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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1906


Mrs KELLY(10.43) —It is with a great deal of sadness that I rise tonight to defend the one million Australians of Italian birth and origin. I am sad because I thought that discrimination and victimisation of people with non-Anglo-Saxon names was no longer perceived as an Australian activity. Sadly, I was wrong. On 31 March this year, an article appeared in the Canberra Times under a heading relating to alleged bogus claims from faked motor vehicle accidents. The accompanying cartoon, spread across three columns, showed five stereotype Italians all crying 'whip-a-lasha' following a motor vehicle crash. A sturdy Anglo-Saxon policeman was dealing with them. 'One at a time' he was saying, as if they were inferior beings. Implicit in the cartoon was a suggestion that Italians were fakes and/or criminals.

Members of the Italian community argue that such cartoons and headlines are an incitement to racism in the work place, the school yard and places of recreation. I am inclined to agree with them. Further on in the article the following statement was made:

The frauds were detected because of the frequency with which certain surnames kept appearing. With Anglo-Saxons, it is hard to detect any such pattern because of the huge number of surnames used. But among the Italian community, for instance, with fewer surnames, it was not difficult to find that the same dozen or so names keep popping up.

What has made the Italian names even more conspicuous is that several of them developed a certain degree of notoriety as a result of the findings of the Woodward Royal Commission. . .

Lessons to be learned from this would appear to be, firstly, that one's surname identifies one with as large a group as possible and, secondly, if one shares a surname with anyone who has become infamous, one should change it. Maybe with my surname, I should do the same.

The Italian-Australian Anti-defamation Committee, in its protest about this article, unanimously agreed that the article, taken to its logical conclusion, meant that citizens with Italian surnames should be investigated-first, because of their racial origin; and, then, if they happen to share the same surname as other Italians, this should be an indication of their guilt by association. I am sad that it has become necessary to form a national anti-defamation committee, but I would support the move because it is quite clear that many Australians have not yet attained the maturity to separate people from stereotypes. Most Australians-I hope most honourable members of this House-would recoil from association with the beer-swilling Australian stereotype and most Italians would recoil from the cartoon stereotype attributed to them in the Canberra Times. Nobody deserves to be victimised or treated in a discriminatory manner because of their race, religion, sex, marital status or any other reason, especially if they have common surnames. I seek the support of honourable members and, indeed, of the Australian community to help stamp out such discrimination so that in future it will no longer be necessary to form a national anti-defamation committee.