Tony Abbott has described the burqa it as a “confronting” form of attire and Colin Barnett would prefer witnesses to have their faces exposed in court.
The Federal Opposition leader and Premier made the comments as a Perth judge prepares to conderation of whether a woman can give evidence in court while wearing a burqa, in what could become an Australian legal precedent.
Mr Abbott told reporters on the election campaign trail that he wished fewer Australian women wore the Islamic dress, which covers the face and entire body.
“I don’t want to interfere with the operation of the legal system but I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I find the burqa a particularly confronting form of attire,” Mr Abbott said.
“I would very much wish that fewer Australians would choose it.”
Premier Colin Barnett said he defended the rights of people to dress according to their faith, unless it compromised public safety or the public interest.
“In this case, the issue of wearing a veil or burqa in court is something the judge will need to determine,” Mr Barnett said.
“I would think normally witnesses should have their faces exposed. I think it’s important for the judge, for the jury to be able to see the true nature of any evidence they are giving, their expressions and the like.
“But that is a matter for the judge.”
District Court judge Shauna Deane will preside over a directions hearing tomorrow determine whether the prosecution witness in a fraud case can give evidence before a jury while wearing a niqab, commonly known as a burqa.
The devout Muslim woman has told prosecution lawyers she is reluctant to appear in court without her religious dress, which covers her entire body except her eyes.
Federal Nationals leader Warren Truss said people should be able to wear whatever they like.
“Generally speaking, as a matter of principle, I believe people should be able to wear what they choose, so long as that does not in any way disadvantage the rights and privileges of other Australians,” Mr Truss told the National Press Club in Canberra.