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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1660

Mr MELHAM (8:30 PM) —I rise to support the motion moved by the member for Werriwa before the House, and I congratulate him for bringing the motion before the House. I endorse all that he has had to say in relation to the motion and I commend each of the speakers to date. This is an area where many on both sides agree. There is the odd one who does not agree. His name will not be mentioned by me. I will not dignify the name, but there is a certain person who should not be on the frontbench of the opposition because of comments he made recently. I am talking about someone in another place.

The truth is it allows us to talk about this, it allows us to discuss it and it allows us to defend what is a very defensible position in the electorate. Part of the problem has been that we just think that our electorates automatically have our views and we do not go out and argue the case. I want to say that Minister Chris Bowen and Senator Kate Lundy, in responding to the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council, had this to say:

Multiculturalism requires an ongoing commitment based on a shared vision for the future prosperity of our nation.

I also want to endorse the statement on cultural diversity by the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council on 30 April 2010, part of which said:

Australia has been strengthened and enriched by migration and our diversity is one of our greatest assets and a source of strength.

Our national unity is based on mutual respect …

We all rave on about how well the 2000 Olympics went. The truth is there would have been no Sydney Olympics, there would have been no 2000 Olympics in Australia but for our multiculturalism, our diversity, the respect that we had for one another and our ability to showcase to the rest of the world what a tolerant and understanding nation we were. There were many people in migrant communities who were lobbying their own communities back home about their own experiences and how well they were treated in this country, and African nations were also quite successfully lobbied.

My electorate of Banks was radically altered at the last election, but it is worth quoting some statistics. I have four councils in my electorate. Hurstville council is the largest. I also have Kogarah council, the next largest, Canterbury council and Bankstown council. In relation to those local government areas and the proportion of people born overseas who live in them: 46.9 per cent of Canterbury was born overseas, 37.5 per cent of Kogarah was born overseas, 37.3 per cent of Hurstville was born overseas and 35.8 percent of Bankstown was born overseas. In relation to language other than English speakers: Bankstown, 50.5 per cent; Canterbury, 62.6 per cent; and Hurstville, 42.8 per cent. These are enmeshed in the communities in which I was raised.

So what has it done? It has given me a perspective because all of my life they have been the people I have mixed with. Indeed, my parents and grandparents came to Australia in the mid-1920s. My father went home, married and brought my mother out and had 10 children. Of the 10 children, six are university trained—one doctorate, three Masters, six normal degrees—and four are TAFE trained; one topped the state in carpentry; one topped the TAFE in carpentry: four teachers. The most useless of the 10 is me, a member of parliament. Each of them is contributing and putting back into the local community, and all are well-respected. That is one story of many hundreds of thousands of stories replicated across our nation. We should not apologise for the fact that migration has enriched this nation and we should take on those who are basically pushing prejudice through ignorance. It is the ignorance that feeds the prejudice. So we have a story to tell in relation to multiculturalism, and we should not apologise for it.

I am very pleased at the tone of the debate because the truth is that the Liberal Party does have a good history in this area. Indeed, you can take an oath of allegiance to Australia now and not have to renounce your former citizenship. The Liberal Party brought that legislation in when they were in government. The Labor Party supported it. It is an acknowledgement that you can retain your citizenship of birth and still be a good Australian. That is the way forward.