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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1854


Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (20:49): I move:

That this House

(1) express its deep regret at the death on 28 January 2012 of the late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue OAM, the Spiritual Leader of the Phuoc Hue Buddhist Monastery and leader of the Vietnamese Buddhist community in Australia;

(2) places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service; and

(3) tenders its profound sympathy to the Vietnamese Buddhist community in its bereavement.

I have had the privilege of knowing the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue for much of the time he has had here in Australia—that is, for some 25 years. I was privileged to represent the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, at the memorial ceremony held on Wednesday, 8 February 2012. I also was at the Phuoc Hue Temple on the occasion of the Tet celebrations—that is, the Vietnamese new year. At midnight on the evening of 22 January I was with my colleague the member for Fowler, who also happened to be present. It was where I learnt that the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue was in hospital, and I was saddened to hear it.

Thich Phuoc Hue was born in 1921—I am told by Quang Luu, who has written about him for the Sydney Morning Heraldnear Saigon in Vietnam, although his birthday is formally recorded as 1922. He began studying at the age of 13 and was ordained as a novice at 16. He was later ordained as a Buddhist monk at the age of 20. During his early career he was in charge of the Buddhist secondary school in An Giang province and the Director of Studies at the Buddhist Studies Institute in Saigon.

This is recorded on his CV because he was seen as a very senior leader in the southern Vietnamese community and had played a significant role in the Vietnamese sangha, which resulted in the formation of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. He held many positions of responsibility on the central executive, including Commissioner for Sangha Affairs. After the fall of Saigon, when his church was banned in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, he moved to Hong Kong. He left in 1979 and arrived in Australia, having been sponsored by Australian Vietnamese in 1980. There were some 5,000 or so Vietnamese at that time, but by 1981 41,000 Vietnamese residents in Australia sponsored him as the first Buddhist monk here in Australia. He led Buddhist ceremonies at the Thai temple in Stanmore and aspired to build Vietnamese Buddhism. He established a temple in Fairfield in 1980, and the Phuoc Hue Temple was completed in 1991 at a cost of $3 million. That occurred over a three-year period. He was involved in fundraising and community leadership in this period and he played a similar role in the construction of the Quang Minh Temple in Sunshine in Victoria. In April 1981 he was elected as the first President of the Vietnamese Buddhist Federation at the inaugural conference in that year and was re-elected subsequently. He was the longest serving president of the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation.

He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1995 in recognition of his contributions to Buddhism in this country. He was involved in the setting up of the Yellow Lotus printing house for the publication of Buddhist books. The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, visited the Phuoc Hue Temple in 1994 to meet Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu leaders along with Buddhists.

He had a very significant international profile. He was a high-ranking member of the World Buddhist Sangha Council and the World Fellowship of Buddhists. He led the organising committee for the First Executive Conference of the Seventh World Buddhist Sangha Council Congress. He delivered a message of peaceful cooperation at the first International Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation in Yogyakarta, sponsored by Alexander Downer when he Australia's foreign minister. He visited refugee camps. He assisted poor Vietnamese inside Vietnam with both gifts and support for cataract operations. He supported temple building and the establishment of Buddhist organisations in the United States, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

His outstanding achievements were gained through his devotion, his intellectual energy and his wisdom. These were exceptional qualities and it made me proud to be a friend of his. I was not alone in this admiration. The fact that so many of my colleagues will support this resolution tonight is evidence of that. I note there was a message of condolence on the passing of the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue by Cardinal George Pell. He penned these few lines to convey his most sincere condolences:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney joins with the senior Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan, OAM and other senior monks, nuns and lay practitioners who mourn deeply the passing of this exemplary spiritual leader and scholar. On occasions of significant ecumenical and inter-religious activities, the strong support of The Late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, OAM and his community was keenly felt and much appreciated.

He went on to write:

The Late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, OAM will remain an inspiration not only the Australian Vietnamese Buddhist Community but to many other Australians as well, recalling his contribution to the life our country with gratitude.

You may suspect that I have known the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue over many years. I greatly admired his leadership and the contribution he made to this nation. I think he was exemplary in terms of all of those values that we think are so important in our multicultural society. The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue advocated harmony amongst nations as well as amongst people. A few years ago ill health forced him to step down from the presidency of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation. He was succeeded by the Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan, who came to Australia as a Vietnamese refugee in the early 1980s and is now the abbot of the Quang Minh Temple in Melbourne.

The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue has achieved a great deal in his efforts to rebuild Vietnamese Buddhism as part of the fabric of and as a contributor to multicultural Australia. In writing about him, his good friend Tuong Quang Luu had this to say:

There remained, however, one piece of unfinished business. His aspiration to set up a Vietnamese Buddhist Studies Institute in Australia was unfulfilled at the time of his death.

I hope that others may see in that a significant challenge for the future. I hope it can be recognised in the context of the outstanding leadership that the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue has displayed over the 90 years of his life.

I think Australia is an exemplar to the rest of the world through what it has been able to achieve in its tolerance of people who come and settle and are proud to make Australia their home. When you have somebody like the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, who has achieved so much in his lifetime, you cannot help but admire what we are able to achieve in Australia and give credit to those who have come from across the seas to make Australia their home and have contributed so significantly. I was proud to number the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue amongst my friends and I am proud of what he has been able to do for Vietnamese Buddhism in Australia. I am certainly proud to be able to move this resolution and I think it is a credit that we in the Australian parliament can acknowledge the contribution of such a significant Australian.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Craig Kelly: I second the motion.