Wednesday, 15 August 2018
by leave—I move:
That this House:
(2) recognise that since 1973, successive Labor and Liberal/National Party Governments have, with bipartisan support, pursued a racially non-discriminatory immigration policy to the overwhelming national, and international, benefit of Australia; and
(3) give its unambiguous and unqualified commitment to the principle that, whatever criteria are applied by Australian Governments in exercising their sovereign right to determine the composition of the immigration intake, race, faith or ethnic origin shall never, explicitly or implicitly, be among them.
The three points in the motion are taken, word for word just about, from a motion that Prime Minister Hawke moved in this parliament on 25 August 1988, 30 years ago next week. I have to say, in this world, you have to be pretty outrageous to be condemned by everybody in the Australian parliament—but Senator Anning has managed to do just this—because the blight of racism and discrimination is not new. But truth is always the best defence against racism.
There is no historical experience and no contemporary evidence that race determines bad behaviour—none at all. As I've said, this is not a new debate. Catholic and Jewish migrants had to deal with discrimination because of their faith, as did successive waves of Italians, Greeks and eastern Europeans after the Second World War and Vietnamese migrants in the 1970s and 1980s. Newly arrived Muslim and African communities are facing it now. The First Australians know all about the harm done by prejudice. The simple truth is this: we are a stronger, better country because of all of those who've come across the seas and joined their stories to ours.
I move this motion today because we need to defend the great national convention of Australian politics: race is beyond politics. I'm asking the government—and I'm pleased that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs are here—to support a motion that reaffirms the great bond of our major parties, to defend our national sense of decency and our trust in Australia. I'm sure the Prime Minister will say comparable things, because I know that he is not a racist. This statement will be stronger if it is supported by the members of the House of Representatives. We should do this together.
In the corrosive and fragmented climate of public debate, it's become unfortunately common for some to seek out attention by picking on minorities—the less powerful—by attacking in the most vile terms, normally, someone who cannot defend themselves. Around the world, right-wing extremists are turning this into a political art form. They say something hateful, or homophobic, or sexist or racist, something designed to humiliate and denigrate and hurt, and when their comments are condemned they complain about political correctness gone mad or the thought police stifling their free speech, all the while basking in the media attention. I have no doubt that was the cynical intention last night, and we have seen it again in a string of media appearances by Senator Anning this morning.
I understand that, in one sense, there might be a reason to simply ignore it, to starve the stupidity of oxygen, to treat it as beneath contempt. But, as leaders, as representatives of the Australian people, as servants of diverse communities in our great multicultural nation, we cannot stay silent in the face of racism. We cannot ignore the kind of prejudice and hate that the senator sought to unleash last night. Free speech is a cherished value in Australian society, but it is not an unfettered right to hurt, to bully, to intimidate, or to make some Australians feel less equal than other Australians. We have to call it out. We must condemn it. We have to speak truth. We have to stand against it, strong and united.
I acknowledge that as word has gone out on this speech many members and senators already have stood up and spoken out. I acknowledge their courage. It is time for the parliament to once again draw a line and say 'no more racism, no more crossing the street, no more turning a blind eye', and no more 'if we just ignore it, it will go away'. This is not commentary in social media, it is commentary in the Parliament of Australia. It is time for every serious parliamentarian and political party to show the courage to put candidates who advocate racism last. Malcolm Fraser knew this and John Howard got there. It is time for all of us to say 'enough—no more deals with racist parties, no more preferences for racism'.
When it comes to opposing racism, Labor will not hold back. We will not play a straight bat, stay silent and hope for the best. We know racism fills the silences and discrimination thrives in the darkness. The only way to stop it is to haul into the light each of these hateful falsehoods and expose them for the harmful fictions they are. Labor is proud to be a party of multicultural Australia, a party of tolerance, a party to heal the nation. We weren't always there. From the time of Whitlam, Hayden, Hawke, Keating, Evans, Beazley, Rudd and Gillard, not once has the inclination of modern Labor altered. Yes, we can establish better processes for integration and, yes, a better promotion of understanding. But let us be clear that Australia won't achieve any of what our nation's great destiny can be by pulling the racist lever. As Senator Wong put it this morning: 'a nation that is divided is never safer'. I think it is important to quote the former head of ASIO, the respected David Irvine:
… the tiny number of violent extremists does not represent the Islamic communities of Australia … it is grossly unfair to blame Muslims, who see themselves as a committed component of Australia's multi-cultural society—
He went on to say:
Our fight is with terrorism, not with Islam or with our Muslim community. … the strongest defence against violent extremism lies within the Australian Muslim community itself.
