Parliamentary speeches

Christchurch attacks

April 03, 2019

I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words in the debate on this important motion moved by our Prime Minister. I join in the spirit, which has been expressed consistently in this debate, of unequivocal condemnation of an appalling act of terror in Christchurch, at two mosques, and in recognition that we must condemn the hate that fuelled that act of terror.

Beyond expressing my condemnation, I want to briefly talk about three things that occur to me as important to be expressed in this debate on behalf of my constituents. They are: to speak of sorrow, to speak of solidarity and, perhaps most fundamentally, to speak of responsibility. I do so having listened to many contributions in this debate, including that of the Prime Minister, which I was pleased to listen to in the chamber, and that of my leader, the member for Maribyrnong, who I think gave the best speech I have heard him deliver—of many great speeches—in setting out a principled framework to respond to this act of terror, and to assume our responsibilities, broadly defined.

I think it is important though to start with expressing my sorrow. It is simply impossible to imagine the consequences of the terrorism on those directly affected. They are the worshippers, their families, their friends, the community they are a part of, the responders and the entire New Zealand community. As I've joined others in wonderment at the leadership shown by Prime Minister Ardern, I've found myself thinking of the impact this has had and will continue to have on that country and this community. I express all my sorrow and all my best feelings to all New Zealanders, but particularly to the New Zealand Islamic community.

I want to talk about solidarity with all New Zealanders. I think all of us in Australia understand the special relationship we have with our neighbours across the Tasman, but with the Islamic community in New Zealand, especially, and the Muslim community in Australia. I'm very proud to represent a large, vibrant and diverse Muslim community in the Scullin electorate. As a person of no religious faith, I've been touched by the welcome that's been extended to me at the Epping mosque, particularly at the Thomastown mosque, and the great relationships and friendships I have around Al Siraat College, which has been such a hub of the Islamic communities of Melbourne's north. I know how much these events have shocked and affected everyone associated with those communities.

I've done my best, along with my state parliamentary colleagues, to indicate my unswerving support for these communities. I was really touched on the Saturday morning following the terrorism. I stopped by the Thomastown mosque—it was reasonably early in the morning—to drop off some flowers and a note, having spoken with the president the night before. I was touched to see so many flowers and so many notes from other community members expressing their solidarity. It's that spirit of solidarity, on behalf of the Scullin community, that I want to make very clear in this place.

Lastly, I want to talk about responsibility, because we can't shy away from a couple of hard facts in this debate. One is that the person who committed the murders, the act of terror, was an Australian. We can't shy away from that fact. We can't shy away from our responsibility to ensure that every member of our community feels that they are truly a part of it. That goes to how we all conduct ourselves in this place. I think we can all do better at expressing our differences in a manner that is more respectful. We also have to acknowledge, as others have done in this debate eloquently and effectively, that words matter and words can hurt.

I was so pleased that the Senate has so fundamentally repudiated the vile contribution of a senator whose name I won't mention in this place. I think that sends a very strong signal to people who are feeling under siege, to people who feel threatened, that we are on their side. It is about solidarity. It is about showing that we are all together in this. It is about showing our faith in love over hate, in hope over fear, in what we have in common being so much stronger than anything that might be seen as dividing us from our neighbours and our friends. But it also means that all of us who are in positions of leadership have to assume the responsibility, and we have to be clear—in standing up for those who are vulnerable, in standing up for those who are marginalised—that we are standing, in this place and in our communities, against the far Right hate speech which fuelled this awful act of terror.

It is with great sorrow that I participate in this debate, but I have been so heartened by the contributions my colleagues have made in it. I hope that brings a measure of condolence to those directly affected but also a measure of comfort to the hopeful multicultural society we can, should and will be.