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"We don't want zero tolerance, we want compassion," Mr Gourlie said yesterday.
His address was to more than 100 people at the Peace Pole in the Otago Museum Reserve on the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
"We are happy that our dead are with God" but problems remained for those who were still alive, he said.
There was a need to reject racism and sexism, and he had been encouraged by an earlier announcement that Parliament would now be run in a "family-friendly" way.
"We have been challenged.
"We're going to strike out in a different way," he said.