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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14445


Mr MORRISON (CookPrime Minister) (14:01): I move:

That this House:

(1) expresses its condemnation of the terrorist attack on the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques by an Australian citizen in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 that claimed 50 innocent lives as they came to prayer, and our grief for and solidarity with the people of New Zealand who have suffered this terrible and appalling assault on the quiet peace of their nation;

(2) expresses our solidarity with the Muslim community of Christchurch, New Zealand and our own nation at this time of affliction;

(3) honours the courage and presence of first responders, and all who came to help in whatever way they could;

(4) abhors racism and religious intolerance, acknowledges and celebrates the diversity and harmony of our Australian people and our respect for people from all faiths, cultures, ethnicities and nationalities that has made Australia one of the world's most successful immigration nations and multicultural societies; and

(5) reaffirms our commitment as Australians to peace over violence, innocence over evil, understanding over extremism, liberty over fear and love over hate.

New Zealand is family and I welcome the deputy high commissioner, who is here with us today. They are 'fanau', as the Maori say. New Zealanders are more like us than anywhere else in the world. The atrocity in Christchurch was an attack on our family. Unimaginably, it was an attack undertaken by an Australian. We feel shock, we feel grief, we are stunned and shamed that he came from among us and grew up among us. He may be an Australian by birth and by law but his actions and beliefs betray all that is and forever will be Australian, and we denounce it absolutely. Our thoughts and our prayers, our love and support are only with those he attacked. Our Queen, who we share with our Kiwi cousins, once said this of New Zealanders: it is a country characterised by 'a sense of fairness and justice, a willingness to be outward looking and a natural compassion for others'—so true.

Australia has responded in kind. In recent weeks we have seen tens of thousands of acts of kindness. There have been prayers not just in mosques but in churches, synagogues and temples all around our country and in the quiet homes, I'm sure, of Australians. The silver fern shone on our opera house, expressing our solidarity across the ditch. Our flags were lowered, including above us here in this very chamber. Schoolchildren did drawings and wrote letters sharing their sadness. Our Muslim community here reached out, many travelling to New Zealand to assist their brethren and their sisters. At a government-to-government level we have provided every assistance you would expect us to and beyond.

New Zealand, of course, has first-class police, medical staff and first responders, but the scale of what they faced was unimaginable. It would have overwhelmed any city, particularly a city the size of Christchurch, in Australia. Australia has provided that support, and I want to thank all of those agencies at state and federal levels who were so quick to respond—our police, forensic specialists, victim support officers and intelligence analysts—where it was needed. Even now I understand counsellors from the New South Wales ambulance service are there to help the first responders.

Throughout all of this we have stood together. Last Friday, led by the Governor-General, the Leader of the Opposition and I attended the memorial service in Christchurch, joined by Lady Cosgrove, Chloe and Jenny. We were all touched by the service, by the people we met and their resolute determination to answer hate with love. One survivor who I met, Mr Farid Ahmed, who spoke at the service, said probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard someone say under such horrendous circumstances. He didn't speak of revenge, hurt or loss, even though it was his own wife who had been killed by the terrorist whilst she sought to assist him. Instead, he spoke in the great tradition of the Abrahamic faiths of forgiveness and he said he forgives—very powerful words. That's what conquers evil. That's what conquers hate. That beautiful service affirmed what we knew: that understanding will conquer division, that tolerance will always conquer fear and that love will always triumph overall. That powerful ethos reflected what I had seen in Australia when I met with Muslim leaders, including the mufti, the day after the Christchurch atrocity. Naturally there is deep and profound grief, but with grief there must also come reflection and answers. We owe that to all of those afflicted. The terrorist did live amongst us for just 45 days over the past three years. It is quite apparent that he acquired this vile radicalisation as he toured the world on a pilgrimage of hate and intolerance that met in the most tragic events for those victims.

What else must be done to keep people safe? Of course we have asked those questions and have been answering them. How do we stop social media being weaponised by terrorists? We have been responding to that question as well. We must again, as we do right now, reaffirm what we as Australians believe and the society we stand for.

This House knows, and I believe would share—I would hope—our commitment to religious freedom. It starts with the right to worship and to meet safely without fear. It means not looking over your shoulder or hiding who you are as you sit down to pray. It means to live without ridicule, to live without mocking for your beliefs and to live without violence or discrimination. Each day this House meets, it opens with a prayer. Long may that continue. Let our prayers now be for understanding, for restoration and for resolve to defy the hate and to focus on what we share, to understand, appreciate and respect the difference between us all and to perhaps agree more but to always disagree better.

At the heart of all extremism—religious, secular or political—is the inability to tolerate difference, a hatred of difference, and a hatred about the choices of others. We must strive to see the 'us' in our national life and to celebrate it, an Australian 'us' of different faiths, of different ethnicities, of different ages, genders and sexualities, an Australian 'us' that rejects the hate, the blame and contempt that grip too much of modern debate. So we pause today, and we remember and we reflect, and we resolve to renew the bonds between us. Eight centuries ago, the Muslim poet and scholar Rumi said:

We may know who we are or we may not. We may be Muslims, Jews or Christians but until our hearts become the mould for every heart we … see only our differences.

May this be a time when our hearts do mould together and where we remind ourselves of our similarities, for this is the best way we honour the 50 souls no longer with us.