Christchurch Mosques Attack | SPEECH


The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (11:54): I strongly support the Premier’s motion and acknowledge the unanimous support for the motion in this chamber—and I am not in the very least surprised by that. As I have said in this chamber before, any loss of life is sad, any unexpected death is confronting and any avoidable death is tragic.

I believe that is true, but what we are talking about at the moment is something so much more. You take those very human, very natural, very real feelings and multiply them by 50 at once—50 people killed. You consider the fact that they were deliberately, hatefully killed in a pre-planned way. You think about the fact that this has happened unexpectedly in our part of the world; not in our nation, but certainly in our part of the world and in another country that we would all think of as the most similar to Australia.

Overlay that with the fact that it was perpetrated in a place of worship. Forget Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, non-believers; it was a place of worship, whatever your choice of worship might be. My place of worship is in the Flinders Ranges. It does not matter; it is a place of worship and people were massacred, 50 of them at once. It is hard to absorb all that when you think about what we feel and understand when one person dies tragically, unexpectedly. Of course our initial reactions are incredibly strong and incredibly confusing: sympathy, anger, fear, support, care, in some cases hatred, as has previously been said.

It is not unnatural to think that one of your first responses could even be hatred for a person who would do that. What really counts is what our long-term reactions will be. What will we do as regular men and women on the street, what will we do as elected leaders, what will we do as a government, what will we do as a parliament, in the medium and the longer term? That is what really counts: how we react, how we decide who we are, what we stand for, what we will accept and what we will not accept whilst still retaining our freedoms, our rights, our individuality, our democracy, our open community.

I believe very firmly—and I am sure that others do, too—that you are allowed to think what you think. We can have different views about what people think, you are allowed to think what you think, but you cannot harm others based on your thoughts, based on your beliefs. As a state, as a nation, as a world, we should never, ever accept that people can be hurt based on the thoughts other people might have.

When I think of open community, freedom, rights, individuality, democracy I think of Marree, a very small town in my electorate of Stuart. It is a very small town with a population of 80 or 90 where, as has already been mentioned today, I am very proud to say the first mosque in Australia was established. It still stands. It is not used much, but it still stands and it is a very important symbol in that wonderful small town. It has a thatched roof and is next to some palm trees, some date palms. It is open, no walls, with wooden pillars or columns just holding up the thatched roof, and it is right in the middle of town. It is a precious place for everybody in Marree.

There are still Afghans in Marree, there are still Aboriginals, there are still pastoralists, there are still tourists. Every type of person you can imagine comes through Marree—rich, poor, young, old, men, women, foreigners, Australians—but for the local people in Marree who are Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal and Afghan, this is still an incredibly important place.

This mosque that was established in Marree 158 years ago—the first one in Australia—is still an important place today, and that community is open, friendly and robust. People are willing and able to share their views very openly. They are from all different walks of life, and it is a very harmonious place as well. It is not perfect. No community is perfect, but I cannot think of anywhere where people of so many different backgrounds who live there get on so well. Full credit to Marree, and full credit to Marree for being the first place to have a mosque and for still being such a shining example.

There is another element to this issue, which is very difficult, I am sure, for all of us, and that is the fact that the alleged murderer of 50 people in a place of worship in our part of the world is an Australian. Who among us does not feel some shame about the fact that it seems that it was one of us who committed this horrible, inexplicable act?

Over the last several days of trying to absorb all of this, learn and think what I could do, how I could help, what it really means, etc., I have not been touched by anything more than a radio interview that I heard. It was a radio interview with an Islamic man, and I am sorry I just cannot remember the station. An Islamic man was being interviewed in Australia and he said that so many Anglo-Australians have come up to him and said, ‘I am sorry. I am really sorry that it was one of us who did this to your broader community, albeit in New Zealand. I am really sorry that it was one of us, it seems, who did this to your people.’

The response was, ‘Don’t be sorry that it was an Australian who did this. Think about how we as Muslims feel when Muslim extremists in other parts of the world do things like this and how it reflects on us unfairly. Don’t be sorry that an Australian did it. Think about the fact that we are Muslims, we are good Muslims and when a bad Muslim does something it reflects on us in the same way that you think it reflects on you. Don’t think about the reflection. Accept, please, that we are good as you are good.’ I am paraphrasing, of course, but that had a profound effect on me. I thought that was incredibly instructive.

It is extremism and intolerance that cause these things. It is not any walk of life, it is not a race, it is not a religion, it is not an age: it is extremism. It is the belief that your opinions are so valid that you are entitled to harm people. That is what we have to fight against. That is what we need to rail against, and I am confident that our parliament can do that. I am confident that we can do it. There is not any skerrick of hesitation in any member in this chamber—and I am sure it is the same in the other place—to support this motion from the Premier.

Also in this parliament we have a Malinauskas, we have a Koutsantonis, we have a Pisoni, we have a van Holst Pellekaan, and do you know what? We have a Habib. We have a Habib, and I cannot tell you how proud I am of the member for Elder for not changing her maiden name until after she was elected, to prove that she was good enough, to prove that her electorate was good enough, to not accept the scandalous, racist imputations that were placed on her.

I cannot tell you how proud I am of her. That is quite consistent with her decision to adopt her married name after being elected. She was strong enough to say, ‘I was born a Habib. I am an Australian. I turned up here. I want to run for parliament and I am not changing my name until I get there.’ It is absolutely outstanding. Let me tell you also, we have a Marshall, we have a Chapman, we have a Close, and we have a Hughes. Our parliament can do this. We can be united leaders in this effort.

Let me finish by passing on my thanks and my care to all the emergency services workers, the first responders, in New Zealand, who would have had to deal with something that they would never have imagined. I am in the CFS. I am not a professional by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that even for professionals—MFS, police, etc.—the idea that they might go to support people when 50 people have been massacred in a place of worship is a long, long way down the track in their training. Sure, it is contemplated and addressed, but it really is not the sort of thing they would have expected to have to do in their work.

Thank you to those people. Let’s not underestimate the long-term impact upon them. Of course, I give my condolences to the family and friends of the people who have passed away—the 50 people who were massacred—and my support, care and love to those who were injured, who I hope will make a speedy and very long-term recovery.