A bill to ban burqa in Australia's most populous state New South Wales Thursday fell through as centrist and leftist lawmakers condemned it as racist.
The bill had been moved by the leader of the rightist Christian Democratic Party Fred Nile, who had called for banning burqa citing security reasons and to what he called "set women free from domination of males."
The legislation had been moved apparently to keep up with the trend in Europe where nations like France and Belgium are heading to ban the burqa, full face covering dress.
Nile's bill was defeated in the state's upper house by 26 to 3 votes, with members opposing saying that such a step would spread fear and hatred in the country.
The legislation was moved following a nationwide heated debate sparked earlier this month by conservative lawmakers who called for a ban on the burqa, claiming it was emerging as the "preferred disguise of bandits and ne'er-do-wells."
These comments were apparently prompted by the use of burqa in a daring armed robbery in Sydney. But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made it clear that enforcing such a ban was not a state policy.
Nile's Full-face Coverings Prohibition Bill was modelled on legislation recently passed by Belgium Parliament.
He said concealment of a person's face - male or female - for any purpose, including terrorism, anarchism or discrimination against women, should be banned.
"We must do all we can to protect women, especially Muslim women, from discrimination and oppression so they live an open lifestyle," Nile said, adding "The wearing of the burqa is a form of oppression which has no place in the 21st century."
"It also presented a security risk," he said.
Nile introduced a similar bill in 2006 and 2002, prompting widespread condemnation.
Muslims constitute only 1.7 per cent of Australia's population of 22 million and religious tensions have run high in recent years.