SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SPEECH

2 April 2019

CONDOLENCE MOTION – CHRISTCHURCH ATTACK – SENATE – CANBERRA

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I rise on behalf of the Labor Party to support the condolence motion moved by Senator Cormann that I hope will be reflected in the broadest possible vote across this chamber.

Just over two weeks ago, fifty New Zealanders were murdered in a tragic act of violence.

Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons gunned down at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch.

Killed in their place of worship as they came together for Friday prayers.

So I begin by expressing our compassion, our sympathy and our support to friends and families of all those lost, and all who are injured and recovering.

We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand, with the Muslim community, and with Muslim peoples everywhere.

The stories of the victims are heartbreaking.

Teenagers and children as young as three and four years old.

A brave woman who helped to save other women and children but was shot dead when she went back into the Al Noor mosque to help her wheelchair-bound husband.

People who had come to New Zealand as refugees, escaping war, civil strife and conflict in their home countries to be attacked in a place of peace and sanctuary.

And they were attacked because of their faith.

The attacks were horrific acts of violence.

They were acts of terrorism, and at their core, they were acts of hatred.

This we must understand. These were acts of hatred.

The terrorist was welcomed into the Mosque as a brother and he responded with hate, and with bullets.

It is an act of terrorism, an act of hatred that has shocked this nation.

For Australians, New Zealanders are family and we mourn with them.

Our distress has been magnified by the fact that the right-wing violent extremist responsible for this act of terror is an Australian.

An extremist, right-wing, violent Australian terrorist.

I hope I speak for all of us when we say this man does not represent Australian values.

This man is not who we are.

So to the Muslim community in New Zealand and across our nation we say:

We know that you are experiencing great pain and sorrow.

We stand with you.

We abhor these acts of extremist violence.

We reject the extreme right-wing ideology, the hatred and the intolerance, that led to, and fuelled these acts of extremist violence.

Most importantly we reject hatred in all its forms.

Together we stand for Australian values of inclusion, acceptance and respect; a belief in equality; the rejection of racism; the rejection of prejudice; the rejection of division.

These are the values of our Australia.

This is the nation in which we have faith.

It is the responsibility of all leaders – political, community, religious – to stand united against hatred.

Because we saw tragically in the loss of life in Christchurch where hatred leads us.

We know these truths: a nation divided is never stronger.

Making others lesser, fanning prejudice and discrimination, has never made a nation safer.

No group within our society is immune from the effects of hatred.

And we know it is the responsibility of all of us to stand against hatred in all its forms, and embrace tolerance, acceptance and honour our shared humanity.

In New Zealand, we have seen the power of leadership.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has demonstrated the power of a leader who stands firm in the face of hate and fear.

A leader who demonstrates love and gives hope.

A leader who rejects division and embraces unity.

Speaking at the Christchurch memorial on Friday, Prime Minister Ardern spoke as this kind of leader:

“Racism exists, but it is not welcome here.

An assault on the freedom of any one of us who practices their faith or religion, is not welcome here.

Violence, and extremism in all its forms, is not welcome here.

And over the last two weeks we have shown that, you have shown that, in your actions.”

This is the leadership that we must all demonstrate if we are to end the cycle of extremism, to end the cycle of hatred that underpins this.

And it is leadership that has been reflected and enhanced by the actions and words of the people of New Zealand in how they have responded to this.

The power of our shared humanity to overcome hate was on display most powerfully by Farid Ahmed.

Farid is the husband of the brave woman about whom I spoke.

Farid and Husna were in separate rooms at the Al Noor Mosque.

After leading women and children to safety, Husna returned to the Mosque to help Farid – who uses a wheelchair and could not flee.

She was shot and killed. He survived.

Speaking at the memorial on Friday, Farid spoke about the journey he had been on in the two weeks following the attack.

“This heart doesn’t like that the pain I have gone through that any human being should go through that kind of pain. That’s why I have chosen peace. I have chosen love and I have forgiven.

“Each human being is my brother, is my sister. This is my faith and this is what Allah has taught me. That’s why I do not hate him and I cannot hate him. I cannot hate anyone.”

Farid demonstrates the power of love to overcome pain and sadness.

Let us honour his graciousness and let us respond in kind.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks, the Imam Hasan Centre issued a statement. It is a statement, I think notable for its graciousness, and one I which have drawn on in the days following the attack.

“It is times like this that we lose hope and doubt humanity, when people of faith come under attack in such a way, it shows us how low humanity can fall. However, it never ceases to amaze how far humanity can rise after such despicable events”.

“United as a community, we can overcome these barbaric events wherever they happen. Divided we become barbaric ourselves and the innocent lives lost around the world should be a sign for us to unite against hate.”

This is the time to show those who seek to divide us just how far humanity can rise.

In the words of the Maori proverb:

He aha / te mea nui / o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

To the people of New Zealand, and in particular the New Zealand Islamic community, your Australian family grieves with you.

Like you we mourn the tragic loss of life.

We stand with you in this time of sorrow and sadness and we commit to stand against hatred in all its forms.

We commit to work together towards a society where all are welcome, and all may live in peace and security.

My hope is that as leaders we will once again work together to articulate and defend the Australian values and principles that underpin who we are and what we believe.

The values of inclusion, acceptance, respect, equality.

Let us choose unity not division.

Let us choose respect not prejudice

Let us choose hope not fear.

And above all let us all choose love not hate.

In doing so we make our nation stronger, at home and in the world.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.