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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 500

Senator COULTER (4.51 p.m.) —Motions before the Senate quite frequently seek to do more than one thing and the opposition is just isolating one aspect of the two objects of this motion. The first part of the motion congratulates all the athletes. The second part of the motion seeks to pick up on a very, very important issue which was raised initially by Mr Tunstall when he objected to the carrying of the Aboriginal flag.

Senator Bell —Singled her out.

Senator COULTER —Yes, singled her out for that particular action. The Democrats certainly will not support the substitution of the word `commends' with the word `understands'. For instance, I understand where the opposition is coming from in wanting to change this word, but I do not commend them for their actions at all. There is a vast difference between offering understanding and offering commendation. When we understand something, we can understand it perfectly well but totally disagree with it. I think that is the implication behind the opposition seeking to amend this motion.

Senator Campbell —That is just not true.

Senator COULTER —What is wrong with the word `commend'? The word `commend' means that we wholeheartedly support her action—an action which I hope everybody in this chamber would support. For some years Australians, including most members of the opposition, have prided themselves on being a multicultural society. We encourage many people who have come from a vast number of countries to celebrate their culture by showing their flags on various national days and at other functions in which they are engaged.

  Here we have an Aboriginal athlete who has performed extremely well and who is proud of her heritage. Not only do I see nothing wrong with that, but I am absolutely delighted and thrilled that she saw fit to carry both the Australian flag and the Aboriginal flag as a symbol of the fact that she was proud of not only being an Australian, but proud of being an Aboriginal Australian. That is what this motion seeks to commend. Senator Lees has used that word quite deliberately and quite advisedly.

  I am very pleased that the government will be supporting the motion. The word `understands' carries quite a different connotation and we cannot support the amendment which Senator Campbell has moved.