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Speech at multicultural celebration, Broadmeadows



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PRIME MINISTER

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SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING MP MULTICULTURAL CELEBRATION BROADMEADOWS TOWN HALL - 6 MARCH 1993

Today we celebrate multicultural Australia. We could celebrate it any other day of the year, because multicultural Australia is the reality of Australia - the work, the leisure, the life of Australia.

We talk about it as one of our great achievements, and it is: we have worked at the task of creating a culture which is both diverse and dynamic, and tolerant and fair.

We have developed policies which strike a balance between maintaining cultural difference and encouraging a sense of belonging and social inclusion.

We have been determined that cultural pluralism delivered not fragmentation but strength and harmony. That immigrant Australians would not be marginalised or

victimised, but enjoy the same rights and opportunities with all other Australians.

We have not achieved all our goals. The results have not been perfect.

But the people of Australia can say with great pride and without fear of contradiction that no country has done better. In fact, I don't think any country has done as well as Australia.

The point to remember is that multicultural Australia did not just happen: it is the product of a conscious investment of ideas, effort and money.

It serves us well. It serves us well as a nation.

We must not let these achievements be undermined. Our multicultural policies are part of that fabric which holds Australia together. Any party which threatens multiculturalism threatens that fabric - and must be

resisted.

It should be remembered that in the end, our multicultural achievements have been made possible by the

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attachment of Australians to democratic principles and a traditional belief in tolerance and fairness.

It, therefore, should be remembered that an attack on multicultural policies is an attack on those beliefs.

No one should think of multicultural Australia as a pipedream or as a utopian ideal. It is the result of practical policies achieving practical national ends.

Labor believes that we can best build on our achievements and safeguard the principles of multicultural Australia by encouraging national pride and a sense of common purpose.

That, I think, has been a theme in the past 12 months.

And it is for this reason that we think having an Australian Oath of Allegiance is important.

It's why we think we should promote the rights and obligations of citizenship and encourage all migrants to make this commitment to their new homeland.

It's why we think that a referendum should be held to ensure that Australian citizenship is sufficient qualification to stand for election to the Federal Parliament.

And it is why we think we should now consider the creation of a Federal Republic of Australia with an Australian head of state chosen by the people.

We pursue these issues. Our opponents find them difficult to comprehend.

Dr Hewson believes that government should be run on the principles of a business. So it should - where business is involved. But a government which only ran on these principles would not have given us multicultural Australia. It would not have given us a nation.

Dr Hewson said last year that multiculturalism was a fundamental mistake - "absolutely a fundamental mistake in this country".

Dr Hewson is in favour of a multicultural Australia, but he is not in favour of the policies or people which make it work to everyone's advantage. He is not in favour of what he calls "a few professional ethnics".

What Dr Hewson really means is this: he hates the idea of social support. He hates the idea of governments playing a role in society - whether it is a universal health care system, or access and equity in education, or

multicultural policies, or the idea of a nation which reaches back for the needy, the marginalised, the unlucky, Dr Hewson has an aversion to it.

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Dr Hewson's philosophy was formed more than a decade ago when monetarist and Thatcherite ideas were the height of fashion. This was the age of government retreat, of

unfettered market forces operating in every area of a nation's life including education, health and social security.

Dr Hewson is a decade too late. These ideas have been tried and they have failed - failed with devastating consequences for the economy and society of Britain, the

United States and New Zealand.

It is Dr Hewson's tragedy that his policies are discredited and out of date. Better Dr Hewson's tragedy than Australia's.

In 1989 the Government put forward the National Agenda for a multicultural Australia. The Agenda spelt out the rights and obligations of all Australians, regardless of ethnic background or heritage. It established a philosophy for living in a culturally diverse nation.

Since then Labor has been implementing policies which recognise the importance of foreign languages and skills, safeguard the peace within our community, improve access to services and seek the views of immigrant Australians.

