing One Nation party, was defeated on Monday in the Australian Senate, which voted it down 31 to 28.

    Hanson, 64, has decried "the deplorable rise of anti-white racism" and "a rise in attacks on the very ideals of Western civilization" before the vote. The slogan "it is OK to be white" is a nod to a T-shirt that Canadian activist Lauren Southern wore when she visited Australia's Brisbane in July as part of her "free speech" tour.

    At the time, her controversial move ignited a vigorous public debate about the right to free speech. Hanson's initiative has divided the Senate as well, garnering the support of many senators sitting in government, including Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, Resources Minister Matt Canavan, Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion.

    It has also drawn a furious response on the left. Justice Party Senator Derryn Hinch has called Hanson's initiative a "racist stunt."

    "The reality is this 'it's OK to be white' slogan has got a long history in the white supremacist movement where both these clowns get most of their material from," said the Greens leader Richard Di Natale, referring to Hanson and former One Nation senator Fraser Anning.

    The Australian government has long heaped praise on its multicultural model. In July, Australia's citizenship and multicultural minister, Alan Tudge, said at a summit in London that his country was "slightly veering towards a European separatist multicultural model and we want to pull it back to be firmly on the Australian integrated path."

    In a country where over 28 percent of citizens were born overseas and over half have a parent born outside of Australia, integration and immigration policy remains a pressing issue.

    In July, Prime Minister Turnbull said that the federal government would consider introducing what he called a "values test" for those seeking permanent residency in the country. Last year, his government tried to tighten citizenship and foreign worker visa rules; it wanted to introduce an English test and extend the waiting period for permanent residents before they could apply for citizenship from one to four years. The proposals, however, were rejected by the Senate.


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