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Unity not division is needed



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Philip Ruddock MP I t

Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Electorate Tel: (02) 858 1011 Fax: (02) 804 6739

Parliament House Tel: (06) 277 4343 Fax: (06) 277 2062

UNITY NOT DIVISION IS NEEDED

At a time of high unemployment, when unity and leadership is required, the blatant politicization of multicultural politics is unacceptable.

The Prime Minister is to speak tonight at a dinner specifically organised at his request by the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA). The Office of Multicultural Affairs has made the arrangements.

As a major public statement on immigration, ethnic affairs, or multicultural matters, it is blatant partisan politics to have made no effort to attract biĀ­ partisan support for any announcements that may be made.

In 1989, Bob Hawke launched the National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia in which the Government sought a bi-partisan approach. In the limited way multiculturalism was defined at that time, the Government received full support from the Opposition.

The Opposition Spokesman on Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Philip Ruddock MP, was invited to the launch and N.S.W. Premier Griener gave a key address in support.

It wasn't until the election was announced that politics intruded. The Government sought the support of ethnic community leaders through secret one-off special purpose payment to selected ethnic organisations. This information was only made known after disclosure from the Opposition and the media. *

The background to the sackings of Departmental Secretary Ron Brown and Deputy Secretary Tony Harris remains unclear. It was quite apparent, however, that the moves occurred at the behest of specific interest groups unhappy with particular decisions initiated by the Department in the area of immigration and ethnic affairs. It was widely believed at the time, that the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) was the conduit for action.

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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On this occasion, State Government members who are financial members of Ethnic Communities Council of NSW were not initially invited. When belatedly invited, they were specifically advised that their attendance be in

their capacity of members of the ethnic communities council and not as an MP or member of State Government.

FECCA receives substantial government funding. It has been press-ganged into arranging this event for the Prime Minister purely as a political exercise.

While the Opposition meets regularly with FECCA, at no stage has it offered to organise a major event for the leader of the Opposition at a time of his choosing and similarly stage managed.

When the Coalition has spoken to FECCA, we have exhorted them to speak fearlessly on issues of concern. It is a great pity that FECCA has not made clear the enormous pressure under which it has been placed in ceding to the Prime Minister's request, and affirmed its intentions to be non-partisan.

13 August 1992