Senator Anning needs to understand this. When he undermines our national harmony and says that some Australians are better Australians than other Australians, he risks weakening our national security.
Senator Anning's speech boiled down to one big lie about Australia—that every challenge we face can be blamed on our newest arrivals, that all of our problems can be solved by turning back the clock and closing ourselves off from the world. But here is the truth about Australia: we are a nation made great by immigration. We are strong because we are diverse. We are a richer, smarter, more interesting, more prosperous destination because of people who have built a new life here. Many come here with just with the clothes on their back. They're people who've worked hard; started early; stayed late; opened businesses; built communities; looked after their neighbours; raised children; served in local, state and federal politics; cared for their elders; paid taxes; worn the uniform of our country. They're people from all traditions who've added their story to our own, people from every country who have made us a better country, people of every faith who share a common belief in Australia.
What Senator Anning and Senator Hanson and some of the rest pine for is the supposed good old days of White Australia. But they're not just insulting new arrivals; they're denigrating everything that all Australians have put together in the last half-century, whether their families have been here for one generation, eight generations or 2,000 generations. People who seek to lecture others about Australian values need to know that racism is not an Australian value.
As for the senator's use of the term 'the final solution', it's a phrase torn from the darkest pages of human history—two words which speak for the brutalisation and murder of millions, two words that evoke fear and grief and trauma and loss in diasporic families all over the world and many others. The senator ridicules his critics by saying these words need to be seen in their context. Well, that is exactly the problem. This wasn't a piece of Twitter stupidity composed in haste. It was a first speech nine months in the making. The context of these words is prejudice; it was a speech filled with prejudice. This, like everything else, deserves nothing but condemnation.
It's always been easy for candidates who style themselves as outsiders or mavericks to blame minorities, to demonise difference, to try and divide Australia by putting the blame onto one particular group or another. Truth and consistency doesn't trouble these people. They say that migrants are bludging on welfare but that they're also buying all our houses. They say they're uneducated but they're filling our universities. The list goes on. Let's be very clear about this. Let's speak truth. Traffic jams on freeways and overcrowded trains are not an argument against migration. They're proof we need to build better roads and more public transport. Low wages are not an argument against migration; they're proof we need policies to boost pay, improve bargaining and restore penalty rates. The argument that people are locked out of the housing market is not an argument against migration; it's an argument for a fairer tax system and a level playing field. Crime is not a migration problem. Violence is not a migration problem. No-one on this side of the House is minimising the challenges that real people face in their daily lives. This parliament should put forward plans and policies to help. But we do not seek to insult the intelligence of the Australian people by blaming every problem in this country on decent, hardworking, law-abiding people who are just trying to make this a better place.
In recent times, the great national convention of Australia—that race should be above politics—has been breached. Now it is time for all of us who seek to represent the national interest to support this motion, to prove that the convention has not been broken and to show that Australia's major parties stand against racism and prejudice.
In conclusion, there is a lot of debate about the Australian identity and what makes a good Australian. But today I want to say that what makes a good Australian is not governed by the number of generations you've been here—2,000 generations, eight generations or one. What makes a good Australian is not what god you worship, where your ancestors came from or how much money you have. It is not your skin colour, your postcode, your occupation or your gender. What makes a good Australian is what is in here in your heart. What makes a good Australian is: are you a good neighbour? Do you raise your family? Do you pay your taxes? Do you obey the law? Good Australians are not just born; they can become good Australians by choice. Good Australians are people who stand up for minorities, for the less powerful, for the fair go all around. A good Australian is not dictated by skin colour or worship; it is not dictated by what faith you adhere to. It is whether or not you adhere to our laws and raise your family well. A good Australian is the kindness you show on another's trouble and the courage you show on your own. A good Australian is someone who adheres to our values, and our values include standing up for the less powerful. Thank you very much.
I condemned the racist remarks of Senator Anning last night as soon as I heard of them, and I've condemned them already today, and I condemn them again here in this House. Let me say that we live in the most successful multicultural society in the world, and our success is built on a foundation of mutual respect. We have one of the most successful immigration programs in the world. We are a migration nation. Who could claim to have a better one? And we manage it on a thoroughly non-discriminatory basis. It too is built on a foundation of strong leadership and the control of our borders so that Australians know that people who come here do so because the government has agreed to them doing so; the peoples' representatives agree to them doing so.
