Multiculturalism Motion, Parliament House

Mr PERRETT (Moreton—Opposition Whip) (11:01):  I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) Australia has had a policy on multiculturalism since 1973; and

(b) Australia's multicultural policy demonstrates our shared values and cultural traditions and complements our national characteristics of equality and a fair go for all;

(2) recognises that:

(a) our diversity:

(i) makes us a richer, more vibrant and creative country; and

(ii) brings economic and social benefits and gives us a competitive edge in a globalised world;

(b) multiculturalism:

(i) is in our best interest and speaks to fairness and inclusion; and

(ii) enhances respect and support for cultural, religious and linguistic diversity;

(c) we are committed to a just, inclusive and socially cohesive society where everyone can participate in the opportunities our country offers;

(d) promoting understanding and acceptance is important;

(e) racism is harmful to individuals and to the community; and

(f) racist behaviour should not be tolerated in a civil society; and

(3) calls on the Government to reaffirm its commitment to Australia's culturally diverse and socially cohesive society and to condemn those who are actively seeking to incite division. 

 

I am very pleased to move the motion that has been circulated in my name. It is particularly important in the current political climate where we have the Turnbull government introducing legislation into the Senate that will allow more racist speech and where we have a Queensland senator calling for the banning of an entire section of the Australian religious community. It is important in that light that today we recognise the great benefits of Australia's multiculturalism and the harm that racist behaviour causes to individuals and our community.

Moreton is a very diverse mix of multicultural and ethnic communities and religious beliefs. There are large communities of Taiwanese, Chinese, Indians, former Yugoslavs, Pacific Islanders, Somalians, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Rwandans, Filipinos, South Africans, Indigenous Australians, New Zealanders, Fijians, Koreans and Vietnamese to name but a few. My community is richer and more vibrant and creative due to the contribution of our ethnic communities. I am very glad that I am raising my family right in the middle of such a diverse community. My young children see the differences in other Australians and they also see what unites us. And I am grateful that my two young boys are part of that daily version of giving me hope, because imagine seeing the world through the eyes where you only see division. That must be a horrible world to live in and a horrible place to dwell in.

It is a place that the leader of the One Nation political party knows only too well. She gives us a glimpse of that vile place where she vents her hateful and divisive rhetoric. It is so wrong to single out one Australian religious community and have them believe that they are not welcome here. I take this opportunity, publicly in Australia's democratically-elected parliament that represents all Australians, irrespective of their beliefs or lack of belief, to make it very clear that I condemn the words of the leader of the One Nation political party. All Muslims are no more to blame for all terrorist attacks of criminals than are all Catholics to blame for the sexual abuse against children by some evil clergy. The sins of an evil few should never be visited on the innocent many. The hateful words of the One Nation political party's leader who, let's admit, is a professional politician of more than 20-plus years, were uttered in the same week that the Turnbull government introduced legislation to water down the protections against racist hate speech.

I was deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights that presided over the inquiry into freedom of speech. The majority report tabled from that inquiry did not recommend changing the Racial Discrimination Act. There were some amendments recommended for process, but in terms of changing the Racial Discrimination Act, especially section 18C, that was not the recommendation. The human rights inquiry was conducted over 112 days with hearings in every capital city, including Darwin and Hobart. The committee heard from Indigenous and ethnic communities across the depth and breadth of the country. These people sat in front of the committee and told us of the very real harm that racism causes to individuals and their communities—real harm like physical and mental illness, reduction in educational advancement, reduction in job opportunities, enforced isolation and the inability to participate fully in society because they are afraid to contribute.

The rushed bill introduced by the Attorney-General last week, which had a three-hour Senate inquiry, does not reflect the considered majority report of the Liberal-dominated committee. The rushed committee inquiry—which was launched last Friday and did not hear from the Indigenous community—was quite bizarre. So much for a party that professes to believe in free speech in a democratic society. This was a sham of a process. The Liberal government love talking about freedom of speech, but whose freedom and whose speech is important to them? Their actions, sadly, speak much more loudly than their words. If they were truly concerned about Australia's Indigenous and multicultural communities and their concerns, they would immediately dump this rushed proposed change to the Racial Discrimination Act. No good can possibly come from allowing more racist hate speech—and that, sadly, is what the government are attempting to do.

All Australians deserve to feel safe and valued in their own country, whether they were born here or migrated here. The contribution of immigration to the Australian economy is enormous. We know that, so it is incumbent upon those in positions of power to promote understanding and the acceptance of all Australians, whether they were born here or migrated here. It should be abhorrent to all Australians that an Australian politician is singling out a whole community and telling them they are not welcome here. It is un-Australian and goes against the Constitution.

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