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Tuesday, 5 September 2006
Page: 63


Senator BERNARDI (4:53 PM) —It was with a sense of hope and perhaps unbridled optimism that I read Senator Nettle’s urgency motion because I thought it was going to be an opportunity for us to talk about the wonderful work that this government has been doing in the field of multicultural affairs and certainly in providing a more prosperous, safe and stable nation for all Australians. However, my optimism was soon dashed when I heard Senator Nettle’s comments, because the motion turned out to be simply an ill-informed attack on perhaps the most successful prime minister we have ever seen in this country, which is also probably the most prosperous country within the Western world at the moment, I think.

I would like to put on record the quote from the Prime Minister relating to this issue, because Senator Nettle has called for us to note it and I think that, rather than note it, we should endorse it. He said:

And what I want to do is to reinforce the need for everybody who comes to this country to fully integrate and fully integrating means accepting Australian values, it means learning as rapidly as you can the English language, if you don’t already speak it, and it means understanding that in certain areas, such as the equality of men and women, the societies that some people have left were not as contemporary and as progressive as ours is. And I think people who come from societies where women are treated in an inferior fashion have to learn very quickly that that is not the case in Australia, that men and women do have equality and they’re each entitled to full respect. I think Australia has benefited enormously from immigration.

I was hoping that we could talk about the benefits to Australia of immigration; however, Senator Nettle has identified the Muslim related comments of our Prime Minister. Once again, let me put on the record that there is a very small section of the Islamic population—I say a small section, and I have said this before—which is very resistant to integration. There is nothing inflammatory or offensive about that comment. In fact, it is probably consistent with what Senator Nettle put out in a press release on 20 February 2006:

There are good and bad individuals in every religion.

What is wrong with that comment? When the Prime Minister makes it, suddenly it is a terrible slight upon the Muslim community in this nation, whereas, when Senator Nettle makes it, she is standing up for the minority groups. This is an urgency motion from someone who also put out a press release on 6 October 2004, which is on her website, when she gave a speech at an essay prize giving ceremony for a group called ‘Australians against Australia’. What an outrageous proposition it is for a member of this parliament to go and endorse and support a group called ‘Australians against Australia’ and then happily submit a press release about it. I have to tell you, Senator Nettle, that I am a little bit disturbed that you want to get involved in those sorts of things.

The Prime Minister’s comments are, quite frankly, stating the bleeding obvious. People understand them; they accept the fact that we are a society that has built a very progressive, very stable and very safe and tolerant society based on the fact that we have assimilation. When people come to this country, they bring their unique cultures and values and they integrate them with those that are already here. That is what makes us Australian. The Greek and Italian people came to this country in the 1950s. They learnt how to speak English. My father was a proponent of it. He arrived in this country at 16 and could not speak any English. He got a job and learnt how to speak English. He has employed hundreds of people in the time since. These people add to our culture. They learn the Australian tradition of the barbecue and then they decide to put some octopus on it. We were not having octopus on our barbecue until those cultures came here and made part of Australia what it is today. We have since enjoyed the rest of it. We had the Indochinese immigration of the late 1960s, the 1970s and the early 1980s. They came here and their culture has given us fantastic food, tolerance, diversity of religious beliefs and a range of new experiences and new initiatives. These are the things that make us quintessentially Australian. We have an Australian culture which is an amalgam, a blend and a combination of a multiethnic society. Our culture is Australian.

Rather than scoring cheap shots, because I am quite disturbed by Senator Nettle’s unbridled attack on this government and what it has done for the people of Australia and particularly for the new migrants in this country, I want to highlight a bit of the hypocrisy of the Green movement. All of a sudden, they have picked up on these comments, but this is the same mob—and I say ‘mob’—that have criticised the government and, in particular, our Prime Minister because he supported the right of Muslim children to wear headscarves in schools. This for some reason outraged the Green movement because he referred to it as being impractical to ban it.

We have a policy of opposition from the Greens. They do not care what it is about and they do not really stand for anything. They simply want to oppose, rankle and contradict—and I find it quite offensive. But their hypocrisy does not stop there; it continues across the board. In January of this year, Senator Bob Brown condemned the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, because the Attorney-General apparently ‘inflamed’ the rest of Australia by saying, ‘When you are an Australian you have a responsibility to uphold the laws of this country.’ I am sure that the people of Australia were outraged to hear that they have a responsibility to uphold the laws of this country! That is what it means to assimilate. It means that, when you come to this country, where you have freedom, diversity, tolerance, organisation and a patient community, you accept the laws of this country, you participate and you contribute to the culture. First among these things is the ability to communicate with your fellow Australians. You need to be able to speak to them, you need to be able to order things in shops, you need to be able to use library books, and you need to be able to fill in forms, because you want to participate in the greatest democracy on earth. For the Greens to rankle or attack our Prime Minister for such a senseless, pointless political argument is baseless.