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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14782


Mr DRUM (MurrayNationals Whip) (18:25): It has been an interesting time, to say the least, to sit in the chamber and listen to members reflecting on this tragedy in a different way. But it shouldn't be surprising. I'm sure all Australians found this very confronting and found different ways to deal with the tragedy that was the Christchurch massacre.

For 50 innocent people to have lost their lives when they were going about their weekly prayer seems totally unbelievable. Most certainly, my heartfelt best wishes go to those families who have to somehow or other put their lives back together and get on with it. We must also consider the many in hospitals, still, that are battling very serious injuries and wounds that may not ever heal properly, not to speak of the mental anguish and damage that has been done. The impacts of this act will go far beyond 50 lives. Fifty lives is easy to say but it just represents such carnage and damage to so many people in Christchurch.

It is an incredible shame to all of us that this murderer was from Australia, and it certainly makes us all wonder. This could very easily have happened right here at home. He could easily have been just as radicalised—maybe the ability to have semiautomatic guns has made a greater impact on the casualties. An enormous lesson has been learnt there. We go back to Port Arthur and realise what a fantastic series of decisions were made following that event.

So many members have spoken about the uncertainty that mainstream Australia has with the Muslim faith. My understanding is that this is largely based around ignorance and not understanding, and not having an opportunity to get to know people from within the Muslim faith, the various brands of the Muslim faith. Like I imagine most MPs did, I took the opportunity to catch up with a mosque—mine was the Albanian mosque—the following Friday when they had their prayer day. The Albanian mosque was built in Shepparton in the sixties. It's something we've always known has been there. It's been a totally normal addition to our city. Many of the friends I met there I didn't realise were Muslim. What we call multiculturalism now is just a very natural dynamic in the city of Shepparton.

We grew up with a larger portion of Indigenous friends at school than, I suppose, most places in Victoria. After the Second World War, we had a larger influx of Europeans that became Sheppartonians and worked the fruit orchards of the Goulburn Valley more than other areas of Shepparton. In the last 15 to 20 years we've had a greater influx of humanitarian and asylum seeker refugees that have found Shepparton their home and have adopted it. It's such a normal multicultural society. For a regional city, it is unique. It is very much par for the course when you go about your daily life.

What was staggering—and this has been touched on already by other speakers—was the love that came out of the Muslims at the end of their prayer session, when they were welcoming civic leaders and people who were invited along. They invited the whole city along—luckily, all 65,000 didn't turn up, but there was a significant crowd there. They were people who just wanted to show their compassion, care and concern. The way that they were welcomed was with not a skerrick of anything other than love. It took away this ignorance and the fear of the unknown. Again, while we believe in different messengers we believe in one God. Whether you're Christian or Muslim, there are different messengers but we believe in one God.

My comments about the day are, I suppose, not dissimilar to everyone else's: multiculturalism doesn't happen by accident. Harmonious multiculturalism doesn't happen by accident. It didn't happen by accident in Shepparton. Without a doubt, there are civic leaders and strong individuals in Shepparton who have been standing up for the last 50 or 60 years with a welcoming heart, making sure that new entrants into the city and the region were welcomed with strong and decisive leadership. The opportunities for our new Australians have always been strong, and their work ethic in the Goulburn Valley has been phenomenal. Their rewards have also been phenomenal.

Today we face new challenges in this area, but the recipe is the same. It's going to take strong civic leaders, strong people who shape opinions, to confront these issues with a very strong but welcoming heart to make sure that our new Australians are given every opportunity to take every advantage of this great country, irrespective of where they settle.

I think that one thing we have been taught by Christchurch is that only love will prevail, and that peace is what everybody wants. We have always taken peace for granted here in Australia. I think that what Christchurch also reminds us of is that maybe we shouldn't take anything for granted. We have to keep working at it and we have to keep being strong in our pursuit of a never-ending peace in this country. I think that if there is anything we can learn, it's to not take anything for granted in this field.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): I understand that it is the wish of honourable members to signify at this stage their respect and sympathy by rising in their places. I ask that all present do so.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the Federation Chamber.

Mr DRUM: by leave—I move:

That further proceedings be conducted in the House.

Question agreed to.