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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 6166


Mr GEORGANAS (HindmarshSecond Deputy Speaker) (21:35): I too would like to congratulate our wonderful Socceroos, who have made it through to the next World Cup in Brazil and congratulate Josh Kennedy for scoring in the second half. What a game it was! What a great result for the Australian Socceroos, which will lift our nation to the highest accolades of the sport at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. I look forward to following the World Cup as I have followed many World Cups in my lifetime since my early days as a child watching soccer—or football as it is called today—when it was not such a popular sport.

But tonight I am here to speak about a very important issue. Yesterday, I had the great pleasure and privilege—together with colleagues from the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Greens, as well as the Independents—to stand with Brad Chilcott, Director of Welcome to Australia, and talk about the impossible plight of refugees around the world. We stood together to acknowledge that we need to rise above the fears and the prejudices that exist and to rise above party politics, the intolerance and the ignorance, and inject some humanity and humility into the debate over how best to manage the refugee issue here in Australia and the issue of migration to Australia.

We stood together because we believe that what defines us here as a nation is not the colour of our skin or our religion, or where we were born or how we made our journey here to Australia. What matters are our uniquely Australian values of equality, mateship and a fair go for everyone. That is the Australia I grew up in, and I am sure that is the Australia that you grew up in, Mr Deputy Speaker.

We stood together yesterday to do the press conference because we believe that no matter how you arrive it is our responsibility as members of parliament, as government and as members of the opposition to help people to belong, to prosper and to contribute to Australia, and because we recognise that the incredibly complex issue of refugee migration is dealt no justice—absolutely no justice—by the simplistic one-line slogans that we have been hearing.

I grew up as a child of migrant parents. When I asked my parents why they came to Australia from the other end of the world—why they left their community, their belongings and everything they had ever known to come to a place on the other side of the world—they gave a simple but a very heartfelt answer. They told me that they left for Australia because they wanted to be able to dream a better life for their children. They could not imagine anything worse than their children growing up without any hope.

This is what makes Australia the best country in the world. We are all united because we can dream. We are united because we all hope for a better life for our children. And we are united because not only do we hope and dream but we are so often blessed with realising those hopes and dreams. But if we demonise those who are so vulnerable and defenceless that they have no other option than to risk their lives on a journey to Australia; if we resort to those three- and four-word slogans that we have been hearing; if we call people 'illegal' immigrants because they find themselves in a situation that we can never imagine finding ourselves in; and if we seek to divide people, to degrade people and to dehumanise people then we threaten everything that makes Australia such a great, welcoming and tolerant society as we have been for many, many years. Australia has given so many hopes and dreams to so many people here, like my parents.

That is why this weekend, on Saturday, together with other members of parliament here, we will be joining people from all walks of life from across Adelaide and South Australia at the South Australian parliament at 1 pm at Welcome to Australia's Walk Together. The event centres on the idea that Australians are welcoming, generous and compassionate people who should extend their hand to all people, no matter how they came here. This is an idea that many in the community, including myself, share. The message of Welcome to Australia is simple: if we are all people, we are all equal. (Time expired)