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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3487

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(11.38) —The Government is committed unequivocally to enhancing multicultural values and maintaining the policy of a multicultural society, which we have always supported. It is very easy to come in here with a lot of high-blown hyperbole and carry on in the way that Senator Vigor has just carried on. In my role as Minister for Community Services, I have a considerable amount to do with migrant communities in general. In recent weeks, in fact, I have been to the annual general meetings of some of our largest migrant communities. I have close associations with the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia. In fact, I fund FECCA to conduct consultations throughout this country. Nationally our concern is that Community Services provide sufficient assistance to enable people of ethnic background, other than an English speaking background, to get proper assistance in the community. The significant thing I find in discussions with members of the ethnic communities is that they are not fooled by this sort of stuff. I think Senator Vigor would do well to read the views of Il Globo and the Italian community on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service merger.

Senator Vigor —He has been debunked by all the others.

Senator GRIMES —He has not been debunked by all the others.

Senator Georges —I would not rely too much on it.

Senator GRIMES —I am not relying entirely on it. All I can say is that, from my attendance at meetings with members of the ethnic communities in recent times, I have found that they do not have this fanatical concern expressed by Senator Vigor here about the ABC-SBS merger, and he knows it. The Opposition knows that. The communities are considerably concerned about what they have been doing.

The second thing is that I suggest that Senator Vigor should read the report of the Jupp Committee of Review of Migrant and Multicultural Programs and Services. He should read it all. He should read to me anywhere in that report where Dr Jupp specifically recommended the retention of AIMA. He assumed that AIMA would continue but that is not a recommendation in the report. The report recommends the establishment of an office of ethnic affairs, and it recommends that that office of ethnic affairs should be in Canberra. It recommends for that office of ethnic affairs the sort of role that the office, which is to be established within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, will have.

The simple fact is that most people in the migrant community had never heard of AIMA. It was not performing its function as effectively as it could have and should have. Certainly, the decision to change the nature of AIMA and to set up the office within the Prime Minister's department was partly a budgetary decision. But it was also a decision aimed at having a more effective mechanism to promote multiculturalism and to have those groups inside the government decision making process and having an office with a much greater capacity to act as a watchdog over government departments in a way that AIMA did not do. This office will be established so that we can promote and advocate multicultural principles, so that we can give overseas born residents equitable access to government programs and services and so that we can recognise that all government decisions should take account of ethnic and cultural diversity. For those reasons we will establish such an office and for those reasons that office will have a close and direct input in Canberra to the Commonwealth decision making process, instead of being stuck away in Melbourne which would mean a silly situation--

Senator Vigor —That is where all the communities are.

Senator GRIMES —Is Senator Vigor saying that that is where all the migrant groups are? What about Sydney, Adelaide or Perth-or Darwin where there is a greater diversity than in any of those other places? No, Senator Vigor would put it away in Melbourne. It is close to Adelaide so I suppose that is why he wants it down there. Let us get fair dinkum about this and listen to what the migrant communities are really saying. Let us give the new office the capacity to demonstrate what can be done, and more effectively. Through an appropriately located office, we will provide access to Federal programs and services and the development of those programs and services. That is what it is all about.

I understand from what Senator Vigor has said that, once again, he is not at all concerned about the budgetary situation. In every speech he makes in this place, he advocates a couple of million dollars more expenditure, and on top of that a couple of million dollars more expenditure on his ideas. He opposes everything that the Government does to try to save funds, but he comes in here and advocates a couple of ideas of his own which--

Senator Vigor —To raise money.

Senator GRIMES —We know all about Senator Vigor and his colleagues. The first thing that Senator Powell did in this place was to put down a notice of motion, the result of which would have been to increase Budget expenditure by $4,000m. Only a party which is absolutely certain that it will never be in a position of having to fulfil its promises will make promises like that. That is exactly what the Democrats are doing here. The savings on this measure will be $1m this year and $2m in a full year. I cannot give the exact costs of the new office in the Prime Minister's department because we are appointing the senior positions and planning the structure and the process of that office, which is the sensible thing to do. When the information is available, I will get it for Senator Vigor.

I understand that Senator Vigor and his colleagues will have two bob each way: They will vote for the amendment and then against the amended Bill, because the amendment will obviously get through. That is also a luxury that some of us in this place cannot afford. But I accept that that will happen and that the words will be added. But at least the legislation will pass, as I believe it should.

Amendment agreed to.

Original question, as amended, put.