Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Masjidain on 15 March 2019
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Faruqi today relating to the Christchurch Mosque murders.
This was a terrorist attack committed by an Australian man who, the report says, was driven by an extreme right-wing Islamophobic ideology. Any denial or obfuscation of this simple fact is an insult to the targets.
I cried as I read the report yesterday. I cried for the innocent Muslims who were brutally murdered by the terrorist. I cried for the survivors who lost their loved ones forever, overwhelmed by the courage of the community who had been through so much. And I cried as I read the greeting 'assalaam alaikum' at the start of the report and words like 'masjidain' and 'shuhada' sprinkled through the report—words that resonate with the Muslim community, words that show empathy and respect for them. The report's findings and recommendations should be taken with utmost seriousness in Australia, where the terrorist has lived for most of his life. There are lessons here for the way we approach the many intersecting issues. I urge the Prime Minister to engage with the Australian Muslim community and carefully interrogate what needs to change in Australia.
The report confirms the terrorist engaged with known far Right and white supremacist groups in Australia, some of which remain active in various forms. Two of these groups forced me to cancel an antiracism event in Newcastle last year due to their planned disruption. Far Right extremism is not only still present in this country; it is growing. Just in the last few minutes, we found out that an 18-year-old man from New South Wales has been arrested today. He had been accessing extreme right-wing material online, including on how to make bombs. He was supportive of the Christchurch mosque massacre and openly racist. If this isn't a wake-up call, I don't know what will be.
This country is in complete denial of these problems that we face. Let's be clear that there is no way in hell that we are going to be able to properly combat the racism in our country without acknowledging there are clear and ongoing links between the toxic far Right and elements of our mainstream media and parliamentary politics. To take one example, it was revealed in the report that the terrorist made donations to numerous media organisations affiliated with people who are in our media class and are given a platform by Australian media outlets. In 2017, the terrorist made donations to media organisations run by or linked to two individuals—Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux—who came to Australia in mid-2018 on a speaking tour and participated in many sympathetic interviews with the right-wing media, in particular, Sky News. Later in 2018, Senator Hanson moved, in this very chamber, her infamous motion claiming that 'it's okay to be white'. As was noted back then, the slogan has a history of use in far Right and white supremacist circles. But it shot to attention in Australia by being worn on a T-shirt by Lauren Southern as she touched down here in 2018. She is now a regular Sky News contributor and lives in Australia.
We can grow used to it after years of frustration, but hearing some of the contributions in this place today and earlier, there is an absurd amount of racist drivel that is spouted without sanction or accountability. There are people in this chamber who are not called out for their racism and bigotry, but those of us who highlight it are quickly called to order. With this attitude prevailing in our national parliament, we have little hope of tackling racism. I've said this before and I will say it again: Australia is yet to reckon with being the country that raised the Christchurch killer. The government must take responsibility for the rise in far-Right extremism reported by ASIO.
All of the report's recommendations should be taken seriously and considered in Australia. We should have strong hate speech laws and dedicate resources to tracking hate crimes properly. I also welcome the report's recommendation to dedicate more government resources to challenging racism and promoting equality. Australia needs a national antiracism campaign to combat and eradicate prejudice and bias. There is much to consider over the coming months, days and weeks. My thoughts are with the survivors and the families of those targeted as they process the release of this disturbing report.
Question agreed to.