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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14734

Mr VAN MANEN (FordeGovernment Whip) (11:42): There is much I could say on that contribution, but I shan't. As somebody who represents an electorate and a community that hosts some 216 different cultures, I'm proud to say that we very rarely, if ever, see discord and division. I'm blessed to live in a community where those cultures work together harmoniously and for the betterment of the community for all involved. The events of Christchurch a couple of weeks ago are a sad indictment of the lengths that some people can go to to treat their fellow human beings so poorly, with such disregard and such disdain.

In my electorate I have a population of six per cent or more whose heritage is Maori or New Zealander, according to the 2016 census. It is one of the abiding privileges of living in Australia, and our relationship with New Zealand that goes back so many years, that all of us in our communities have a large number of people who have New Zealand and Maori heritage. Equally, there would be many Australians who live in the New Zealand community. My fellow chair of the Australia-New Zealand parliamentary friendship group, Joel Fitzgibbon, and I took the opportunity shortly after the atrocity occurred to contact the New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia, Dame Annette King, and pass on our condolences. We also wrote to the high commissioner and to the New Zealand government and people to express our condolences and support for the New Zealand community.

I think, as many others do, all we can do in this place is condemn such a senseless act as occurred at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch on 15 March, which claimed the lives of 50 innocent men, women and children. My prayers and thoughts go out to all of those affected and to the whole of New Zealand. Equally, my thoughts and prayers are with my local Muslim community, including those at the Eagleby Kotku Mosque and the Baitul Masroor Mosque. I've met with a number of those people over the past couple of weeks, just in general conversations, and passed on my condolences and thoughts to them.

As I said at the outset, one of the great things about the community in which I live is that I don't see the things that, sadly, the member for Melbourne spoke about earlier. I see a community that is united, that seeks to ensure that the issues that may occur in other communities do not occur in ours. Irrespective of race, religion, colour or creed, we work extraordinarily hard to ensure that we have community harmony and unity. I want to call out the fact that there is no place in our communities for the hatred that was demonstrated in Christchurch. Events like that do nothing to build in our society and our community the cohesiveness and integrity that we need as a country, or as countries, to move forward.

As somebody who grew up in a migrant family—my parents came to Australia in the mid-1960s—I've had a variety of experiences, and I can say some of those weren't always pleasant. But I've tried not to let those experiences define me and, with my background, I'm very conscious to ensure that when I see those things happening in my community I call them out. I'm always focused on ensuring that for new arrivals to our country. I'm sure all of us in this place have the privilege of attending citizenship ceremonies. We get to meet some wonderful people who have sought to make Australia their new home. We welcome them with open arms and we say that during our ceremony. But it is not just about saying those words at citizenship ceremonies; it's actually about demonstrating and living that on a day-to-day basis in our communities. Those people have come here to create a new life for themselves, to be able to live free of fear. Many of them have come from very difficult circumstances overseas. As we saw with the attacks in Christchurch and other events that we've seen here in Australia, these people who desire to do our community harm and to break those bonds in our community that make it what it is today have no place.

I'm pleased to say that, with the support of those on the other side, we are seeing steps also being taken to reduce or eliminate the capacity for these sorts of acts of terrorism and other violent activities to be spread through social media. This is incredibly important, because the ability that is provided through these platforms can encourage others to undertake the same acts. I know the member for Melbourne Ports, in his valedictory speech the other day, touched on the fact that in a lot of cases we don't even know if they're real people on those social media platforms. I think that was a very valid point by the member for Melbourne Ports.

I hope the steps that all of us are taking in this place, in that space, in time will help improve the situation. I think the most important step we can take as members of our community is to continue to engage with our communities, to ensure that we encourage them to continue to work together and respect all in our communities, irrespective of their background, values or beliefs. We can always learn from others. I say that to schoolkids regularly: be prepared to learn from others. Most importantly, treat others as you would have them treat you. We are all human beings who want to lead a safe, prosperous life not only for ourselves but for our families, for our kids. We all want a better future for our communities.

My heart goes out to the families in Christchurch who have lost their loved ones. My thoughts and prayers are with them. I know the New Zealand government is doing a tremendous job to help support those families in a very difficult time. I hope they also know that they have the full support of the Australian community as well. My friends in the New Zealand community in my electorate of Forde also know that they have our support in this very difficult circumstance. I'd like to thank all of those in my community who have taken time out to pass on their thoughts and condolences to the families and community of New Zealand as well.

I think we should be very proud of our country and our multicultural society. Are there issues and concerns? Yes. And, sadly, there will always be people who seek to do harm. But, provided we stay strong as a community and also look at the good that occurs, I think our society and our community can be so much better as a result. To the people of New Zealand: my heartfelt condolences and sympathies.