Mr M O’BRIEN (Malvern—Leader of the Opposition): Martin Luther King Jr said:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
There can be few acts of greater evil than the massacre of innocent men, women and children at prayer, an act of both indescribable hatred and unutterable cowardice. This horrific act of terrorism was intended to set communities against each other. It will not succeed. That is why, echoing the words of Martin Luther King Jr, we respond with light and with love. We demonstrate to those who choose darkness and hate that they will not divide us; they only bring us closer. They will not weaken us; we will only become stronger.
In a week when our cousins in New Zealand are mourning the most tragic of losses at the hands of an act of terrorism we send our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those lost. We stand with all the people of New Zealand who are suffering a terrible hurt, who are mourning not only the loss of 50 of their citizens but are also mourning the loss of innocence and of the peace that they have previously enjoyed. We stand with the Muslim community in New Zealand as well as here in Victoria, people of faith who have had the sanctuary of their place of worship desecrated by bloodshed. They too have lost a sense of security. Their mosques should be a place where the worries of the outside world can be left behind for a time while they pray and honour God. Those Muslim communities should know that people of all faiths, as well as people of no faith, stand with them and support them, especially at this terrible time.
While some discussed the terrorist who took the lives of others, we should celebrate people like Abdul Aziz, whose courage led him to pick up a credit card machine and throw it at the gunman and chase him into his car, saving countless lives at Linwood mosque. We should honour those who did not survive, including people like Haji Daoud Nabi, who at Al Noor stepped directly in front of a bullet meant for another. The mosque at which 42 people were taken on that day is called Al Noor, which means 'the light’. It is a place where the light of faith comes from the walls and from within, and its small, tight-knit congregation shares that light across the community.
The headline of a moving newspaper column by New Zealander Liam Hehir on Monday morning read 'How acts of love pierce the darkness’. It is fitting that so many acts of love pierced the darkness that fell over Al Noor and Linwood, and it is the light that we should remember, not the darkness. In the wake of the Christchurch terror attack it is more important than ever that all of our faith communities know that they are an important and valued part of Victoria. On Sunday I visited the United Muslim Migrants Association mosque in Doncaster East with the shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs—the Member for Forest Hill—as part of the Islamic Council of Victoria’s open day. This open day was a reminder of Melbourne at its best, with the participation of thousands of Victorians, including representatives from all sides of politics. I hope that the success of the day sent a strong message to our Muslim community here in Victoria that they are respected, they are valued and they are an important part of our state.
I hope it also sent a strong and unequivocal message to those who think that acts of hate will divide Victorians. They are wrong. On that point I note the contemptible remarks of a certain senator from Queensland. They stand condemned, as does he, by all right-thinking members of this community and of this place. I do hope that we may have an opportunity to formally place that on the record in due course.
I would like to conclude my contribution by recording a Facebook post made over the weekend by my friend Chris Bishop, a Nationals MP in the New Zealand Parliament:
This is my friend Khaled. He came to New Zealand from Syria as a refugee in early 2016 with his family. In Syria he was a market gardener and he’s been using those skills in Lower Hutt. He’s turned his house in Epuni into a little market garden and you can find him most Saturdays at the Riverbank markets, selling flowers.
This morning after the Parkrun I called in to say hello (as-Salam alaykom) and buy some flowers from him. Opposite his stall at the market was a Christian group, promoting the Bible. Hundreds of Hutt people of all ages, nationalities, religions, and ethnicities were wandering around, buying groceries and coffee, listening to music, enjoying themselves.
This is the New Zealand I love. This is the New Zealand we are. This is the New Zealand we must remain. United by our tolerance, by our diversity, by our shared values of respect for all, no matter their creed, religion or ethnicity.
Right now I am numb with sorrow, pain, and anger. But I know that as a country we will rebound and continue to build a country where hatred has no place.
Kiwis and Victorians share many things in common. A determination to build a society where people of different cultures and different faiths can live side by side in harmony is one of the most important ones. On behalf of the Liberal Party and the Opposition, I am proud to support the Premier’s message of condolence.