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Tuesday, 16 April 1985
Page: 1074

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(8.27) —Mr Acting Deputy President, this debate and my modest participation in it have been interrupted by the second call for a quorum by the Opposition Whip. I find it absolutely incredible that on this night, when most members of the Senate are being entertained by the second or third largest and most powerful nation in the world at the Lakeside Hotel, the Liberal Party of Australia wants to play fourth form debating points in calling for quorums in this chamber on the basis of a spurious and ridiculous claim that it is the Government's responsibility to keep the House. Let the Opposition Whip know that I resent those kinds of games being played in the Federal Parliament and I resent the spurious conclusion that he has reached that if the House is counted out only the government of the day, whatever party happens to be in government, will get the blame. If this House is counted out the whole Parliament, every one of us, will be held in contempt by the Australian electorate. The next time the Opposition Whip calls for a quorum to try to score a cheap debating point, let him please think of that. I doubt very much that the leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate approved of his doing that. The fact that he did it and that he is the Opposition Whip I believe earns him the condemnation of this chamber. I say that by way of opening remarks.

Senator Messner —For serving the Senate, which is what he is elected to do.

Senator CHIPP —I am challenged to answer an interjection from Senator Messner relating to keeping the Senate. It is the responsibility of every senator in this chamber to keep up the numbers. This is not just a matter of a convention that has been invented that the government of the day must keep up the numbers.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Senator Chipp, I think you have made your point. Would you come back to the motion?

Senator CHIPP —Yes, Mr Acting Deputy President. I thank you. The Australian Democrats strongly support the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs Amendment Bill. The effect of the Bill is to expand the functions of the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs, to clarify the role of the Institute to provide government consultants and to expand the community education function of the Institute. My Party is acutely aware that a tolerant multicultural society must be of prime importance in the national priorities for the future of this nation. We now have people from 140 different ethnic backgrounds who speak 90 different languages and who practise 80 different religions. As well, there are 400 or so-(Quorum formed) Let it be known that the Party which pretends to be the government of this nation has again called a quorum in this debate while a reception is being conducted by the Republic of China at the Lakeside Hotel. If that is the best that the Party pretending to the government of this country can do, God help Australia.

As well, there are 400 or so Aboriginal languages which are disappearing at the rate of two a year.

Senator Jessop —How many Aboriginal languages are there at the moment? You wouldn't know.

Senator CHIPP —Mr Acting Deputy President, will you assist me by protecting me from the results of the free hospitality dispensed by the Chinese Embassy, in the person of Senator Jessop, or do I have to deal with him myself?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! I call for order on my left.

Senator Jessop —You are incapable of dealing--


Senator Chaney —I rise on a point of order. There is a great deal of back and forth in this debate at the moment and Senator Chipp is seeking your protection, Mr Acting Deputy President. Of course, he is entitled to your protection, but I suggest that, if he directs his attention to the Bill, he is less likely to get the interjections to which he is presently objecting. I also point out that the reception by the Chinese was from 6.30 to 8 p.m. and that, even if honourable senators were walking back to the Senate, which I am sure they were not, they would be back in Parliament House. I am sure that they were back at 8 o'clock. If they were not, they should have been. At any event, I think that Senator Chipp--

Senator Elstob —What is the point of order?

Senator Chaney —My point of order is that Senator Chipp is entitled to the protection he is seeking from the Chair. I am suggesting that the Chair might also suggest to him that he speaks to the Bill instead of attacking honourable senators and describing them as government senators. If he describes Senator Jessop as a government senator he is likely to be outraged. I suggest that if we get on with debating this multicultural Bill we will all be able to go home earlier.

Senator Grimes —Mr Acting Deputy President, as Senator Chaney has been allowed to speak to a point of order-I am not sure what the point of order was about-I should like to make clear a couple of facts on the same point of order. Senator Chipp was complaining that for the second time in half an hour tonight--

Senator Chipp —The third time.

Senator Grimes —For the third time an unnecessary quorum was called and when he was speaking he was continually interjected upon by members of the Opposition, who obviously are determined to turn this debate on a very serious subject into a flippant evening. We do not intend to do so. Obviously Senator Chipp does not intend to do so. I think that not only interjections but also utterly irrelevant and non-existent points of order, as put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, should be ruled out of order.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Chaney had no point of order. Senator Chipp, I understand, was trying to relate his remarks to the Bill but was being hampered by fairly constant interjections. I call Senator Chipp.

Senator CHIPP —I was saying that in our truly multicultural society there is an ethnic mix which is unequalled anywhere in the world. The aim of the Government's policies must not be to totally assimilate migrants, as some people would have it do, but surely to help them retain their cultural heritage to the benefit of all Australians and to the benefit of Australia. My Party is aware of the many reasons why people might migrate to Australia. There are economic reasons and political reasons, and sometimes people migrate because they literally have nowhere else to go.

An ugly side of Australian politics has recently emerged. Thankfully it has submerged again, hopefully permanently but maybe temporarily. The raising of the immigration debate and the stirring up of latent racist sentiments are viewed with the utmost concern by my Party. We believe that those people who have raised those racist sentiments, whether under the guise of academic comment or under the protection of political advantage, are to be utterly and totally condemned. We abhor the raising of issues which might encourage racism and we feel a genuine concern for the difficult position it puts some of our migrants in, a position which is inexcusable. Unfortunately there appears to be a general belief by successive governments of this country that ad hoc measures are sufficient. Governments have shown interest in migrants, language policies and multiculturalism only since the 1970s. This has by and large been a belated, piecemeal approach which has produced unnecessary stress and suffering for generations of people.

