Opinion

Renew your mind

Lucy Gichuhi on Fraser Anning’s maiden speech

In 1 Chronicles 19, King David’s intention was to support his loyal friend, but his act of kindness took a different trajectory when his messengers who were sent to Hanun were mistaken for spies. Well, maybe not quite mistaken – but the advisers brought in their fears and anxieties and misconstrued David’s good intentions. The power of leaders and those around them to steer a whole community or nation from peace to war is clearly seen in this interaction. As a senator, I wonder how often the good intentions of our leaders have been misconstrued and changed the course of our history.

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This week, as I sat in the Senate chamber, I heard spoken under the veil of a “maiden speech” words that undermined the dignity and contributions of all Australians – putting them on a collision course against each other.

During a pivotal moment in history, John Howard stood in the House of Representatives to deliver a speech that restored hope and ultimately united an entire nation. Our lawmaking institutions are powerful platforms to speak from. They are also where vigorous and respectful debate is championed.

This week, as I sat in the Senate chamber, I heard spoken under the veil of a “maiden speech” words that undermined the dignity and contributions of all Australians – putting them on a collision course against each other. Further, it sought to taint the success of our contemporary multicultural Australia. But I can gladly say to anyone that I am real evidence of the success of multiculturalism.

Words can have a twofold effect. They possess the capacity to build up but also to tear down. The impact our words can have is demonstrated in 1 Chronicles 19. King David’s desire was to honour his deceased friend by supporting his family in their time of grief.  But Hanun’s advisers stirred the Ammonite nation towards a destructive path when they falsely accused King David’s delegation of being spies. The insinuations prompted Hanun to seize and humiliate the delegation before sending them back in disgrace. The result was that peace broke down between both nations. Naturally, war followed.

In a modern-day comparison, our own leaders have the power through their words to shape the future of our nation.

Ultimately, we will never know what would have happened if David’s good intentions were not misconstrued. We will never know what would have happened if Hanun had accepted David’s offer of kindness. What we do know is that the advisers’ words had an adverse effect on the entire nation.

For a very long time it is has been the responsibility of leaders to use their words properly and carefully. We do not live on isolated islands; we live in a community. Let us learn from the misunderstandings that arose between King David and Hanun, so that in our lives we do not end up on paths that hurt and destroy those around us.

Lucy Gichuhi is a Liberal senator for South Australia.

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