Free Press: Reflections on Christchurch

Mon, 18 Mar, 2019

This week, Free Press takes a break in recognition of Friday’s terrible tragedy. In its place for our regular readers is this reflection by ACT Leader David Seymour.

My deepest condolences to the victims and their families, friends, and colleagues. We are bound together by our common humanity. At its heart is the liberal maxim that every person has inherent rights. The events of Friday attacked our most basic right, to freedom from violence against our person. As such, they are an attack on humanity, on each and every one of us. To borrow the popular phrase shared online over the past several days, I say to the victims, this is your home and you should have been safe here.

Our Prime Minister has done the country proud in the days since Friday. She is at her best in times such as this and deserves the domestic and international recognition she has received. There will be a great many issues for our country and our politicians to resolve over the coming weeks and months. The impact of Friday’s events will be felt for years, shaping the way we see ourselves in the world and the challenges we face as a nation.

As New Zealanders, we must unite around our liberal values. We must remember that we each have the right to think, speak, and pray as we see fit. We believe in the primacy of the individual, because it is the individual who can hope, dream and do. The threat to the individual and therefore humanity has always been the politics of identity. The truly ugly people in the world are those who deny the inherent rights of an individual who they believe are in the wrong group.

We must also unite around the best traditions of our parliamentary process and good law making. We cannot improve gun laws until we fully understand, not just hear speculation about, how the terrorist was able to do what he did. At the very least, we need to know if he broke existing laws that were poorly enforced or followed laws that were inadequate. Only then can we hope to improve the law with a view to improving our safety.

The same applies to our security agencies. It has long been said, including in the recent review of our security and intelligence arrangements, that a so-called ‘lone-wolf’ attacker is the most pernicious threat we face. Pernicious or not, however, we still need to know how such a threat could materialise undetected, and how might it be prevented from happening again. It is difficult to see how such questions can be answered by any less than a Royal Commission. Even in light of the substantial review and legislation in this area only a few years ago, this incident must be investigated at arms-length from the Government by independent commissioners reporting to the Governor-General.

I am delaying two ACT initiatives out of respect to Friday’s events. I intend to ask Parliament’s Business Committee that the End of Life Choice Bill now be reported back in mid-April, rather than next week. ACT’s AGM and party relaunch, advertised in the Free Press for the beginning of May, will now be held in mid-June. Further communications will follow regarding both of these initiatives. We hope that the Government will consider delaying significant reviews such as those into tax and education in a similar vein.

So much for the future. For now, we continue to grieve for the victims in unity around our liberal values. This was their home and they should have been safe here.