Peter FitzSimons: “Australia should take back Christchurch killer.” Others disagree.
“Asked by New Zealand media to summate the Australian reaction to the conviction of the Christchurch killer who grew up in Grafton only to murder 51 people in a Kiwi mosque in March last year, I took pause,” writes Sydney Morning Herald columnist and author Peter FitzSimons.
“For how do we Australians look upon him?…This was one of ours, nothing less than a homegrown terrorist, committing hideous acts on our nearest and dearest neighbours. Hence why, to the Kiwis, I characterise our general reaction as being one of deep personal sorrow and excruciating embarrassment, mixed with great admiration at the way that New Zealand has confronted the tragedy.
“But still there was the deeply troubling matter that the killer comes from the sunny burgh of Grafton, raised among its generally sunny citizenry. And what was our other reaction? How on earth did this happen? Ideally, you’d like to think the gunman was a creation of the deepest darkest sewers of the internet, a global phenomenon, rather than a specifically Australian creation, but there is no way around it – he really is one of ours, certainly influenced by our own deep streak of racism towards Muslims and, ultimately, our responsibility. Which then begs the question, where should the gunman spend the rest of his born days?”
“The answer,” says FitzSimons, “is obvious: here in Australia…we will imprison him at our expense while also offering a cast-iron guarantee that there will be no softening of the Kiwi sentence. If we get the Grafton man back, it must be on the understanding that he will die in prison. In the face of such tragedy, such an appalling act, it is surely the only decent thing we can do, as a nation, to at least offer that to them?”
Many Sydney Morning Herald readers disagreed with FitzSimons, citing reasons ranging from there being no legislation in place in either country to facilitate such a transfer, there being no federal prison system – the states operate the prisons – while other readers pointed to Australia’s widespread weapons ban after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 which took the lives of 35 people. One reader wrote I fully reject the premise that this act of terrorism was committed by an Australian against New Zealanders. It was an act of terrorism committed by a religious fanatic against another religion.”
One reader wrote “You have omitted the bit about NZ allowing him to buy an arsenal because of their lax gun laws.” Another” He had to go to NZ because he couldn’t buy the guns he wanted in Australia. He didn’t buy just one gun and there was no check on the number he was amassing. That bit at least is not Australia’s fault or responsibility.” “It was New Zealand’s firearm laws, or lack thereof, that allowed him to build an arsenal capable of carrying out such a horrendous massacre. The possibility that this could have happened in Australia these days with the firearm laws as strict as they are is almost zero.” The comments section recorded that there are currently 33 Australians incarcerated in New Zealand and some 1,100 New Zealanders imprisoned in Australia. There are an estimated 1.5 million guns in New Zealand, of which 56,000 were handed back in the 2019 firearms amnesty, including 15,037 E-category firearms or military style semi-automatics.