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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12901

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (09:46): I rise today to speak on behalf of those very patriotic and great Australians whose forebears migrated from the Punjab, mainly, in India—the Sikhs. Our soldiers fought beside them. My great grandfather's brother, who died at Gallipoli, fought beside the Sikhs at Gallipoli. For reasons I do not quite understand, I do not know of any group who have ever come to Australia from another country that instantly become such patriotic, hardworking and contributing Australians as the Sikhs. They are very, very prominent in the banana industry. From time to time, two or three of the banana kings will be Sikhs. I should say Sikh Australians, but Sikhs are members of a religion. It is a monotheistic religion, recognising one true, supreme god. It is also a religion that stood as a bulwark against the Islamic invasions into the Indian mainland and, interestingly, they are the only people who have ever defeated the Afghans.

During the terrible days of Cyclone Larry, I went hungry on many occasions because money would not work and I had to walk the streets of Innisfail. It was very dismal and depressing but a very challenging situation. On one occasion I went hungry I remember handing out pies that I got hold of to the police control room. The sergeant of police there said, 'The pies are cold.' I said, 'Yes, but the Coca-Cola is hot, so don't worry.' He did not think that was particularly funny. Indeerjeet Singh and his family took me in and fed me, which I was deeply appreciative of at the time.

In our great demonstrations in the sugar industry and the banana industry, where we have been fighting desperately for survival, people like Sona Singh were very heavily involved in organising those demonstrations. These people who come to Australia are immensely popular. No sooner do they arrive here than they shout with pride, 'I am an Australian.' And there is never any doubt in anyone's mind that they are. When you see our huge demonstrations, you will always see people in turbans upfront, because they are extremely popular and people feel very comfortable. If they are in a battle, people know the battle is a good battle. (Time expired)