We've managed that program in a world where there is so much disharmony and where in many places in the world people of different faiths and different races had lived side by side reasonably harmoniously for hundreds of years and now seem unable to do so. Despite all of that, here in Australia, in the midst of our diversity, we live in great harmony. So we have so much to be proud of. But we can never take it for granted. We must always stand up for our commitment to an Australia that defines itself by reference to shared political values: freedom, democracy, the rule of law, a fair go. Those are our values, and they are accessible to people of every race, of any religion or none, of any cultural background. That is how we define our nation.
Just a little while ago the Leader of the Opposition and I together launched a book by Emma Campbell called The Last Post. It tells 30 of the stories of Australian service men and women who have been honoured in the Last Post ceremonies at the War Memorial, which all of us have attended from time to time. It reminds us: when you fling open all the doors in this parliament from my office—the Prime Minister's office at the back—through the cabinet room, where the great decisions of government are made, and through the Members' Hall uniting the House and the Senate, and through the Great Hall, looking across the lake, what do you see? It's the Australian War Memorial. It reminds us, in its splendid simplicity, in its serenity, that every freedom we exercise here was hard won and today is hard held by the men and women of the Australian Defence Force—over 102,000 fallen Australians honoured there. They have come from every race, from every culture and from every religion—and none—from our First Australians to the most recent migrants, all of them united in their commitment to defending our values.
The Leader of the Opposition acknowledges that it was not always so. It's true: it was in 1965 that the Labor Party abandoned, removed, the White Australia policy from its charter. And in 1966 Harold Holt, Liberal Prime Minister, repealed any legislation that enabled a White Australia policy or discrimination against migrants on the basis of their race or religion. That was a great Liberal achievement. And of course in 1967 we had the great referendum, long overdue but an enormously uniting statement of commitment to equality. Ever since those days, we have always stood against racism. The days of the White Australia policy are long, long ago. Our success is founded on our commitment to a shared national identity committed to those political values which unite us all.
I want to refer to the remarks that have been made about terrorism. Let me say this: the vast majority of the victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims. The Islamist terrorists are, in the words of my friend President Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia, blasphemers. He says they are not Muslims. They are denounced and abhorred by the vast majority of Muslims around the world, and particularly here in Australia. Let's be quite clear: those who seek to demonise all Muslims on the basis of the crimes of a tiny minority are helping the terrorists. Let's be very clear about this. I say this as Prime Minister, whose most solemn responsibility is to keep Australians safe. I say this very carefully, solemnly, seriously. The Islamist terrorists' argument to other Muslims is: 'Your country, Australia, is not your country. They don't want you. They hate you. You're not ever going to be really Australian. Join the war on our side.' Those who try to demonise Muslims because of the crimes of a tiny minority are only helping the terrorists.
The reference in Senator Anning's speech to the final solution is a shocking insult to the memory of over six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Here in Australia, particularly in my city of Sydney and in the honourable member opposite's city of Melbourne, we have the largest number of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel. The reference to the final solution in that speech was appalling, and we condemn that and the insult it offered to the memory of those Jewish martyrs, just as we condemn the racism—the shocking rejection of the Australian values that have made us the successful multicultural nation that we are today.
The Leader of the Opposition said perhaps we should not say too much about the senator's remarks at the risk that we give 'oxygen to stupidity'—I think those were the Leader of the Opposition's words. I believe it's important always to call out racism. We need to call it out. We need to stand up for what we are: a free society; the most successful multicultural society in the world, united by democratic values that do not distinguish between race, religion, colour, cultural background; a nation that is united in its commitment to mutual respect for people of every religion, of every race, of every background. We should be so proud of our achievement. In today's world it is remarkable. It is the envy of the world. We should all here be proud of this and condemn, as we have, racism and discrimination of the kind so regrettably expressed, so shamefully expressed, by Senator Anning.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
I thank both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for leading this debate. This motion we are debating today is almost word for word the same as a motion moved nearly 30 years ago during the bicentennial year. At that time we were celebrating 200 years of migration to Australia joining 60,000 years of continuous culture here in Australia. The motion at that time, as today, was both a celebration of the great success of our multicultural nation and a repudiation of those who would seek to divide us along the lines of race, religion or ethnicity. On that occasion we were not only celebrating the success of our strong multicultural nation but also confronting the rise of anti-Asian immigration sentiment in the Australian political body and in the Australian community.
