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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8334


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (15:47): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance and the Public Service (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Di Natale today relating to the Muslim community.

The Australian Greens would like to send our deepest sympathies of the family and friends of Sisto Malaspina, the man who died in the Bourke Street tragedy. He was an institution in Melbourne. Pellegrini's is the heart and soul of the city. I shared many a meal there with the staff of Pellegrini's and with Sisto, and I am deeply saddened by his loss. We lost a little bit of Melbourne when we lost Sisto.

What happened was a heinous crime. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. It's something that has impacted not just on our city but, indeed, on the rest of the country. How we respond to this crime is a test for all of us. It's a test of our decency and of our humanity. It's a test of whether we are prepared to come together as a community to prevent further violent crime or whether we are going to seek to use this as a political opportunity.

The Australian Muslim community, its imams and its leaders have worked hard at confronting violent extremism in its all forms. They are the community that is impacted the most by this crime. They feel the pain and loss of a member of the community like Sisto, and they are the target of attacks and taunts from members of the community who seek to smear an entire group because of the actions of an individual.

What we saw from the Prime Minister was a calculated political decision to target an entire community for the actions of one criminal. The Muslim community have worked hard to ensure that they do what they can to engage their young people so that they ensure this is a community that contributes—as it has done for so many generations.

In my question I referenced the work of the Somali community through their community support groups. I referenced the work of MyCentre Support Services. I referenced the work of the imams, the National Zakat Foundation Australia, Muslims Australia and so many more who have done what they can to continue to make a wonderful contribution to this nation. Yet, in response, we saw the Prime Minister—together with his offsider, Matthew Guy—single out Muslim religious leaders for special responsibility. Indeed, this was implying that they are somehow responsible for the actions of this criminal. That is a responsibility that no other individual, religion or community is expected to bear. Somehow, the actions of one person entitle the Prime Minister to denigrate and diminish an entire community of faith. That's not a burden that is placed on any other community.

At times like this, our responsibility is to bring people together. The Prime Minister says that it's critical that the Muslim community do more—that they call this out—when that is what they do with their sermons, with their engagement with the community, with the youth work that's being done and with the donations that are being collected to advance the cause of harmony and unity within that great multicultural nation we call Australia.

As politicians, we shouldn't seek to smear; we should seek to unite. We stand united with the Muslim community. We feel your pain. We feel the pain of Sisto Malaspina and his family. We share in your grief and we stand with you together, not divided. (Time expired)