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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14773


Ms O'TOOLE (Herbert) (17:36): Firstly, my thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of those who were tragically murdered in New Zealand by an Australian terrorist. I stand in this place today on behalf of the people of Herbert, in solidarity and sorrow with our New Zealand families. Australia is a great multicultural country and we have benefited enormously from our diversity, both socially and economically. Australians and New Zealanders are brothers and sisters. We are family; we are the Anzacs. Together we mourn for our New Zealand brothers and sisters.

I stand here also to pay my deep respect to the memory of the 50 people murdered at their Friday prayers: people at their most vulnerable and humble—children as young as three and four years old. These were people praying in peace. I offer my words of comfort and condolence to the injured and the frightened—to those grappling with the loss of someone they love. I deeply admire your faith, love and forgiveness, and I know that this will help you greatly as you continue living your lives without your loved ones. I also pay my deep respects to the first responders, as they too will have to live with what they witnessed for the rest of their lives.

This atrocious act of terrorism must be a warning, a call for us to pause and reflect. Let me be very clear: as a nation, we will be judged by the standard we walk past. When we think of terrorism, we think of those who we perceive to be of a different faith or culture—people who may be far away. But the reality is that this act of terrorism happened to our neighbours, on their land, by one of our own, an Australian. I think we need to let that sink in: an Australian terrorist. Those are words I never thought I'd utter. We must reflect on this and consider how we as a nation will rethink our view of terrorism and who the terrorists actually are. We need to reflect on our judgemental values and beliefs, that terrorism is always caused and created by another or elsewhere—that somehow extremism and hatred, and the violence that terrorists incite, can only be brought in from overseas. Hatred only begets hatred and violence only begets violence. The Australian terrorist who committed this dreadful act was not born with hatred in his heart; he learned hatred and it grew into an act of unspeakable violence.

Not all extreme right-wing hate speech ends in terror and racial violence, but all terrorism and racial violence begins with extreme hate speech. If there is a swamp of extremism and prejudice and we say nothing and do nothing then we cannot disown what crawls out of that swamp. As I said earlier, as a nation we will be judged by the standard that we walk past. How many times have we heard a racial slur, a racial comment, and said nothing? How many times have we walked by a conversation or an interaction where we witness someone from a different race or culture being verbally abused and continued to walk on? The events in Christchurch surely bring us to a point of serious reflection. This is everybody's responsibility in our country, because we will no longer allow those beliefs to foster in a dark swamp. We will no longer allow those beliefs to be cast into the shadows. Instead, we will shine a light on this behaviour and we will call it out for what it is: extreme far Right racism. We must decide what kind of community we want to live in. Do we choose to allow those around us to speak in hate or fear? Or do we choose to live in a community of hope, compassion, understanding and inclusion?

Dr Martin Luther King famously said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I want to say to the Muslim community in my electorate: I stand in solidarity with you, as do the rest of my community, and I thank you for your response of love and forgiveness. Thank you for inviting me to the mosque on the Sunday after that dreadful Friday, to sit with you all in peace, love and forgiveness. The words shared at the mosque were of hope, love and forgiveness. The imam spoke in an amazingly compassionate manner.

My congratulations also go to Prime Minister Ardern, as she handled this appalling situation with amazing leadership. She led from the heart. She showed compassion and love as she met with the affected families. I stand here in this place to commit to my community that I will always lead with love, hope and compassion.