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Thursday, November 26, 2020

‘No more rhetoric without responsibility’

Today, as in the aftermath of any terror attack anywhere in the world – our hearts are breaking.

The executive and members of Fair Canberra Inc. extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to New Zealanders, especially all those who have lost loved ones and friends in the horror that occurred in Christchurch.

We cannot for one minute comprehend the intensity of your grief, your confusion, your despair, your hurt. But we can, at least in some small way, share in your pain. New Zealand, we are with you, and we will support you.

The organised, premeditated attack by a radicalised right-wing white supremacist has struck at the heart of one of the world’s most culturally diverse and peaceful nations.

The wanton slaughter of innocent men, women and children at prayer has shocked the world. It proves, once and for all, that terror has no single face. It has no religion, no race, no ethnicity, no background. Its targets are indiscriminate and its goal is the perpetration of pure and unadulterated evil.

Adding to the horror, the alleged perpetrator is a radicalised Australian.

We, along with so many fellow Australians, are horrified this person was one of us. That is not who we are. He is not who we are. It should not be what puts our country in the world news. But it has, and we must ask the difficult question: how did it come to this?

We at Fair Canberra Inc. say – enough. To our politicians, the media, certain commentators and cartoonists, we say – enough.

Enough of the reckless political rhetoric, the demonisation, the scare campaigns, the ‘us and them’ superiority rhetoric, the selective ‘free speech’ pronouncements on radical and racist behaviour.

Enough of the caricatures, the blatant courting of the racist and the bigoted, the pandering to the far-left and far-right, the tabloid style reporting, the media stunts. Enough of pointing at convenient minorities and saying ‘that’s the bad guy’ for political gain. Enough of turning community against community, Australian against Australian. Enough.

There cannot be rhetoric without responsibility.

If anything Christchurch has shown us, it is that hate speech begets violence. When we justify and normalise radical thought and behaviour in all its forms, when we defend its existence and when we give platforms for proponents of these ideologies, we risk extremist behaviour and actions.

We are a mature enough society to have rational discussions about issues such as national unity and social inclusion. Fair Canberra Inc. has always advocated that for this to succeed, the right people have to be around the right tables having the right conversations – not just ‘feel-good tick the box’ photo opportunity sham consultations.

In the shadow of Christchurch, the time has come to draw a line under rank populism and irresponsible rhetoric. It is time to be clear, to be mature, to be realistic, to be truly Australian.

It is time for a new approach. Nic Manikis, President, Fair Canberra Inc., an ACT-based policy thinktank that represents and advocates for the ideas, voice and leadership of culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans, including people of colour.

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