… I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
While many in this place are in two minds about whether to engage with the words of Senator Anning, I think that it is very important to call out this racism, this divisiveness, for what it is, and it's important to do it as a united chamber here today. We must not stay silent, because we are not neutral when it comes to racism.
We again assert the importance of an inclusive, non-discriminatory migration policy for Australia. Australians are born in almost 200 different countries. More than 300 languages are spoken in our homes. We celebrate more than 100 religions and more than 300 different ancestries. How proud am I of that? How proud are we all of what we've built from that diversity? We are a nation of nations.
What does it take to be a good Australian? Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have addressed this question. For me, there is a simple and elegant way of determining what it takes to be a good Australian, and it's in our citizenship pledge, which every new citizen takes and every citizen—Australian-born, first-generation, eighth-generation or 1000th-generation—should be able to say from their heart:
From this time forward—
maybe 'under God'; maybe not, depending on your personal preference—
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.
You don't have to pledge loyalty to a government, a political party, a crown, a religion or a philosophy; you have to pledge your loyalty to Australia and its people. The significance of this pledge should not be lost on us. I've said for many years that I think Australian schoolchildren should learn the pledge but also that each of us should be able to put our hands on our hearts and say that this is what it takes to be a good Australian.
In 1988, the year that the House originally passed the motion, former Prime Minister Hawke said:
This is not to say that Australia has no central values. The reverse is true. Our democratic institutions, our belief in the freedom of the individual, our commitment to the rule of law, our recognition of the creative worth of entrepreneurial initiative and of the beneficial role of the state in assisting those who need assistance, our shared language—all these are fixed elements of the Australian community; values which we will not diminish.
I could not be prouder to have been born Australian, but I was really struck by a conversation I had many years ago with a Halal butcher. In regard to his commitment to Australia, he said: 'When you have your first child, you think, "I can never love another child as much as I love this child. I will never love another child as much as this." Then you have your second child, and you realise that love is not divided; it is multiplied.' That's how he felt about his new country. He thought, 'I could never love another country as much as my mother country, the country I was born in,' until he came to Australia, and Australia gave him safety, prosperity and a future for his children. He said, 'That's how I feel—like my love has multiplied, not divided.'
I don't think any of us should take this wonderful country for granted for a moment. We have to defend in every moment the multicultural, inclusive society that we have built, each one of us, through our contribution to this nation. And I think it was particularly offensive when Senator Anning wasn't focused on just on race but also on religion in his speech, because Australians of all different religions have contributed. He focused on Muslims and made some completely unsubstantiated remarks about jobs, welfare and extremism and so on that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have addressed. But I want to say something about his use of the term 'final solution'.
There are Holocaust survivors alive in Australia today. They and their children and grandchildren would be devastated to hear someone in the Australian Senate using this language. And there are people who went to Europe and the Pacific to fight fascism, who lost their lives, whose children and grandchildren, alive today, thinking about the sacrifice made by those Australians, too, in fighting fascism, would be deeply offended by the use of this terminology. I am very pleased that we now teach about the Holocaust in the Australian curriculum, because I don't think it's acceptable that someone in the Australian Senate could claim to be so ignorant of the Second World War and the terminology associated with the Shoah that he could use that language and pretend it was an accident. It's a disgrace that he should pretend that that was an accident. Six million Jews were murdered in the final solution, 1.1 million of them children, as well as thousands of homosexuals. Two hundred thousand people were killed for having a mental or a physical disability during the final solution, as well as up to half a million Roma. To use that language by accident is beyond belief. He should apologise for his comments about Muslims, and he should apologise for his comments about the final solution.
Nearly one million Australians fought fascism during the Second World War. Some 27,000 were killed in action or died, and 23,000 were wounded. Almost everyone in this place would have some connection to that history, would have a relative who fought or who was interned in a camp, would have lost a father or a grandfather because of this, would have a relative who left behind everything familiar, everything they knew—their family, their language and their culture—to flee persecution. Almost everyone in our Australian community would have some connection to that disruption, and Senator Anning ought to know better. As Elie Wiesel said:
… to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.
