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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 6573


Mr JENKINS(10.50 p.m.) —The only regret I have about the debate last week on the bipartisan motion on racial tolerance was that not more than 11 members were able to participate. An even fuller debate than was possible would have revealed an even greater degree of unanimity of views than was possible in the debate.

All members of this House bring to this place the experience of their upbringing and their life experiences. For all but the three years when I lived in the ACT I have lived in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, in suburbs which can be characterised as working class and in suburbs which are characterised by their high migrant population. I consider that I had within those communities a privileged upbringing. My father was the local GP, who became the local state MP and then became the local federal member.

But, essentially, the electorate of Scullin has many characteristics that set it apart from other electorates. It essentially epitomises many of the positive characteristics of Australia. The analysis by the Parliamentary Library based on the 1991 census reveals that 36 per cent of the electorate of Scullin were born overseas, that some 21 per cent of the population were born in southern Europe—the major source countries being Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece—and that some 4.4 per cent of the population were born in Asia.

An even clearer illustration of the ethnic diversity of the electorate of Scullin is exemplified by the languages that are spoken at home—52.3 per cent of people live in homes where only English is spoken; therefore, in nearly 48 per cent of homes other languages are spoken. The major languages are: Italian, 14 per cent; Macedonian, 10 per cent; and Greek, seven per cent.

One can understand that for a community with that degree of diversity to function properly a great degree of tolerance has to be shown. I believe that the electorate of Scullin, as a microcosm of Australia, shows that through the development of the values we hold so dear, which were epitomised by the agreement to the motion on racial tolerance in this place last week, we can build on the strengths of cultural diversity in a tolerant and open society.

It can also be illustrated that those people who live in such communities can show a great degree of loyalty not only to their families, not only to their local communities, not only to their ethnic backgrounds but also to their adopted country, Australia. It is with great worry that, as evidenced by the present debate that has been generated, for whatever reasons, the type of tolerance that we have learnt to live with should be questioned.

The range and diversity of the electorate I live in is also illustrated by the religious background of the people. The major religions in my electorate are Catholic, 39.5 per cent, and Orthodox, 18.5 per cent. I was a member of the local council when the local Islamic community put in an application to start a community centre. That community centre has now developed into a fully fledged mosque. At the time, because it was different, some people queried whether they could learn to live with a functioning mosque. If one visits Thomastown now and sees the magnificent building that is the mosque, one can understand that that mosque was able to function because of the tolerance that abounds in the community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the electorate number only 275. If you look at the wage ranges of the people of Scullin they could consider themselves to be in the disadvantaged income bracket. When people look at the plight of Aboriginal people they know that they are at an even greater disadvantage, and they are willing to ensure that those needs are addressed. (Time expired)