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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3426

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (18:24): Multiculturalism is one of Australia's greatest assets. It is something the western half of my Riverina electorate is built upon. It is important that we as a parliament acknowledge this as one of our nation's strengths. I commend the committee and I note the presence in the chamber of the member for Makin, who sat on the committee which produced this report, Inquiry into Migration and Multiculturalism in Australia. The committee was chaired by the member for Calwell. I commend the committee on its report into migration and multiculturalism in Australia. The report we are discussing tonight has 32 recommendations which seek to highlight what Australia is doing well and where we can improve.

These recommendations range from the antiracism framework and multiculturalism to religious diversity and the nation's social inclusion agenda. The coalition supports these recommendations and working with communities to ensure Australia remains a vibrant and inclusive multicultural society. Multiculturalism is vital and is something we must continue to support, but the cost of implementing programs is something that requires restraint from the government.

In my electorate the city of Griffith is a great example of a multicultural community. At Griffith High School, where I recently visited to award my Anzac writing competition certificates and a prize, there are many different ethnicities and nationalities. One hundred flags proudly fly at Griffith's annual Australia Day ceremony. An article in this morning's Area News highlights that immigration figures have more than doubled in Griffith over the past 12 months as migrants choose the lifestyle Griffith and surrounds offers. A citizenship ceremony in Griffith just last week highlighted that some 148 new migrants have moved to the city, an increase from 61 in the period of 2011-12.

As an irrigation community established prior to World War I, Griffith is now a proud city. The Murrumbidgee irrigation area is built on migration, multiculturalism and water. Today, Griffith and surrounds has a population of 27,000 and encompasses people from many nationalities and ethnicities, with Italian, Indian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and Sudanese populations well represented. Most recently, the Filipino population is growing the most. With each of these communities comes a range of skilled and unskilled workers who make the Murrumbidgee irrigation area's economy prosper further.

Mr Deputy Speaker Windsor, I know you visited Griffith. You were very welcomed there. You would have noticed the number of different nationalities. You would have also noticed the vibrancy that city has and the important part it plays in our economy and our nation. I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be welcomed back anytime, because—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the member for Riverina for his invitation.

Mr McCORMACK: You are welcome anytime. Members will know from my speeches that the farmers and communities in the MIA are producers in the nation's greatest food bowl. I have no hesitation in saying that. I say it proudly. I know we have many food bowls in this nation but none better than the Riverina, none better than that around Griffith. The food bowl we rely on every day is aided incredibly by migration and multiculturalism and this is why I support the report's recommendations.

Margaret King, who is the Griffith City Council's cultural services projects officer, told the Area News that such migration is 'critical to the economic development of Griffith'. 'Without it,' she said, 'our farmers would be in dire straits. Who would pick the oranges, for example?' And Mrs King is right. That is why the government's current stance on 457 visas is, I believe, misguided. For communities throughout the western half of my electorate, it is migration and multiculturalism—the very notions this report commends—that help farmers in the Riverina with picking and harvesting; 457 visas underpin Australia's regional economy. We heard in the chamber today a very passionate address about 457 visas and the need to always make sure that Australians get the jobs first. I agree. However, where Australians cannot or will not take up those jobs on offer, particularly in the busy fruit-picking and harvesting seasons, we need to rely on 457 visas to fill the gap. Certainly there are some jobs which require migrants on 457 visas to fill that gap in Australia.

The government needs to understand the needs of regional people and their communities, especially as far as 457 visas are concerned. Farmers, horticulturalists and local business owners are concerned what impact the government stance on 457 visas partnered with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will have on the economies of Griffith and the MIA. I share their concerns, because 457 visas are vital to Griffith's economy as well as to towns such as Leeton, Coleambally, Hillston and Narrandera and all the other towns within the MIA. Any move to take them away will place the nation's food bowl in further jeopardy. The people of Griffith are strong and resilient, as you would well know, Mr Deputy Speaker. Their city is vibrant and multicultural. They are what this report seeks to highlight: inclusive communities of many ethnicities and nationalities, living and working together harmoniously for the greater good. Multiculturalism is what makes Griffith, the MIA and this nation great. It is a community I am proud to represent and values which I commend here today. That is why my coalition colleagues and I support the report's recommendations.