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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14730


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (11:22): I would like to echo the words of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. The attacks in Christchurch were a disgusting manifestation of the worst side of humanity. Our hearts go out to the people of New Zealand. The people of New Zealand aren't our neighbours; they are our family. We live together, serve together, compete in sports together. In fact, our first success as a country in international tennis was as Australasia, with the great champion Anthony Wilding and Norman Brookes winning the Davis Cup. That went back to 1905. When tragedy strikes here, it is felt there, and this has been shown by the outpouring of grief here. We feel their loss most keenly.

It would be tragic if this was a senseless attack, but, if anything, this is worse because the deranged shooter thought he saw sense. His extremist views weren't a product of his own mind; they were fostered and nurtured by others around the world. He did what he did because he saw it was a logical endpoint for his thoughts and beliefs. This means there could be others out there harbouring similar thoughts, and there are definitely people out there who are encouraging extremist views. We must be ever vigilant in the fight against these views.

Sadly, we have people here in this parliament who have stoked these tensions. I've spoken in this chamber before about the disgusting nature of the views held by some senators, but I've never considered the effect they could have on an unhinged mind who would act on these racist words. Thankfully, there is no shortage of people lining up to condemn the words of Fraser Anning, and I note that a censure motion is going through the Senate as I speak. This is particularly poignant because it is also his last ever day as a senator—good riddance!

It's good to see that our public debate is ready to condemn hateful words like his but it is sad that we need to, and concerning that there are people who listen to the hate speech in the first place. Whereas the story in Australia quickly turned to the hateful comments of the senator, thankfully, across the ditch, we had an example of how to behave in the face of tragedy. Jacinda Ardern has been the perfect leader in recent weeks—caring and sympathetic, yet so very strong. She has ensured that the focus of the disaster has been on the people of Christchurch and the community that uses this mosque. They are the victims we must be listening to and the heroes we must be celebrating. Jacinda has ensured that this has happened, and we must congratulate her for that.

The opposite reaction came from the President of Turkey. He played footage of the event at political rallies and tried to utilise the apparent schism between the West and Islam as a political tool ahead of the general election. This has been roundly condemned and seems not to have helped in the polls. I obviously agree that his comments were tasteless and his use of the footage disgusting but we must temper our condemnation, no matter how hard it is to do so. The gunman knew his actions would not end a war; he was looking to start one. He was looking for escalation, and escalation is easy to achieve when the stakes are so high. It is the easiest thing to start a war of words over these actions and point a wider finger of blame, but to do so would be exactly what the gunman would have wanted. I want to condemn the Turkish leader's remarks because they are exactly how the gunman wanted him to react, but I can't condemn them because that is how the gunman would have wanted us to react in turn.

I have already seen racist and neo-Nazi graffiti in my electorate, which is one of the most diverse in the country but also one of the most harmonious. We must condemn hatred and condemn all extremist actions, but we must do so by targeting those at fault—those who have committed and incited these atrocities—not by targeting broad sections of the community in which we live. We must come together as friends across communities, religions and ethnicities. We must stand against hatred and extremist ideologies from all corners and condemn those equally.

Some of the most moving words of the remembrance service in Christchurch went to Yusuf Islam. He spoke of opposites—how an act so barbaric can actually foster unity and harmony, and people coming together against such an atrocity. He spoke of how Christianity and Islam are brothers, religious brothers, worshipping the same god, both preaching peace, and he spoke of love.

I'd like to end with a thought on my past career. People regularly ask me about what I learnt from playing tennis—'How could playing a sport relate to real life?' Well, sport teaches you to get up when you're down. Sport teaches you to respect those around you, and, at the beginning of every tennis match, the score is 'love all'.