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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14780


Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (18:10): Firstly, I acknowledge the contributions that have been made by my colleagues the member for Chifley and the member for Macarthur. I found them both extremely moving and quite insightful. I come to this place having spent a long time here, and I have to say that this is an occasion of reflection. It brings to mind the fact that we have come across the parliament to express our love and condolences for the people of Christchurch and, particularly, the families of those who were so brutally slain by a bigot—someone whose heart was full of hate.

I have an association with Christchurch through my partner, Elizabeth, who is a Kiwi. Her family live in Christchurch—her mum, her sister, her nephews. That place has been through enormous hardship over a number of years. It is such a beautiful place but it has been the subject of such horror, as we saw very recently on 15 March. That someone who may not have been deranged but quite deliberately undertook an act of violence and hate against people who were in the safety of their prayer house, of their mosque, is so shocking that it's difficult to appreciate or understand how a human being could do as this person did—knowingly, wantonly killing people. For me, it just does not compute. The idea of bigotry and hatred of anyone is beyond my comprehension.

My two colleagues have, in their own ways, talked about the importance of us calling out hate, intolerance, discrimination and racism. We must call it out at every opportunity. We should never, ever, ever let it pass us by. We would like to think we are leaders in the community, especially those of us in this place. As leaders, it's up to us to point out the stupidity of this sort of activity and the pain that it causes, and our obligation to each other and to our community to bring people together and to make sure that people feel safe. This is about safety—safety in understanding who I am. It doesn't matter who you are, what your religion is or how you dress; you should feel safe living here in this country of ours.

I don't think there could be anyone who watched the magnificence of the Prime Minister of New Zealand talking about 'us', in her terms—their nation. We are who we are, as we are who we are, and it is up to us to ensure that we put our arms around our brothers and sisters, regardless of who they are or where they're from, and guarantee that, with our expression of love, they are part of us and that we are part of them.

I had the great privilege of attending an event in the hall adjacent to the Darwin mosque the week after this horrific event and being given the privilege to speak at what was a multifaith exercise with hundreds of people present. Community members were just turning up to show how much of an abomination they thought this act was and how important it was they showed love and support for our Islamic brothers and sisters who, in this case, were in Darwin but, of course, are across Australia.

I have a very small Islamic community on Cocos Island and another on Christmas Island. I know these people well. They are wonderful Australians, and their faith is the centre of their being. I'm a Christian. I'm a pretty poor Catholic, but, you know, I know about faith and I know how deeply people feel about their faith, and that's not a bad thing; that's a bloody good thing. And, whether you're an agnostic or someone of faith, the appreciation of the person with faith that the agnostic is allowed not to be a believer, without any imposition of their will, is what we are about.

We've heard of—well, I don't know how to describe it and I don't even want to refer to the idiot who belongs in this other place over here, who made such a horrific statement post the events in Christchurch, but, sadly, I think we have to admit to the fact that there is a very dark underbelly of racism still in this country. We need to call it out and, as the member for Macarthur has said, we have an obligation in this place to call it out whenever we see it.

I've never suffered from discrimination or racism apart from the fact that I'm an old bald white bloke, but I have had the experience of being with people who have been discriminated against in a very awful way. I'll just give you two examples. Many decades ago now I was working in Pitjantjatjara country of northern South Australia, and myself and a Pitjantjatjara person, a bloke, a wati, went on a field trip for three days—or four days, it may have been—driving around the bush, dirt roads, sleeping rough, eating off the camp fire in our swags. We were on our way back to Alice Springs and we called into a roadhouse early one morning to get some breakfast. We both walked in together, both of us dishevelled, both of us in very much the same space, except he was black and I was white, and at that roadside stop they were prepared to serve me but not him. Well, you can imagine. I'm a fairly forthright person, so we didn't stick around.

On another occasion I was working for the Central Land Council in Alice Springs, and we'd had a big Central Land Council meeting up at Daguragu on the Victoria River. We were driving back to Alice, and there was a big gang of people, a big mob of people, and I was travelling with a friend of mine who was a lawyer at the land council. We called into a roadhouse, again to get something to eat. They refused to serve us not because we were white but because we worked for an Aboriginal organisation. Now this is not a century ago; this is relatively recently. We see the suffering that occurs when people are discriminated against because of the racism that undoubtedly exists in some sour place in our community. We see it, and it really is up to us to reach across the table, or shake the hand, or put an arm around the shoulder and make sure that those people who are suffering this racism and discrimination understand that we're with them and we want to work with them to prevent it.

I don't know how any person with a decent conscience or an understanding of how they sit in our community could ever be a racist or could ever condemn someone because of their religion. And most importantly, in this time of—and we've suffered from it. The member for Macarthur pointed out we've suffered from the fact there have been people in this place who have sought to demonise our Islamic brothers and sisters in a way which was designed to cause division and hurt. Well, that's just causing division and hurt. It's not achieving a reasonable outcome for our community. We have an obligation to say to those people, 'You do not do that here.' If I had my way—which I don't, but if I did—if someone in this place were to repeat the performance of that clown who's a senator, then rather than give them the oxygen that they're getting, we should just send them to Coventry. We should just ignore them. We should turn our backs on them, don't relate to them, don't talk to them. And we should make sure the communities in which we live understand that we will not tolerate that behaviour.

And when we reflect again on the events of Christchurch, think about that man in the wheelchair who said, at the commemorative event in Christchurch that was so beautiful, he has forgiven the person who murdered his wife. That's love. I don't think there can be any better expression of what we as human beings should be feeling towards one another when it comes to understanding difference and accepting that it's okay to be different, it's okay to be who you are and to practice whatever religion you want. For us, it's an obligation that we have.

I am really pleased to have been able to say a few words of condolence, but I would ask that those of you who haven't to read, if you get the chance, or refer to Pat Dodson's contribution to the debate on the censure of Senator Anning in the Senate today. It is well worth a go. It is a really remarkable speech. I just want to finish by pinching some words of his, if I may? Senator Dodson said:

We must be of one voice and one heart on this issue. We turn our back against xenophobia, against hate crimes and against any gunmen who hold innocent people in their sights. We call out those who exploit fear and ignorance for political gain, who mock the traditional dress of women of another culture, who seek donations from the manufacturer of weapons of war to override our own laws and who argue that it's all right to be white. Their actions and exhortations would plunge this country back into the killing times—

which he referred to earlier in his speech, around the massacres of Aboriginal people, particularly in the north of Australia. He went on:

We should instead turn our faces to the light of a new future—a peaceful, non-violent, tolerant country of hope, respect and unity, a country where no innocent man, woman or child is ever again the victim of mass murder.

I say to those faithful mourning for their families in Christchurch: Allah yer'ham hom. Rest in peace.