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Slim pickings in updated multicultural agenda.



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Shadow Minister For Citizenship and

Multicultural Affairs

MEDIA RELEASE

LAURIE FERGUSON MP

14 May 2003 SLIM PICKINGS IN UPDATED MULTICULTURAL

AGENDA

The Government’s strategic directions statement Multicultural Australia: United in

Diversity, released with yesterday’s Budget, is a major disappointment.

The 8 page glossy statement flows from an unreleased in-house evaluation of the Coalition’s 1999 New Agenda for Multicultural Australia . There was next to no community consultation involved in the preparation of the Government’s plans for the next 3 years.

The statement rightly notes that citizenship is a strong unifying force in our diverse multicultural community. Yet it contains only 4 sentences about Australian citizenship and no new commitments in this important policy area. This is in stark contrast to the Opposition’s 30-page citizenship policy statement released on Australia Day.

The Government repeats its claimed commitment to access and equity. It appears to believe, however, that social justice can be achieved simply by more streamlined reporting and more effective analysis by mainstream Commonwealth agencies. While saying there is “a strong case for better developing even greater investment in vulnerable individuals”, particularly refugees fleeing trauma who have had a disrupted education, the statement lacks any such additional measures. Minister Hardgrave clearly prefers to spend taxpayers’ money on glossy booklets and videos.

The Opposition welcomes the Government’s acknowledgement that countering threats to community harmony needs to play a greater role in its multicultural agenda. International events have clearly strained community relations. While Australia is a remarkably harmonious and tolerant country, we need to constantly restate our abhorrence of racism and religious and cultural prejudice and work in genuine partnership with the States and Territories to promote improved community relations.

Instead we see the ridiculous spectacle of the Government legislating to abolish the position of Race Discrimination Commissioner and to curtail the powers and functions of the Hum an Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission. In seeking to do so, the Coalition is heading in totally the wrong direction.

For further information: Laurie Ferguson MP 02 6277 4920 Warren Gardiner 0409 910 004