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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7042


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (15:24): I also rise to take note of answers. In my maiden speech on 14 June 2005, I spoke of having lived my life across the diversity that is Australia. I spoke of cultural diversity having brought us many advantages but also challenges. I spoke of when my parents and millions like them experienced prejudice when they first came to Australia. It was a fact of life. They got on with it. They assimilated. They shared their culture, traditions, values and beliefs. They accepted and became accepted. Through this, they and many others helped forge the unique Australian way of life that we have today.

I then spoke of divisions in our society and I want to restate those today: while some seek to gloss over divisions in our society by affirming a desire for harmonious coexistence and religious tolerance, divisions do exist. We need to address them before the rifts become so deep that our society's very existence is threatened. Australia is a tolerant and compassionate society founded on understanding and respecting social and religious differences. Our success as a culturally diverse society comes from putting our commitment to Australia first.

Last Saturday in Sydney we saw the ugly side of multiculturalism in our community drastically rearing its horrid face—this is what I mean about the divisions in society. Some commentators are suggesting that the elephant in the room within our Australian community has reminded us of its presence. Firstly, this film has more than once been officially condemned by the US government with the White House even taking the extraordinary, albeit unsuccessful, step of asking Google to pull the video down. Therefore one must ask the question: what was the justification for marching and protesting against the US consulate?

One must also ask why the level of unwarranted vitriolic chants like 'Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell'? As Waleed Aly correctly asked in the Sydney Morning Herald today:

Pardon? Which dead? Weren't we talking about a movie?

This can only be interpreted as a reference to their holy soldiers that are rewarded in paradise and must therefore be a comparison to our, in their eyes, not so holy soldiers. Therefore one can only conclude that the dead that they are referring to are our diggers, our ANZACs, the brave men and women, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They fought to defend our basic freedom—the freedoms that afford those very people chanting offensive slogans on Saturday the right to protest. What was the justification for the level of violence?

The scariest and perhaps the most offensive part of Saturday's disgraceful events was seeing children holding placards above their heads calling for people to be beheaded—signs that they were not even old enough to read, let alone understand. Worse still, their parents were proudly taking photos on their phones for the family album.

Contrast this behaviour to the Christian response to the deplorable and intentionally offensive films such as Hail Mary in 1985 and The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988 to name a few. As a lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor, I acted on behalf of the Chief Censor in proceedings related to the entry and classification of The Last Temptation of Christ. In both cases the Catholic Church appropriately invoked legal argument to argue that the films were blasphemous. The Christians who were offended did march in the streets. They did not riot. They respected the law and argued their case in a measured manner through the appropriate avenues—namely, through the office of film classification and the courts.

I commend the Muslim organisations lining up to condemn the violence. There are thousands of Muslims who, like my parents, have come here to build a better life for themselves and for their children. Many have been very successful. Only this week we saw the election of Councillor Ned Mannoun, Liberal mayor of Liverpool, in one of my patron seats of Werriwa.

I say this to those in the community who have come out here with little or no intention of integrating themselves, who have no desire to assimilate, who preach hatred and violence: you are not welcome. As the daughter of migrants to this country, I say to you: 'Accept our laws. Respect them and make the most of the opportunities that this country can give you. If you do not want to do this, it is time to go back to where you came from.' This is the view that millions of Australians, the silent majority in this country, think about every day, and it is time that we should not be afraid to say it publicly and openly.

Question agreed to.