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Health Minister says he believes religious and cultural assimilation will happen.

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Wednesday 1 March 2006

Health Minister says he believes religious and cultural assimilation will happen


TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott spent a subst antial amount of time yesterday talking about issues outside his portfolio with mixed results. 


He made some wisecracks in Parliament about ethnic influences within the branches of the Labor Party, remarks which he later withdrew. 


And later on he went to Lateline to talk about his vision of Australian multiculturalism. 


Tony Abbott says everyone, including migrants, are on a journey and he believes that religious and cultural assimilation will happen. 


Karen Barlow prepared this report. 


TONY ABBOTT: I think it's very important that we don't make Australians feel like strangers in their own country. And this applies to all of us, whether we're Indigenous Australians, Anglo-Celtic Australians, Muslim Australians, Catholic Australians. 


There's a place for all of us in the extended family of the Australian nation and if some of us don't agree with others of us, well, let's have the dialogue, let's have the argument, but let's not say that anyone is beyond the pale. 


KAREN BARLOW: The Health Minister says language, religion and culture eventually converge, but it shouldn't happen by force. 


TONY ABBOTT: Assimilation will take place, but it will happen in a way which doesn't do violence to people's existing rights and perspectives. 


KAREN BARLOW: But Tony Abbott has not been entirely been an ethnic peacemaker of late. 


While answering a question on private health insurance with an attack on Labor branch stacking, Mr Abbott was shouted down over this remark. 


TONY ABBOTT: He's still got the Greek branches, but he's lost the Spanish branches and he's lost the Vietnamese branches as well as the Cambodian branches, and I couldn't help but think, are there any Australians left in the so-called Australian Labor Party today, Mr Speaker? 


(Sound of yelling) 


KAREN BARLOW: Labor frontbencher, Anthony Albanese, has told Parliament that Mr Abbott has offended every citizen without an Anglo-Celtic name. 


ANTHONY ALBANESE: We have only have one class of citizens in this country. We do not have two and it does not matter whether your name is Smith or Abbott or Albanese or Panopoulos or Wong, we are Australians all. 


KAREN BARLOW: But Tony Abbott says it was nothing more than a jocular remark about the state of the Labor Party and soon as it was made it was withdrawn. 


TONY EASTLEY: Karen Barlow reporting.