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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 23


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (11:11): At a quarter to 10 on Monday morning, 15 December, 17 people, some old friends and some total strangers, were thrust into an unimaginable nightmare of one man's making. For 16½ hours, the world watched. It waited and it prayed, hoping for a safe and peaceful end to this act of madness. Tragically, this was not to be.

Two fine Australians—Katrina Dawson, a brilliant barrister, loving wife and mother of three; and Tori Johnson, the cafe's manager, a beloved son and soul mate—lost their lives in the final minutes of the siege. To you, the people who loved Katrina and Tori and the people they loved, I offer the heartfelt condolences of our party and our nation. Australia is indeed with you in your grief. The story of Katrina and Tori's brave and terrible times, I believe, makes millions of us wish that we had known them. Now, we never can, except in memory.

Tennyson once wrote of the pain of loss:

… O for the touch of a vanished hand,

And the sound of a voice that is still!

We understand that no words in this place or elsewhere can restore that vanished touch or bring back a voice too soon silenced. All we can offer is Australia's embrace—a promise to honour forever the memory of those lost to you and to all of us.

The same is true for all of you who escaped from this dreadful ordeal with your lives. To you, the survivors, the wounded and the frightened: Australia is here for you. I know all the family members and survivors here today do our parliament great courtesy with your presence. Australia will always be with you, just as we must always be grateful for the bravery, the professionalism and the skill of the New South Wales and federal police, the security forces and emergency services. Like the Prime Minister, I offer them our sincere thanks for their courage and their service.

We still need to learn more about what happened in Martin Place and how we can do our level best to ensure that it does not happen again. We will give the report that the government has received the careful consideration it deserves. We will work with you, the government, because the security of our nation and the safety of our people are above politics. When it comes to fighting terrorism, we are indeed in this together.

What we do know, without question, is that this was a crime deliberately aimed at the innocent. Everyday Australians were the target of terror. It could have been the families of any Australians in there that morning—mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, husbands and wives—savouring the ritual of a Monday morning coffee or just catching up with a friend or a colleague. These people were the victims of a deranged act of violence aimed at dividing our country, and it failed. It failed because Australians will never lose their faith in a peaceful, multicultural democracy. Australians will never surrender to hatred, to fear and to intolerance. We will never reward the perpetrators of evil by abandoning our common humanity.

On that Monday evening, as night descended upon Martin Place, hundreds of thousands of Australians took to social media to do something quite extraordinary. Instead of venting messages of hate or succumbing to fear, under the #illridewithyou, more than 150,000 people made a stand against prejudice. They rallied around the diversity which is at the core of our remarkable, modern Australia; and the next morning, when the siege had ended, Sydneysiders emerged in Martin Place bearing flowers, not hatred. In the very heart of their city, under the eyes of the world, a wonderful field of flowers grew.

In time, that temporary tribute will be replaced with a permanent memorial—a garden nourished by those initial blooms of love—a lasting reminder that even the very worst act of violence is no match for the bravery of our people and the best of our nation. And in that same spirit, let us resolve to honour the memory of those lost to us on that December morning and those who survived by vowing not to change. Let us promise each other always to be a happy and confident people; a nation rejecting fear and embracing diversity; a nation whose first instinct will always be optimism and compassion, never suspicion nor prejudice; and an Australia that is stronger because it stands together, united not defeated—today, tomorrow and always.

The SPEAKER: I call the member for Sydney, as the member for the place where this wicked tragedy occurred.