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ACT Leader's reply on Christchurch mosques terrorist attacks

Speech: ACT Leader's reply to PM's statement on Christchurch mosques terrorist attacks

Tue, 19 Mar, 2019


Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the ACT Party to join with other leaders in offering the victims condolence, and the perpetrator condemnation.

I extend not just to those who were attacked but to every Muslim New Zealander our sympathy but also our solidarity.

It is important that solidarity is comprehensive. So, let us close ranks around the cherished values of our county. Let me adopt, from the opposite end of our political spectrum, the words of our Prime Minister.

We grieve together, we are one, they are us.

Normally, in New Zealand, all the bad news is in the world section of our newspapers. How could it be that our country is supplying bad news to the papers of the world?

It is tempting to say we’ve changed forever.

Cold comfort it may be, but one of our darkest days has shed light on our true character. Up and down this country, people have opened up seemingly bottomless wells of love and strength.

I’d like to pay tribute to those first responders, including the very first responders who heroically confronted the terrorist, unarmed. I hope that our Government suitably recognises you.

To those who followed up, the Police, medics, hospital staff, and teachers, this Parliament thanks you for your service. Those who have held vigils, created memes of affirmation, left flowers, and donated millions of dollars show the warmth and resilience of our communities.

Please allow me some disagreement, then, with those who say our country has changed forever. Changing New Zealand was the terrorist’s objective. Changing New Zealand dishonours the victims by letting him win.

The values we have seen expressed over the past several days are the same ones that are recorded in our country’s founding document nearly 180 years ago: that what we treasure should be safe from harm. That we each have equal rights and duties.

The inherent rights to safety and equal treatment of every individual in this country have been recorded more fully in our Bill of Rights. It is worth remembering what the Bill of Rights guarantees.

Among its promises are the right not to be deprived of life, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, and freedom of movement.

One of them is worth quoting at length, manifestation of religion and belief. Every person has the right to manifest that person's religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private.

The terrorist may not like it, but this country has shown, and this Parliament is showing, that we will never dishonor the victims by backing down from our fervent belief in these freedoms. For all of us.

Let us also remember the words of Canadian author Naomi Klein, who warned in her Shock Doctrine that “in moments of crisis, people are willing to hand over a great deal of power…” It is important that we maintain our tradition of sober, robust lawmaking at all times, but especially now.

Clearly, there are policy issues to be addressed. They relate to gun laws, to speech on social media, and the performance of the security and intelligence services, to name a few that have arisen already. It is critical that we get these issues right, that any changes are relevant to and effective at solving the problems that have arisen.

It would be a great shame to fall for the old fallacy, we must do something, this is something, so let’s do this thing. On the issue of security and intelligence in particular, we need to know how this is possible, and what might be done about it. Given it involves the performance of government agencies, I cannot see how the issues arising could be visited by anything less than a Royal Commission, reporting to the Governor-General, at arm’s length from Government.

The same could be said for the Government’s existing schedule. I hope that critical policy issues will be given extra time so that they can be properly ventilated through the usual processes. Giving all current submission and reporting times an extra fortnight as a rule of thumb would be an excellent gesture.

Suffice it to say, this Parliament stands ready to assist in getting the policy response to the terror tragedy right. It must be a high-quality response in keeping with the underlying values of our country. The best way to show defiance is to refuse to erode our free society.

So much for the future. For now, let us honour the heroes, console those who have lost, and commemorate those who were lost. As a touching image shared by many on the internet concludes, I say to the victims, this is your home, and you should have been safe here.

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