I join with the fine speeches of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and support very strongly and without hesitation the motion that's before the House. We condemn racism, whether it's within this place or outside of this place or anywhere around our country. All of us unite together to fight against the scourge of racism. We always have and we always will.
I've had a number of proud moments as the immigration minister and as the home affairs minister over the course of my time in this portfolio. One of the proudest was only a couple of months ago when I met again with the Sora family in Broadmeadows in Victoria. They were an Iraqi family. There was a mum and dad and two boys and a young daughter who had been born only a few months previously. It was an emotional catch-up, because I'd issued their travel documents to them in Oman 12 months earlier, and they were among 12,000 people from Syria and from Iraq whom we facilitated to travel to our country, to call Australia home—not to be ashamed of their heritage, not to ever forget their heritage, but to celebrate their heritage and to be a part of the Australian community, I hope forever. Their stories are replicated in the hundreds of thousands over the course of our very proud history.
There have been periods alluded to by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the Opposition on which neither party would look back with great pride, but there are many on which we would. And there have been many moments when both parties have stood up at a time when they've needed to stand up, and it's been to the betterment of this country and has resulted in one of the greatest countries in the world, which we are very honoured to represent in this chamber. We say that because people have come from four corners of the earth. There are good and bad people who come from every race, every religion, every country, every part of the world, and we celebrate the good in our country. We make sure that we continue to be united by the values that have stood us through war, through peacetime, in drought and in other natural disasters. Those values will always be adhered to by us and by our successors, and we owe it to those people who have gone before us to make sure that we condemn that racism, as I mentioned.
Senator Anning's comments have been properly condemned, and in a number of ways they have been touched on today—particularly, in my mind, with a focus on their impact and the comments that would be deeply offensive to the Jewish community and to many people within the Islamic community within this country. It is inconceivable that reference to the 'final solution' could have any other meaning, any other intention, and it should be condemned. I was at home the other night watching late-night television before I went to bed and flicked on to Schindler's List. Watching that movie would bring a tear to any person's eye, and I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen it. The horror that people went through during that period—part of the reason we stand up for the values that we do today is that we will never see that horror revisited, and it is important that we make strong statements to that effect today.
I was interviewed recently about a Chinese family in my area who had gone on, having come here originally in the 1860s, to be a part of the Australian community for a long period of time. They created significant wealth. I worked in a butcher's shop that was a tenant within a shopping centre that they owned. During the interview I was asked about racism in Brisbane towards Chinese families when I was a kid growing up in the seventies. I am a proud Queenslander, but I'll be the first here to admit that Queensland doesn't have the multicultural past of a Melbourne or of a Sydney. Nonetheless, jumping a fence to share a Chinese meal with our neighbours was never influenced or coloured by any sense of racist suggestion or belief or view within our community. It was accepted that they were, like my family, a hardworking, middle-class family. Their kids went to our school, and it influenced me, as it did many people in this chamber, who had their own experience, and it does in electorates right across our country.
We celebrate all those stories—going into shopping centres today, into a 7-Eleven, where you might have somebody from a Middle Eastern background or an Indian Australian working in a shop. They are tomorrow's millionaires. These are people who are entrepreneurial, who share our values, people who are prepared to work the night shifts, prepared to work on the weekends, prepared to sacrifice, prepared to go without the luxuries that many of us would enjoy in order to provide an education for their children. That is the celebration of this great nation, and it has been for generations. We will always make sure that we protect and defend that story and that message, because it is what has served us, as I say, in good times and in bad.
It is a time for all Australians to recognise that we have a special responsibility. Part of the reason, I believe, that the government had strong support for last year bringing in more migrants to this country from offshore than at any time in three decades is because of the fact that we've been able to control our borders. There are aspects that are controversial and some aspects that are bipartisan. As people on both sides of this chamber know, you need to make tough decisions in this portfolio. But the reality is, you make decisions which result in providing the confidence that the Australian people can have in us continuing a strong migration program. There are people being rescued and people going to the bottom of the ocean in the Mediterranean as we speak, and we don't want that in our country. Some of the migrants who are the strongest supporters of Operation Sovereign Borders or of our migration program in this country are those people who have migrated most recently and want to see people come in an orderly, safe way to enjoy what Australia has to offer.
