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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to join with colleagues across the House in extending concern, support, and aroha for all of those people who have been affected by terrorism and terror attacks, not just here in New Zealand but right around the world.

Look, there’s no doubt that in my lifetime New Zealand has changed. It’s changed overwhelmingly for the better, in terms of our understanding of, and diversity of, people and views, but despite that, there is a strong perception, which I understand, that there is an increasing intolerance of difference—difference of view, difference of belief, difference of appearance. We get taller buildings but we get shorter tempers; we get wider streets but narrower minds. Even though there is such an enormous access to knowledge, there is a growing ignorance, actually, of our history and of the history of other parts of the world.

So it’s easy to have a fairly jaundiced view of society at large. I don’t share that. In the previous Government it was my privilege to be the Minister of Immigration—I was for nearly five years—and it took me into parts of our community that I would never otherwise have seen, and that was a huge privilege. I have to say, some of those communities had significant challenges, challenges that we as a Parliament and as a democracy need to overcome.

But I have a much more sanguine view of where New Zealand is at, and that is actually backed up by data that is collected. It’s important, I think, to recognise that New Zealand ranks first in the world for celebrating indigenous culture. By no means are we perfect, but being first is a pretty good start. In terms of tolerance of immigrants, we rank third behind Canada and I think Iceland, in the manner in which we accept immigrants into New Zealand.

So there is, I think, reason to be more optimistic, and this debate has been a real challenge, I think, in the passage of this legislation because it deals with such difficult issues. But I don’t share the views of Ms McKee either, actually, as Willow-Jean Prime has said. I don’t think this is virtue-signalling, but I don’t think we should be naive to think that the passage of legislation is going to change behaviour or belief. That’s where society comes in. It can raise conversations. It can highlight areas where there are problems. But it won’t change behaviour, belief, and culture. The public need to do that, and we do that with conversation, with understanding of difference and the reason for it, and I think we are on the right path.

I think it’s also worth pointing out that the terrible incidents that we have experienced in New Zealand, as others have pointed out, have been perpetrated by people who are not part of large groups who hold these heinous views, and, actually, that makes it quite a bit more difficult to detect. But the parts of this legislation that criminalise behaviour that might be being conducted by what’s known as the lone wolf will certainly assist; it won’t solve, but it will certainly assist in enabling society to condemn that sort of behaviour more appropriately. I hope we never ever again see the events of March 2019 and of what has happened in the last month or so in New Lynn.

This is a good start and I commend the bill.

DEPUTY SPEAKER: I call Rawiri Waititi, five minutes.