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Monday, 8 March 1999
Page: 3302


Mr HARDGRAVE (1:19 PM) —I also support the motion moved by the member for Batman on Australian citizenship. It is a timely motion, and I congratulate the member for Batman for bringing it forward. I also congratulate the member for Kooyong on his contribution, and the member for Bowman on much of what he had to say. I do so from a background of 155 years of family history in this country. We are a nation of migrants, and so I will stretch it back to Ardee, County Louth in the 1840s to state that I too am from the loin of migrant stock.

What we have put together in this country is really a miracle and I do not think we should ever undervalue exactly what we now have as a nation in 1999. We have drawn together people from so many disparate backgrounds and brought them here with the challenge to be good Australians—first and foremost, to put aside the differences that they had in their old countries. We have really challenged Australians in the broad to judge each other by the calibre of their character, as Martin Luther King said, and not by any other definition.

We have survived the challenges in more recent years extremely well as a nation. Looking at the second verse of our national anthem—`For those who've come from across the sea, we've boundless plains to share; with courage let us all combine to advance Australia fair'—those words in themselves state that the ambition that we talk about so much today in this multicultural nation of ours has in fact been a long held ambition, and those words recognise that people have come here from various nations.

Last week in my own electorate, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, visited and embarked upon consultations with the broad community about the shape and size of the migration program for the next year or two. He is having those consultations right around the country. We held a function on Tuesday night, and it was an amazing event. We had people from the Laotian community, the Cambodian community and the Vietnamese community—all sitting at one table, I must add. The Eritrean and Ethiopian communities were represented. They also were sitting at one table, yet in their own countries the genocide and conflict continue. The Bosnians, Serbians and Croatians of this nation are also putting aside their differences. The people who come from mainland China and from the Republic of China on Taiwan also work together as good Australians. And, of course, the traditional conflicts between the Turks and the Greeks have been put aside.

So I think the integrity of the system has been maintained by the fact that people have taken up the challenge to be good Australians and put aside those traditional differences. And why? Because the system itself maintains the importance of the integrity of the system as its number one task. We ensure that: criminal and health checks are in place to make sure we are getting the very best of migrants from whichever country they come. Those who make the big decision to move to Australia are well supported by systems in this nation; rights are extended to the citizens of this country, whether they are newer or older generations of citizens, and everyone is treated the same; and they go on to be good Australians. The new citizens do so with such enthusiasm that it is inspiring, especially to watch some of the newer Australians who have come from war-torn countries like the Horn of Africa. I am sure those people wake up every morning and smell freedom, not burning flesh, and that is why they go on to be good Australians.

The responsibility of the conduct of Australians is not lost on those new Australians. I think they understand that we have a nation with a rule of law which governs our processes, where democracy is guaranteed and enforced, and where we have freedom of speech. Yes, we do have some awkward downsides to freedom of speech. On some occasions we find what some people say upsetting and disappointing. But the freedom to say it is there. We have laws which support minorities and do not condemn them to prosecution in the way they do in some of the nations these people have come from. We must all understand that for some newer Australians it takes time to get used to these systems, as the member for Bowman said.

I know a lot of Australians were dismayed by the public protests of the Kurdish community. I understand why people have the passion to get upset about things that have occurred in what was their country. But they all have to understand that what is at stake is the importance of the Australian system. This nation is building itself into the number one nation in the world. I will paraphrase what President Clinton said, when he sat near where you are sitting now, Mr Deputy Speaker, when he was here a few years ago, `This simply is the best nation in the world, where people from all ethnic origins are given the same rights and freedoms as each other. Everybody is treated the same.' I think all in this place should celebrate the fact that both sides of politics can join together on this motion. (Time expired)