We wouldn't be able to bring the 12,000 Syrians—or the Sora family, who I met in Jordan—if we didn't have, in my judgement, an orderly migration program. We must continue to make sure that we say 'no' to people—regardless of their race or religion—who have come here to seek to represent values that are inconsistent with those I've just detailed. We should never apologise for that. We need to make sure that we keep our country safe. There are plenty of threats from pockets of our community, from people who would seek to distort the Islamic religion and from people who would seek to otherwise cause harm for their own twisted ideologies. They must be called out for what they are, but they don't represent the majority in any community. It's blatant. To people who say to me, 'we should stop Muslim migration', or, 'we should stop people coming into our country', I say all the time that, intellectually, it is incompatible to have a migration program where we say that every person from a particular race or religion is bad or good. As I said before, the vast majority of people who come from many communities are good people who deserve to live in our community and will make a wonderful future. Those that don't, don't belong in our country. We are very clear about that, and the government's position won't change.
Today we celebrate what is great about our country. We turn it into an opportunity to talk about the success not just of the Chinese migrants growing up in my community in the seventies but also of those people who have been here for generations before that. Regardless of their path or their means to our country, people have made a wonderful contribution. We owe them a lot for what they have contributed. We work with them shoulder to shoulder to protect our values and to protect our future. Today we call out that which is wrong, that Senator Anning has detailed as his view in the Senate. We work together and we renew our efforts to make sure that this country remains as great as it has always been. I'm very pleased to join with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the deputy leader and subsequent speakers on this very important topic.
There are often occasions when I can't believe I'm here. There are probably instances, with the way that I carry on, where some of you on that side and even on my side probably agree with that statement—they probably rushed a bit too quickly to agree to that, but I'll put that aside! The reason why it's hard for me to believe I'm here is because my parents were a product of poverty. I visited my mum's place in rural Bosnia and the house that she grew up in, which is probably no bigger than this area. There were eight people crammed into that house, and my dad's place wasn't much different. In fact, I took my dad back to Bosnia for his 60th birthday and he showed me this beautiful bit of land. He said, 'This was ours until my dad gambled it away.'
They made it here in the late sixties, and Australia opened its doors to allow us to have the chance to be here. My old man got to work on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Dad worked with his hands. Mum worked at home to make sure that we had a family that was able to take advantage of all the great things in this country. I mention this to you because like many kids of migrants I carry around a debt of gratitude to this country that we were able to achieve. I got to go to university. I could count on one hand the folks in my family from my parents' generation that got to do that and Australia gave me the chance to do that here. I now get to serve in this place. Regardless of my faith, the commitment to my community is the thing that I'm judged on, which I'm very grateful for. I've learned in this place that you can always make yourself taller by standing on the back of someone else. As much as weapons wound, so do words, but actions mean more, the way that they bind us together.
There are a few improbable things in this place. One of them that's remarked on from time to time is my friendship with the member for Kooyong. The two of us are probably the biggest dags in parliament—I don't know if that's parliamentary, but we are! There we are, joined at the 'unhip'. We are from different parties, from different parts of the country and from different faiths, but actions matter more in terms of being able to find common ground. In our contributions today, we can focus on the people who are trying to divide us or focus more on the things that bring us together as a country. This is a moment that is supposed to do just that.
He used to be known as the member for Wentworth, and now is remarked as the Prime Minister, but I remember him calling me on my election here to congratulate me on my election, which I've never forgotten. We all in this place can recognise moments when we've taken a little bit of a step together as a nation. The things that bring us together matter more. The things that can allow us to be a better country are things that are worth celebrating. That's why I focus on these things today, not to focus on the things that divide us, that have caused great anger and annoyance and those that have sought to drive division or fuel fear, but to recognise that this is a moment that we on both sides will be judged on—not so much in terms of my words, but the actions of a Prime Minister or of a Leader of the Opposition in bringing the country together. They remind us that we've all got an obligation to make the place a better place.
I will end on this observation. People ask me whether, because of my Muslim faith, I have a problem with the Lord's Prayer at the start of parliament. No, I don't. When you hear God's words, you hear God's words. They are good words—in particular, 'and forgive us for our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'. It's not an exhortation for the moment; it is a reminder for us to live a better life that is not mired in the negative but in something that's better, and this is the moment that we can build on.