Labor's achievements and future policy directions are set out in the document that I have released today.

Australia has an unprecedented opportunity to build on the economic, cultural and linguistic resources of our people.

To do this we must recognise the special needs of immigrant Australians and ensure that there are no barriers to their contributing fully to the community and the nation.

Labor has expanded the Grant-in-Aid program, allocating $3.4 million in 1992-93 to 132 community organisations. These organisations reach migrants who need specialised services to enable them to get started.

Labor's commitment to the Special Broadcasting Service has been extended to the creation of a National Ethnic Broadcasting Network. We have introduced a second frequency in Melbourne and Sydney and we will extend the network to all capital cities.

Through a commitment of funds to an integrated languages policy, Labor will ensure that the diversity of languages in Australia is used creatively to improve the quality of our workforce, increase our tourist potential, and more

effectively take advantage of the trading opportunities with non-English speaking countries.

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Efficiency in English allows people to settle more quickly and successfully, to find work and to actively participate in the life of the community.

To meet the needs of incoming migrants, as well as those of older communities, Labor has committed a total $309 million to ESL programs over the next four years.

Access to quality English tuition will increase the opportunities for first time job seekers and those affected by industry restructuring.

Labor has guaranteed a minimum entitlement of 510 hours in English language tuition. We are committed to an accessible and affordable translation and interpreting service.

As part of the new Medicare agreement, under Labor, public hospitals are obliged to provide language services to their patients.

Multicultural Australia should be warned: with their commitment to privatisation the Opposition will introduce commercial rates for translating and interpreting services.

Dr Hewson's so-called plan for Australia will cut back ESL programs and abolish the migrant worker participation scheme.

Multicultural Australia should also be warned that. Dr Hewson's deputy will be Tim Fischer. Mr Fischer's views are not always entirely clear but he has made very clear what he thinks of migrants using services available

to other Australians. He said "if they have a problem in their first period here in Australia, then let them go back home and use their own social security system, thank you very much". -

In a sense this is a perfect example of the different philosophies in Australian politics. The Coalition believes in the survival of the fittest or the luckiest. It believes in sink or swim. It believes that if you reach out with an offer of support, you will be dragged down.

Labor believes that support is. not only a moral imperative but a source or social and economic strength.

The great challenge is to continue Australia's economic restructuring and recovery without sacrificing the bonds between us and the degree to which we care for each other.

We recognise that some Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds - and very often they are young Australians - are bearing a disproportionate burden of

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unemployment and we have established policies to assist them.

As I said in the campaign-launch speech, as I have said all this last year, we want to generate energy and deliver care. We know that the men and women who come here from other countries bring energy and ideas and hope and ambition. Hope needs encouragement, ambition needs nurturing, energy and ideas need an outlet.

And governments have a responsibility to foster these things.

Dr Hewson will tell you - the real Dr Hewson, not the one masquerading since Christmas as a Fabian socialist - the real Dr Hewson will tell you that the market should do it all and the Government should keep out. And when people

fall on hard times, they should help themselves.

In fact, Dr Hewson is at odds with history. Quite apart from the cold-blooded, radical, regressive savagery of it, Dr Hewson is at odds with truth.

No country has succeeded with the policies of Dr Hewson -not since the nineteenth century, and they did not succeed for most of the population.

The successful countries in the twentieth century have been the social democratic countries - the ones with dynamic economies but which also cared about the social and cultural fabric. The ones who cared about the bonds between their people, and their material and spiritual well-being.

This is the sort of society Australia can and must be. To accept Dr Hewson's radical alternative would be to waste the greatest of all opportunities to create that sort of society in the nineties.

Migrant Australians should know this. They will be hit particularly hard.

The Coalition intends to cut $10 billion from public expenditure. Employment assistance, labour market programs, language programs, ethnic media and settlement services are at risk.

Migrant Australians in the workforce, particularly women migrants, are at risk from Dr Hewson's radical industrial relations policy which will reduce wages, conditions and job security.

