Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO THE ISLAMIC COUNCIL OF VICTORIA - SATURDAY, 16 MARCH 2019

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Hello and thank you for attending and thank you to the Islamic Council of Victoria for inviting me and my colleagues Mark Dreyfus, Maria Vamvakinou, Tim Watts and Peter Khalil to demonstrate solidarity with your community.
 
Can I say that I think and I know, there are literally tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of  Victorians and millions of Australians who feel solidarity with you today. 
 
What I see here in front of me and what I wish to say beyond this room is, I'm in a room full of Australians. I'm in a room full of Australians, many of whom practice the Islamic faith.
But first and foremost I'm in a room of Australians. And one of the reasons why I'm here is because frankly I am like so many millions of Australians in that we feel impotent, outraged, disgusted, ashamed of what happened in Christchurch.
 
I'm going to use a phrase I never thought I would ever use: an Australian terrorist committed an act of violence in New Zealand. A horrible act of violence against a defenceless group of worshippers at two mosques. 
 
There will be days and weeks to examine and months to try and examine why. But there really is no satisfactory explanation as to why.

Forty-nine people murdered in the most vulnerable and defenceless of circumstances, at prayer. Another 48 with injuries some of which are very serious. And it was an Australian who did this.
 
But this is not an Australian who represents Australia.This is not the way we are.

That is why solidarity today is so important. In this country, or in any country, your religion should not be a reason for abuse, criticism, and indeed for worse, the violence that we've seen. 
 
I can't begin to imagine how some Australians felt waking up this morning, thinking that because of their faith, that somehow they are less equal and potentially subject to violence and abuse. I cannot imagine it.

But I can say to you and all of the communities and faith groups you represent and the families and organisations that you represent, please take the message that 99.99 per cent do not support the hate. 
 
And you need to reassure, in particular your children. As adults for better or for worse we can work through what life deals - not easily - but how do we explain it to our kids, I had to try and explain this to my own children last night.
 
There is no good explanation for this. All I can try and do today is indicate to you as leader of one of the two major political parties in the country, that my party will never tolerate not just the violence - no one tolerates the violence or should tolerate it - but the circumstances which give rise to it.
 
Let me be clear, not all right wing extremist hate speech ends in violence. But all right wing extremist violence started in hate speech. 
 
We'll never know what could have been done to prevent what happened in Christchurch, and we support the work of the New Zealand Government, and we express our solidarity not just to the New Zealand Muslim community of Christchurch but the New Zealand community generally. 
 
And it may be too early if people grieve and mourn, as families worry about loved ones fighting for their very lives in hospitals in Christchurch, but now is the time to repudiate once and for all, not just the violence, but the circumstances, the hate speech which breeds the violence. 
 
Nations have choices in times like this. We can choose to retreat into our smaller tribes, into our smaller groups. We can choose to retreat into faith based communities of one faith or another, one community or another.

And in those smaller groups, in those retreats back to just dealing with your own, we can decide that we can live with fear and with hate and suspicion of everyone else. 
 
Or we can make a choice to combat as one famous man once said "the stain of blood". We can choose to confront that, we can choose to repudiate the fear, the suspicion. We can choose to embrace, we can choose - as we heard -  to fight fear and anger with love and tolerance. 
 
These are choices nations make. These are choices we make as citizens of our nation. 
 
Do we retreat into ourselves and be suspicious of people who seem different? Or do we reach out? Do we embrace? Do we accept that whilst we may worship different gods or none that we actually have far more which we have in common.
 
This nation more often than not has chosen the latter approach - to embrace, to be tolerant, to welcome diversity, to understand what makes a good Australian.
 
In closing I just want to say to all of you and beyond you to the broader Australian community - what makes a good Australian is not how many generations you've been here.

What makes a good Australian is not how much money you have, what postcode you have what house you live in, what makes a good Australian is not your gender, is not who you love or what god you worship. 
 
What makes a good Australian instead is how you treat your fellow neighbour. 

Whether or not you obey the laws and participate in your community. Whether or not you raise your kids right.

What makes a good Australian is what is in your heart. What makes a good Australian is courage in your own problems and kindness in another's.
 
You have the solidarity of my party, and there are millions of Australians, I know, who when confronted with the violence, the murder, the evil, the insanity, when confronted with the hate, there are millions of Australians who would wish they were here with me today to say to you: we are in this together. 
 
Violence against anyone is violence against all of us. Hate on anyone diminishes us all as a people.
 
I'm in a room of very good Australians. I'll let everyone else know, wherever I am.
 
Thank you. 


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