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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 1076

Ms BURKE (9:15 PM) —The Australian government’s multicultural policy rests on four key principles: celebrate and value Australia’s cultural diversity within the broader aims of national unity; strengthen the government’s commitment to social inclusion, social cohesion and responsive government services; welcome the trade and investment benefits of Australia’s diversity; and promote the understanding and acceptance of cultural diversity while responding to attitudes and actions of intolerance and discrimination with strength. I am pleased to see that we have been re-emphasising and re-energising the benefits of multiculturalism in our society recently.

This policy outlines rights and responsibilities enshrined in our Citizenship Pledge, which requires future citizens to pledge their loyalty to Australia and its people, uphold our laws and democracy and respect our rights and liberties. I attend a lot of citizenship ceremonies, and they are always an indication to me of people’s utmost respect for Australia by their taking that pledge, by their committing and speaking those words. These rights and liberties include Australians of all backgrounds being entitled to celebrate, practise and maintain their cultural heritage, traditions and languages within the law and free from discrimination. They give them the right to embrace their multiculturalism.

I am deeply committed to multiculturalism in Australia. I am proud to represent a party that has a strong record of promoting the richness of ethnic diversity, but I believe we need to share this heritage, and I think the Liberal Party should be proud of their roots within the multiculturalism debate as well. Multiculturalism has proven itself as a successful policy for our nation.

In my seat of Chisholm, over 37 per cent of residents were born overseas. One of the great joys of my job is interacting with the various ethnic communities, whether it be in sampling the delights of the Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in Box Hill, visiting the dynamic and active Italian and Greek senior citizens clubs in Clayton and Oakleigh or interacting with the emerging populations of Sri Lankans and Indians in Mount Waverley and Glen Waverley.

Chisholm is an electorate thriving and demonstrating the benefits of mass migration. The benefits are obvious. Some that we laud are new customs, religion, music and cuisine. I always say at citizenship ceremonies that I am so grateful for mass migration because my ancestors’ meat and three veg has been greatly enhanced by the cultural cuisines from across the world—but that is just one very low level thing. The great benefit of multiculturalism has been the prosperity of our nation, the drive and prosperity and wealth generated by all the new arrivals who have come to our country. This is very evident in my electorate.

I have been celebrating this prosperity over the last couple of weeks because in my community one of the largest ethnic groups is the Chinese community. I have had the joy of celebrating Chinese New Year quite a lot lately, with quite varied groups from the Chinese community. They are not a homogeneous mass, and we need to recognise that. I celebrated with the Cantonese-speaking part of my electorate in Box Hill, I celebrated with the Taiwanese group in Box Hill, and then I celebrated with the predominantly Mandarin speakers in Mount Waverley. That was terrific. I have unfortunately eaten my body weight in Chinese food, and I thank them for that!

The last census in 2006 found that six per cent of my electorate’s population was Chinese. I believe that would be much higher today. Chinese New Year is a big celebration in my electorate. At one end, in Box Hill, they have the annual dusk-to-dawn celebration. Literally thousands of people come into my electorate. It is great because it brings people to the suburbs and takes them out of Melbourne’s CBD. They come to the suburbs and they spend money. It is really important to recognise and thank them for that.

I particularly want to thank the Asian Business Association of Whitehorse, who do a phenomenal job of assembling and creating the dusk to dawn ceremony. I particularly thank the president, Ken Huang, and the rest of the community for their magnificent work, and also the Whitehorse council for the work they have done for this ceremony. I thank the Box Hill police, who do a great job, because we literally shut down Box Hill from dusk to dawn and thousands of people come through. This is a fundraising event and all the money went to the flood appeals this year. I thank them for that. I also went to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s annual Chinese New Year blessing. They asked us to pray and think about recycling, which is their big message this year. At the other end of my electorate, I attended the Glen Waverley New Year and Lantern Festival organised by the Monash Chinese Events Organising Committee, led by their president, Vincent Chow. Vincent is also the chair of the federation of all the Chinese ethnic groups within Victoria. I thank Vincent and his team for their great work, and the foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, for coming along and making the event even more spectacular. Again, this was a huge event organised by the community.

Multiculturalism has been a successful policy in Australia. It has ensured we are not a narrow, introspective country. (Time expired)