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Move on from burqa: Turnbull

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Senior cabinet minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged the community to move on from the debate over the burqa.

After a week of heated debate about bans on burqas or niqabs, the Department of Parliamentary Services on Thursday decided people with facial coverings could only watch parliament from the enclosed galleries usually reserved for noisy school children.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reportedly asked the Speaker to scrap the controversial plan.

Mr Turnbull said Australians can wear whatever they like “as long as whatever security arrangements are necessary for a particular place are covered.”

He’s told the Nine Network on Friday that in the 10 years he’s been in parliament he’s seen only one woman in the full, face-covering burqa in the public gallery and that very few Muslim women wear it in Australia.

“We don’t want to have debates like this being turned into a coded attack on the Muslim community,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Our enemies, ISIL …. they want us to attack Muslims, to alienate and frighten the Muslim community so they don’t feel they’re part of Australia and they feel their only home is with an extremist group.”

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek agreed.

“We’re a stronger community when we respect and trust one other.”

Liberal National Party MP George Christensen has warned that technically the presiding officers’ rulings aren’t subject to any prime ministerial veto.

He believes the plan doesn’t go far enough.

“What I’m arguing for is no facial coverings at Parliament House at all,” he told ABC TV on Friday.

Labor and the Greens are worried parliament is signalling it’s okay to treat Muslim women poorly, and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has slammed it as “religious apartheid”.

While the debate has been nicknamed the ‘burqa ban’, the burqa is a far less common form of attire for Australian Muslims than the niqab, a less concealing variety of headdress.

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