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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 906

Mr HUSIC (2:42 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. How have the government’s statements on multiculturalism been received in the community; and why has it been important to show leadership in this important area of public policy?

Mr BOWEN (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —As the House is aware, the government have announced our new multicultural strategy. Multiculturalism has strengthened our economy and enriched our society—and it does not detract from our national identity; it adds to it. This government’s new policy has been very warmly welcomed in many parts of the community. The Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner, for example, said:

It is a policy that commits to fairness, equality and inclusion for all people in Australia.

Former Liberal leaders Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson have endorsed the policy in a welcome sign of bipartisanship. I was very pleased to see the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship enter into the discussion. He said:

… it is heartening to see the Federal Government is dedicated to a country where all people are treated equally regardless of their cultural or religious background.

I think he put it well: ‘treated equally’ regardless of your religious or political background. Being treated equally means not having your religion attacked by Australia’s political leaders. Being treated equally means not having prejudice against your religion used to garner political points. Being treated equally means being treated with respect by all politicians in Australia.

Another 24 hours have passed, and the Leader of the Opposition has still not condemned the statements from his own shadow parliamentary secretary. It is reported that in the party room today the Leader of the Opposition said Senator Bernardi had gone ‘a little too far’. Senator Bernardi’s comments not only warrant a condemnation from the Leader of the Opposition—they demand one. The Leader of the Opposition has launched a crackdown on leaks, but he has refused to condemn public comments from Senator Bernardi. He is tough on leakers and soft on intolerance. The Leader of the Opposition needs to show more leadership on this issue. Malcolm Fraser would have sacked Cory Bernardi. John Hewson would have sacked Cory Bernardi. I suspect even Robert Menzies would have sacked Cory Bernardi. The people of Australia need more leadership and more judgment from their alternative Prime Minister. It is not good enough to say, ‘The Liberal Party is a broad church.’ No church is broad enough for religious intolerance.