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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 10420

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (12:37): May I acknowledge and thank all of the leaders who have spoken today for their words.

The events of 15 March shook New Zealand, shook Australia and shook the world. We were all horrified, devastated and appalled by what happened in Christchurch: an attack on innocent people in a place of worship. The attack on Christchurch was an attack on all of us. It was a despicable, right-wing extremist attack—horrifically, perpetrated by an Australian—that was designed to instil fear and hatred, and to incite fear and hatred. It was an attack that was designed to divide us. We will let it do neither.

Australia rejects everything this attacker stood for. His views are abhorrent to the fundamental values for which we stand in our nation. Religious freedom and tolerance are fundamental to open, multicultural and resilient societies, and Australia and New Zealand are two of the most outstanding examples of such societies in the world. Our differences are what make us stronger—our compassion, our understanding and acceptance of others is what enables us to flourish as individuals.

In the days since the attacks on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, we've been somewhat heartened by the spontaneous acts of kindness across our nation. Australians of every faith and no faith from across the country came together in the aftermath of the attacks to remember those who lost their lives in this massacre and to show solidarity, including with our Muslim friends and neighbours. From those who have placed flowers in front of mosques to those who offered to stand guard where people worshipped and to those who've paid tribute and prayed across our nations the message is clear: tolerance will prevail. As the Prime Minister said at the Lakemba mosque in Sydney the day after the attack: 'What we say today is no. Peace and love will triumph.'

We live in not only a diverse and successful nation but the most diverse region in the world. Across South-East Asia we have Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, to name only a few, living in peace, overwhelmingly, side by side. We celebrate and cherish that diversity. It's part of what makes our region unique and special. In the wake of Christchurch, Australia renews its commitment to religious freedom and to the friendship and understanding that unites the people of our region. In practical terms, we continue to support our neighbours in New Zealand as they investigate the circumstances surrounding this atrocity. New Zealand has world-class police and medical forensic staff, and our teams are honoured to be working with them.

Our thoughts and our feelings turn often to and remain with the victims and their families and with the community of Christchurch, who continue to be deeply impacted by this senseless and horrific attack. It's our duty to ensure that we do everything within our powers to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. It is our responsibility as leaders and as parliamentarians to do everything in our power to ensure that.

Like many of you, I'm sure I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when the news of the attacks came to me. I'll never forget the overwhelming feeling of pure shock and horror. I'll never forget the tears that the pain caused to our neighbour and the pain caused to families, communities and followers of the Muslim faith in New Zealand, here and elsewhere. I've reached out to counterparts around the world whose country's citizens were also lost in this attack. I've conveyed our condolences and assured them that this person's actions do not represent the values for which Australia stands.

Now, more than ever, we must come together to encourage tolerance and respect between faiths and across our communities. There will always be those who seek to drive us apart, but our work is to ensure that their hate only strengthens our resilience, tolerance, compassion and cooperation at home and across our region.