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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14748


Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (12:47): I too rise in support of this motion on the horrendous attacks that took place at the end of last month in Christchurch—on the tragic attacks, on the loss of lives, on this horrendous scenery that we saw on our TVs. I recall watching the TV in my office when bands came across the bottom saying, 'Terrorist attack,' or, 'A shooting in New Zealand'. I kept on reading, and as the news came through I was horrified and shocked to see this horrendous situation, especially because it was in our neighbourhood, in a nation that is so close to Australia. We have the same shared beliefs, the same values, the same democracy. We honour multiculturalism, we support multiculturalism and we are both multicultural countries. So I was in disbelief when I was watching it, as many Australians were. Our hearts go out to all of those families that lost loved ones in such a tragic situation.

The ability to absorb it—it became even more horrifying. We heard that the perpetrator of these horrendous acts was an Australian, someone from our nation, someone from our soil, here. That was a shock and a half. Then you think, 'Where did this hatred come from? Where did these feelings to destroy human lives come from?' It's just so sad to see this whole situation, to see someone who had gotten himself into such a state as to take the lives of innocent people who were praying on a normal Friday morning in their mosque, in a place that was meant to be a safe haven, where they could share their thoughts with God and do something they did on a regular basis. It was absolutely horrendous. As I said, the response was not to be believed.

Can I say that I suppose it was so shocking to us because we associate these things with horrendous acts that take place elsewhere in conflict zones and in politically unstable places. To see it here, I think, affected all of us. When you see people like this particular perpetrator and people that have the same views and opinions, you think that this shouldn't be happening in a nation like Australia. We are a multicultural nation. We're a nation that respects everyone's religious beliefs, political beliefs and freedom for democracy. People died in wars—in World War I, World War II and conflicts all around the world—to sustain the foundations of our democracy, which are: freedom of religion; freedom of political association; the same rights as anyone regardless of your race, colour, religion, et cetera. They're the things we should be honouring continuously in this nation. Think of those diggers that gave their lives in successive wars so we can have these freedoms. People that perhaps call themselves patriots, in terms of some of the statements that we've been hearing, are dishonouring those very people who gave their lives in the wars so we can have our freedom—so we can live freely and pray freely, just as those people were trying to do on that Friday morning at the mosque.

As I said, this was an act of pure hatred—an act of someone who had absorbed himself in vile hatred. Those are the only words that I can use. This is someone that had, perhaps, for whatever reason, absorbed himself in this intense hatred of someone that's a bit different, of someone that may believe in a different God or of someone that had a different religion or a different race. These are the things that we have to try and stamp out here in our nation. To do so, I think we need to be extremely careful in the language that we use as leaders of this nation and as people that have been elected to state parliaments, federal parliaments, ministerial positions or local government. We have to be conscious of the language that we use. We cannot use race and religion for political gain. We cannot do that in a country like Australia. Unfortunately, we've been seeing that for a number of years in this nation and in other places around the world. Even whilst this tragedy was unfolding, we saw a particular person who was elected to high office use language that was absolutely—I'll use the words—despicable and disgusting. To hear the language that he used, from someone who has been elected by the Australian democratic system to represent a nation that has its foundations and pillars of democracy on the freedom of religion and the freedom of participation in our democracy—he did so on the basis of picking up a few votes. How low can a human being be to use a situation like this tragedy that unfolded for the benefit of a few votes to perhaps be elected to the Senate? I'm so pleased by the censure motion moved by Senators Penny Wong and Mathias Cormann in the Senate.

Hopefully, we will get something out of this. What we'll get out of this is that we have to go back to those basic rights and the democracy that those diggers fought for in World War I, World War II and a whole range of conflicts. It was to ensure that we have our freedoms. Regardless of where you've come from, regardless of your religion, regardless of the colour of your skin, Australia is a democratic, free country. We can't fly the flag and say how democratic we are and how inclusive we are on the one hand and on the other hand have politicians using language that is discriminatory or takes out a whole community by using one word. That gives the ability to those haters out there to scramble on that one word and use it for their benefit.

The vast majority of Australians aren't racist. We've welcomed people from every corner of the world. This country has been built on migration and on multiculturalism. Unfortunately there are a few racist voices, and unfortunately they're very loud. Sometimes they seep through and people hear them, where they are packaged up as freedom of speech, as the freedom to have the right to say whatever they wish to say and to have a go at political correctness. Well, political correctness is not just political correctness; we use certain language because it is our duty to make sure that everyone is included, that we are an inclusive society. However, these racist messages do get out there to that very small minority of people, who then scramble on them and use them for their own benefit.

I have three mosques in my electorate, including the Park Holme mosque at Park Holme. They held a vigil on Sunday night after the attack. It was very heartening to see people from all walks of life, from every corner of South Australia, attend to pay their respects. We had every religion represented: Christianity, Buddhism—you name it, they were all there. It was so good to see the community come together to pay their respects and to ensure that we were standing as one with our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community and our brothers and sisters in New Zealand. I also have one of the oldest mosques in Australia in the electorate of Adelaide, which I'm hoping to represent in the next parliament. The little Sturt Street mosque was established in the late 1800s for the Afghani cameleers. Muslims have been part of our society and our nation for many years. I also have the Mahmood Mosque, which serves the Ahmadiyya community in Beverley. They held a vigil as well, which I spoke at, on the Friday one week after the attack. We also had our local mayor, Michael Coxon, and the state member, Joe Szakacs, in attendance.

The attack was a horrendous act, and we have to do all that we can to stamp out the language that is used that allows these people to have a platform. We have to ensure that we stamp it out as quickly and as soon as possible. One good thing that may come out of this is that we, as politicians, get an understanding of the damage that we cause when we use language that is targeted at particular groups.