What Finally Brought Our Political Leaders Together
"We know racism fills the silences, discrimination thrives in the darkness"
It was a rare moment of unity in the often brutal bearpit of politics.
Two men took the podium. They gave stirring and inspirational speeches to reinforce what this country stands for and which threads we wish to weave into the fabric of this nation.
Then, in a literal reaching across of the aisle, they shook hands. Others hugged.
Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, usually the fiercest of rivals, were on a unity ticket on Wednesday in condemning the vile remarks of Katter's Australia Party senator Fraser Anning, who referenced Nazi rhetoric in a Muslim-bashing speech which has been roundly slammed by literally every political party in the parliament.
It's not often Turnbull and Shorten, let alone the entire parliament at large, agree on much. But it showed the sheer shocking dissonance of Anning's views, termed by Labor's Graham Perrett as "a myopic redneck reaching out from another time".
Turnbull, whose Sydney electorate has one of the country's highest Jewish populations, called Anning's speech:
"a shocking insult to the six million Jews who died in the holocaust".
"It was appalling and we condemn that and the insult it offered to the memory of those Jewish martyrs, just as we condemn the racism, the shocking rejection of the Australian values that have made us the successful multicultural nation we are today," the PM continued.
Earlier in the Senate, Penny Wong, Mathias Cormann and Richard Di Natale had condemned their fellow Senator.
Later in the House, the likes of Anne Aly and Lucy Gichuhi would speak of their experiences of racism; Josh Frydenberg and Ed Husic would hug.
Shorten had earlier raised a motion in the House of Representatives calling on the parliament to reaffirm its commitment to the dismantling of the White Australia policy. As the leader of a party that counts Muslim and Indigenous members among its representatives, Shorten was livid, calling the speech "stupidity".
"In the corrosive and fragmented climate of public debate, it's become unfortunately common for some to seek out attention by picking on minorities, the less powerful," he said.
"We will not play a straight bat and stay silent and hope for the best. We know racism fills the silences, discrimination thrives in the darkness. The only way to stop it is to haul each of these hateful falsehoods into the light and expose them for the harmful fiction they are."
Turnbull followed his opposition counterpart, saying the country needed to reaffirm what its values were.
"We need to stand up for what we are, a free society, the most successful multicultural society in the world, united by democratic values that do not distinguish between race, religion, colour, cultural background," he said.
Then, in a rare -- and surely soon-to-be-famous -- moment, the two men, normally locked in a political fight to the death, reached across the literal political divide. They shook hands. They gave Australians a reason to believe that, yes, sometimes our politicians can actually come together for the common good.