They will be at risk from the Coalition's plan to dismantle. Medicare. They will abolish bulk-billing. It will cost $32 up-front every time you go to the doctor. They will drive people into private health insurance which they cannot afford.

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Dr Hewson will call this scaremongering. It is factmongering. These are the facts - and it is Dr Hewson who is scared of them.

Nothing scares him so much as people learning the facts about the GST.

The GST is a tax on water, gas, garbage collection, books, clothes and hamburgers. It is a tax on bus tickets, cinema tickets, postage stamps, telephone calls,

newspapers and magazines.

As I said last week, every time you put your hand in your pocket Dr Hewson will be there. And, every time you get in the bath, every time you flush the lavatory, every time you put out the garbage, every time you post a

letter to your mum - he'll be there in the letterbox saying thank you very much.

The GST will be a tax on non-prescription pharmaceuticals - on the Ventolin which 1.4 million asthmatic Australians use. The full 15 per cent.

There will be a tax on cough medicines, sun screens, antacids, nappies and visits to the vet. When you take your dog for a walk, when you put out the cat, Dr Hewson will be there.

He'll be there in the restaurant, and in the funeral parlour, he'll be there in the lawyer's office, he'll be there with your accountant, your chiropractor and your estate agent.

He'll be there when you buy your colourbond, your concrete and your corrugated iron; when you buy your paint, your plaster, your pipes and your polyfiller. He'll be in your house from the day you pour the slab.

The GST will increase the cost of living. It will tax the poorest in the community more heavily than it taxes the richest, because it is a tax on spending and the poor spend all they have.

It will be a debilitating tax on small business - the area which employs the great bulk of the Australian workforce, and on which the progress of our economic recovery depends. It will be, as the Canadians discovered, an administrative nightmare, and an expensive one - total compliance costs would be between $2 and 4 billion.

80 per cent of Canadians want the GST to go - and that was a tax of 7 per cent, not 15 as Dr Hewson proposes.

And it will not create one extra job.

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Nowhere in the world where a GST has been introduced has there been a consequent growth in employment or reduction in unemployment.

On the contrary, in New Zealand, to quote a recent example, unemployment has risen dramatically, and employment has actually fallen by 6 per cent. In Canada, employment fell and unemployment rose - and interest rates were held up to stop prices rising.

Dr Hewson says his GST package will create 2 million jobs. No one, not even the people who devised his package, believe this. Not one serious economic commentator believes it. In truth, Dr Hewson doesn't believe it. In truth, the GST will cost jobs.

Equally, no serious commentator believes that Australian families will be better off under Dr Hewson's GST package. On the contrary, the most recent study by Elizabeth Savage shows that two-thirds of working households will be worse off.

I said at the beginning that multicultural Australia is something to celebrate. It is a triumph of ideas, effort and good will. It is an expression of the bonds between us. It is proof of how we can change.

Perhaps we can use the example of immigration as a metaphor for the economic change we are going through.

With immigration a choice faced us - we could let new migrants make that jolting change from one country and culture to another without support or assistance, and let Australians find their own way to accommodate the

cultural shock.

Or we could manage the change, devise policies that would cushion the transition for people and in the long run make society stronger.

It is the same with the economic change we are going through. We can say, let's make the change brutally. Let's throw care - and people - to the winds.

Or we can say, let's keep the ties between us strong. Let's take the people with us. Let's have the change and come out the other side not a fractured, inequitable, greedy society, but a cohesive society in which the values of tolerance, fairness and equity are still

intact.

Thank you for inviting me to this great celebration. I am one of those people who has boundless confidence in the ability of Australians to make their own way in the

world, to meet the challenges, to create a great society. This gathering today is proof of what I mean.

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I should congratulate Andrew Theophanous for his efforts in organising today's events.

And let me also pay tribute to Gerry Hand who has been a great Minister for immigration, and I know a great friend to many people here.