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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14767

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (17:06): I join colleagues in speaking to this condolence motion. For the people who have died in New Zealand I am deeply saddened. To their families and friends: I offer my profound condolences. To those injured: I wish them a full recovery. To the survivors of the shootings: my words cannot erase your horrific experience or the scars that you will carry throughout your life but I hope that they provide some comfort to you. Yesterday we heard statements in the House from both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. They spoke for all Australians, and I believe that their words overwhelmingly captured the sentiments of our nation.

This is a time when words matter. They matter to the Muslim community and they matter to those with evil thoughts and evil intent. As with the Port Arthur killings, the Twin Towers attack and the Bali bombings, the New Zealand mosque killings will be embedded in my memory. The image of defenceless people without warning facing a violent death is not something that I can easily dismiss. These were people going about their daily lives like all of us do every day. Their lives were ended suddenly, their dreams cut midstream, their families left with emptiness that only those who have suddenly had a loved one taken from them will ever understand. Their lives were ended not by accident but deliberately by a person whom they had probably never met and whom they had never caused harm to. This was a deranged person who was driven by prejudice and racism.

Prejudice and racism have led to discrimination and persecution of people for as long as mankind has lived. History is filled with many such examples. But the sadistic killing of innocent people which occurred in Christchurch takes prejudice and racism to a level that most people—even racists—find abhorrent. For that reason, the perpetrator has failed in his ultimate cause and managed to unite people more so than to divide them. He has highlighted that, regardless of our differences, we have much more in common with each other than that which divides us.

The Christchurch killings would understandably leave many Muslim people in Australia and New Zealand feeling vulnerable, insecure and unwanted. I said earlier that the words of political and civic leaders at this time matter greatly. I was heartened by the overwhelming show of support and compassion shown to Muslims across the two countries by so many people.

In Adelaide I attended a public candlelight vigil at Elder Park on the banks of the River Torrens where hundreds of people came together to express their sorrow for the lives lost and their moral support for the wider Muslim community. As always has been the case, tragedy brings out the best in people, and so too it was in Adelaide. Can I say that unity was not just from normal members of the community but indeed from civic leaders, including civic leaders across all religious faiths. It was wonderful to see. I hope it brought some reassurance to the people of Adelaide, and in particular to the Muslim community of Adelaide, that they are not only supported but that we share their sorrow with them.

In my own electorate, I represent many people of Muslim faith and I've got to know many of them personally and well. I call them friends. They are good people who, like so many before them, came to Australia or went to New Zealand in search of a better life. They should not be judged on how they dress, how they speak, where they came from or what religion they follow but on what is in their hearts and in their minds. I reflect on the words of Martin Luther King in 1963 in his 'I have a dream' speech: he spoke of his children and said he hoped that 'one day they would not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character'. How true do those words ring when we think about those people who are discriminated against regularly throughout the world today, even here in our own country? I say to the people who are grieving: we here in Australia grieve with you. I grieve with you. Whilst you might grieve for your sisters and brothers in New Zealand about what happened, let me assure you that most Australians are as deeply offended by what happened as you are.

Lastly, I say this: we must learn from what happened in New Zealand and do all we can to ensure that the same doesn't happen again. Of course we should remain vigilant to what is happening around us, because our law enforcement agencies alone cannot guarantee public safety for all people at all times in all places, nor should racial hatred and prejudice be tolerated under the umbrella of free speech, as so many other speakers have already said.

It will take much more than laws to end racism. It will take people, wherever they are, to speak out against it and take a stand. I hope that this motion in this parliament is an expression that will be noted by the Muslim community around Australia and an expression that will provide perhaps a minuscule level of comfort not only to the families of those people in New Zealand who have lost loved ones and to those who are still recovering but to the broader Muslim community, who I know right now are not only carrying the sorrow but also carrying their concerns about their members of their community.