Rt Hon Winston Peters, New Zealand First Leader
We acknowledge the Prime Minister speaks for the Coalition Government and indeed, because of that, we would have preferred not to rise and speak. This should not in any way be construed as giving consent or license to the obscene act perpetrated against innocent worshippers last Friday at Linwood and Deans Ave Mosques in Christchurch. The sickening scourge of terrorism imported to Christchurch was the work of a coward. A coward who we reject.
That is what we must all say.
New Zealand First rises today in support of the victims of the violent attacks of March 15. The Muslim community in Christchurch have our deepest sympathies for their profound sense of loss and grief. In a country like ours that practices religious tolerance, an attack on one of us peacefully observing their beliefs is an attack on all of our beliefs. Friday, March 15, 2019 is the day everything changed in our country, a day when someone from outside our shores attempted to terrorise us and tear us apart. That, we believe, was his objective – and he has failed. Why? Because violent extremism, whatever its origin or form or creed, is utterly rejected by New Zealanders. His creed, like extremists anywhere and everywhere, seeks only to destroy. It is evil and destructive. The Pakistani Foreign Minister, when expressing his country’s sympathies for New Zealand, told me that 77,000 people in his country had died from terrorist-related violence in Pakistan’s recent history. He truly understood how New Zealanders feel.
We’ve had a number of messages in a similar vein from Muslim countries all around the world.
New Zealand is not alone yet the terrorists’ formula always remains the same. Wherever terror strikes it seeks to create or provoke fear and panic. But in New Zealand it has failed. It has failed because our thoughts are not the terrorist’s thoughts and his ways are not our ways. Why? Because New Zealanders believe in a fair go. We are a practical people. We are a tolerant people. We aren’t scared to lift our heads above the parapet and express our values to the world. And we have the ability to reflect upon ourselves, and how others see us, so we know how to get along with each other. While everything else may have changed since March 15, New Zealand’s essential character has not and will not. One lesson that we have learned from this national tragedy is that our firearm laws are not fit for purpose, which is why the government is committed to fixing them up. But that is for tomorrow. Today is a day to pay our respects to the grieving families of Christchurch. We here in this parliament stand with them and the people of Christchurch.
Once more their lives have been massively disrupted. Once more we see their remarkable resilience. They have suffered more over the past decade than we can say. The people of Christchurch will stay in our thoughts as they reclaim their city. As they and the rest of us rebuild we must remember that only by drawing on our strengths as a people will we prevail against the malevolent forces of intolerance and hate.
That is what we must do.
Can I close by acknowledging the calm and comforting leadership of the Prime Minister during this moment of national tragedy. Her clarity, empathy and unifying leadership is helping to guide the country through this test of our resolve. We will follow that example.