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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14728


Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (11:15): On behalf of the community that I'm privileged to represent in this place, can I extend my condolences to the families of the victims of the terrorist attack in Christchurch 19 days ago, to the people of Christchurch and to all of the people of New Zealand. As you well know, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Laundy, I represent a part of Australia where every Friday a lot of people do what those 50 people were doing on that peaceful Friday afternoon in Christchurch: they gather in mosques and community halls and they pray. For that reason, it's affected my community more than many others in Australia.

That night I got a text message from a friend of mine telling me that his little boy was too scared to leave the house. At Lakemba Mosque that night, there were thousands of people gathered out the front and inside—people of all different faiths and backgrounds. Some were crying; many, like my friend's son, were scared; all were grieving. But very few of the people that I met and spoke to at the mosque that night were surprised or even shocked. So many of the people that I represent in this place have lived in fear of this, almost expecting this, for a long, long time. But that doesn't answer the question: how does something like this happen? How does somebody do something so monstrous—walk into a room where people are praying and just start shooting? How does somebody kill the person at the front door who welcomed him in, kill schoolkids, kill a three-year-old little boy? A three-year-old little boy!

That little boy's name was Mucad Ibrahim. He was three years old. I've got a little boy at home and he's almost three. He woke up the other night crying—he'd fallen out of his bed—and I calmed him down. He told me that the monsters had pushed him out of bed. I told him that monsters aren't real, they're just pretend, and put him back to sleep. I didn't tell him the truth that night—that monsters are real. How else do you explain what happened in Christchurch a couple of weeks ago? And it's not just Christchurch. We see the same horror story play out in other parts of the world—different monsters and different warped ideologies, but all driven by the same insane hate. Except that's not the right word, because it's not insane; that's an excuse that people like this don't deserve. It's a deep-seated hate full of racism and bigotry.

But how does it happen? I don't think it's good enough for us to just blame the internet. It's part of the problem—it's a big part; search around enough on the internet and you'll find the sorts of things that can poison people's minds and help turn them into monsters—but we've got politicians in this place that preach the same sort of hate, the same sort of bigotry and the same sort of ugliness that you can just as easily find online. And I'm not just talking about Fraser Anning. He is the worst of us—he is the worst of us—but he's not the only one. There are people in this place who have made an art out of scaring good people by telling them that bad people are coming to get them, to swamp them, to change their laws or to take their jobs. There are people in this place who have described Islam as a disease. They've described someone's faith as a disease.

What I think we need in this place is the sort of leadership that we've seen in New Zealand in the last few weeks—the sort of leadership that Jacinda Ardern has shown. In the worst of all possible circumstances the Prime Minister of New Zealand has proven herself to be an exceptional leader, everything that her community needs: compassionate, caring, strong, decisive; binding the wounds of her country with her words and with her deeds.

But it's not just what Jacinda Ardern has done that we should look to New Zealand for for inspiration. It's how the whole community has reacted, from non-Muslims standing guard while Muslims pray, to the elderly man who only survived the gunfire because he was shielded by his wife and who forgave the monster who killed her. His name is Farid Ahmed. What an extraordinary human being.

The people of New Zealand haven't been divided by what has happened; they've only come closer together. And we can do this here too in Australia if we try. Whenever there's a terrorist attack anywhere around the world and the perpetrator is a Muslim, I often get asked to comment. And I often get asked, 'What more should the Muslim community be doing to stop this from happening?' I say that you can't blame a community for the actions of one monster, of one demented mind. But I also say there's always more that we can do, that mums and dads can do, that teachers can do, that medical professionals can do and that community leaders can do. In this case the terrorist was a white supremacist born here in Australia, and so let's ask the same question: what else should we be doing? What else should we all be doing to stop the spread of this sort of hatred in our community—not just on the internet and not just here in this parliament but everywhere? If we learn anything out of the horror of what happened in Christchurch, I hope it's the answer to this question.

At the memorial service on Friday, the New Zealand Prime Minister asked of her country this:

… be the place that we wish to be.

A place that is diverse … kind and compassionate. Those values represent the very best of us.

She said:

… we are not immune to … hate …

But we can be the nation that discovers the cure.

Let us aspire to be that nation.