Previous governments, both Labor and Liberal, are to be commended on the vigour with which they have pursued policies relating to migration to this country. Unhappily the task that attends the care, the proper accommodation and the proper integration of those migrants into our community, which generally is the function of State governments, has not been fulfilled. It would be easy for a Federal government or the Federal Parliament simply to say: 'There in Richmond in Victoria is a ghetto of Vietnamese. Therefore, it is the State Government's fault'. Technically, I suppose, if one wanted to make a cheap point, that could be true, but the Federal Parliament and Federal governments of all persuasions-and I share blame in this as much as any member of this Parliament-are also to blame because it was those Federal governments which brought these people to Australia, which induced and, in some cases, seduced them into coming to Australia; and once they came here, many of them not speaking our language, they were left to their own devices. Who can blame them if, for their own protection, being in a strange country and not knowing the language, they congregate together, as any species does for its self-protection? I believe that, while we in Australia can be proud of our record of sharing our country with people from societies less privileged than ours, we have a lot to answer for for what we have not done to them in education, housing and assistance once they got here. This has by and large been a belated, piecemeal approach and has produced unnecessary stress and suffering for generations of people, the effects of which will probably not be shown until the next generation.

The difficulties many migrants face with language compound the problems they face when settling in Australia. Let us think for a moment of the incredible advances made in teaching language to the new settlers, for example, in Israel. The Falashas of Ethiopia are taught their new language and much more, systematically and scientifically, before being expected to fend for themselves. Australia has never invested in these sorts of resources, in its greatest asset, its people. I take this opportunity again to urge the Government to adopt a national language policy and program. The longer it is delayed, the harder it will be to implement. I pay a rare compliment to Malcolm Fraser who I believe was in favour of a national language policy.

Senator Jessop —How do you define that, though? I am interested.

Senator CHIPP —It is a policy which we overtly adopt at this level, because the States do not have the resources to do it, of ensuring that every child in Australia can speak, say, two languages.

Senator Jessop —Good idea.

Senator CHIPP —I believe that it is and I believe that Mr Fraser believes that it is, but a former Liberal Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, I think without the authority of Cabinet, said: 'It is a crazy idea; why not have a national music policy, a policy of making sure that every child can play a musical instrument?'. I believe that the two are incomparable. I believe that this is one area, a very important area, in which the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Democrats would be unanimous in their view if a vote was taken. I believe very strongly that a national language policy is crucial to the development of Australia's multicultural aim.

Last Thursday in the Age a Professor John Power of Melbourne University was reported as suggesting that immigration and ethnic affairs policies be given a much lower profile. One is never surprised, I suppose, by what comes out of some of the ivory towers which we luxuriously endow in this country. In reality this suggestion would be a victory to the racist polemicists who have been given such widespread publicity lately. It would be a retreat from the understanding that migrants to this country deserve and need-the serious, careful planning of a department within the Federal Government. Now is the time to tell the racists of this country that they will not get their way through fear tactics or by intimidation and that Australia's democratic institutions will not be broken down or downgraded.

Senator Button —Dr Power made a more serious point than that, about the split of the department, which you may wish to address. I think that was a very serious point.

Senator CHIPP —Indeed, it was. I plan to make comments about that in the Committee stage of the debate. I am indebted to the Leader of the Opposition for his interdiction.

Senator Button —Will you stop getting the two sides of this chamber mixed up? It has not been your forte tonight.

Senator CHIPP —I am sorry; did I say 'Leader of the Opposition'?

Senator Button —Yes. I spent seven years in that role and I don't intend to get back to it.

Senator CHIPP —Old habits die hard with an old pro. I hope the Leader of the Government will forgive me. The recent report issued by the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs called 'Reducing the Risks' pointed out that migrants endure longer and higher rates of unemployment. At this time the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs should be expanded, not intimidated into disbanding. The Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs has a very important role to play in helping the Government to adopt humane and reasoned policies, backed up by research as well as help, in the area of community educational activities. The Democrats strongly and warmly support this Bill and commend the Labor Government for its work in this area and for introducing it. There is one small but serious suggestion as to how we believe that the Bill could be improved. There has been in our view a serious omission in leaving tertiary educational institutions and research institutes out of the Bill. The Bill states that the functions of the Institute are educational and 'conducting, commissioning and encouraging research', as well as the 'collection and dissemination of information'. The Bill lists these bodies with which the Institute is to liaise. I hope that we stop using 'liaise' as a verb because it always offends me when I see it being used as a verb. The Leader of the Government will know in a flash, being a purist in English, that one can be in liaison with another person, sometimes an exquisitely pleasant liaison, but it is very difficult, in my teaching of the English language, actually to liaise with another person.

Senator Button —I assure the honourable senator that my purist view enjoins me to explain that that is something I would never know in a flash.

Senator CHIPP —I accept the Leader of the Government's word for that. In listing these bodies with which the Institution is to liaise, consult and co-operate, the vital contribution of tertiary and research institutions has been omitted. We have suggested to the Government and the Opposition that it might be acceptable and agreeable to them in the Committee stage to accept an amendment by the Democrats to that effect. We hope that the chamber will find that amendment agreeable.