There are a lot of people in different parts of the world who want to make their country great again. We've already got a great country. We can make it better, and we can make it better by working together and not focusing on the division and not focusing—if I can make this remark—on ignoring words that are used in a debate that have in times past caused great pain to people. When you use those two words 'final solution'—and I spend time with my great friends from the Jewish community, and I know the pain that they've gone through and that they've felt—you don't want that on anyone else, and you certainly don't want to remind people of the pain that they have been through. We are going to use this as a moment to recognise the great things about our country, but call out the times when we've made those missteps and say we can do better.
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share.
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair
It doesn't take courage to stand and talk on this particular topic; it takes empathy, it takes humanity, it is being heartfelt, it is being decent, it is being honest. To the member for Maribyrnong: a fine motion and fine words. To the Prime Minister: you too. To the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection; to the member for Sydney, the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party; and to my great mate the member for Chifley: outstanding speeches.
This is an important motion. Combined, we are united to condemn those words that were expressed last night in the Senate, unfortunately, wrongly and disrespectfully. I don't even want to mention his name. We are better than that—we are. The things that unite us are greater than those that divide us, and you can see it today, right here, right now, coming together as the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the National Party, and indeed the crossbenchers. The Greens—I'll even mention the Greens. You won't hear me praising the Greens too often, but thank you, Member for Melbourne, for coming in here.
I will just share with you a couple of little stories. One of the greatest things I like to do is talk to schoolkids. The other thing is to attend civic receptions—not just civic receptions but indeed civic receptions for people who are new to our country, who have contributed to our country—and, going a little bit further back, to attend citizenship ceremonies. At a citizenship ceremony in Wagga Wagga recently, a lady from South Sudan hugged me when we gave her her certificate of citizenship, and she wouldn't stop hugging me, because her partner had been in a refugee camp. I had worked hard, along with the wonderful staff at my Wagga Wagga electorate office, to get him over here, and she was getting her citizenship. I'm privileged to have been born in Australia, but she came here by choice, and we got him here through hard work and determination so that he could share a life with his beloved. The tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was so grateful that the love of her life was here, that they could be a family again. But it was also being acknowledged that she was now a citizen of our great country. The mayor finally said, 'If you two could stop greeting one another, we can get on with the ceremony!' To see the joy in her face and to know I had played a little part in that—that's what being a member of parliament is about.
I have to say that one day the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection phoned me about 55 homeless Yazidi families—250 people—whom we were going to accept as part of our refugee intake, the humanitarian program that is made possible when you have good border protections and security. He asked me: 'Do you think Wagga Wagga would take these people?' In a nanosecond I said yes. I rang the mayor and said 'We are going to get 55 Yazidi families,' and he said: 'That's fantastic. That is great.' Wagga Wagga is an all-embracing regional community, like so many others. I think regional Australia sometimes gets a bad rap for not welcoming people, but let me tell you that it does. In Griffith on Australia Day they fly 100 flags to represent all the people who make up that great multicultural city, and it is a fine city. It is in essence the cradle of multiculturalism. They don't all go there just to pick fruit. They go there to serve as our GPs, our lawyers, our nurses and our white-collar professionals. They go there to pick fruit, too, and the member for Watson knows this as he has been out there and he was greeted with great applause. We were there together, standing beside one another, protecting the water rights of that community.
Acclamation maybe, Prime Minister! But let me tell you that that is a great community, just like so many others in regional Australia, whether it is the Mallee or Wide Bay. No matter where it is in regional Australia, they are welcoming to the migrants of this multicultural nation that we've become.
When those 55 Yazidi families had settled in Wagga and were contributing to our city, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection visited. This is not always the most popular place for him to stand, right where I am now—and I see him, because I sit right behind him. I know that his words on this motion were meaningful and heartfelt and welcomed by those opposite. But when he came to Wagga Wagga—let me tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker—he was a rock star. They welcomed him with open arms, because he had given them new hope, a renewal. He had, as our nation had, given these people a new start in life, and they were so appreciative. He was there with his wife, Kirilly, and Wagga Wagga welcomed them. When that story came out in the local newspaper—the one I used to edit—
I got a very good run, and so did the National Party, so did the Liberal Party and, I have to say, so did the Labor Party, Member for Sydney. They did. I was a very independent editor. I was a very bipartisan editor. When it was first announced that Yazidi families were coming to Wagga, there was only one letter to the editor which was condemnatory of that happening. Let me tell you: the people of Wagga roundly condemned that writer—rightly, because Wagga Wagga is an embracing community.
I know that each and every one of the people in this chamber and, I would say, just about every person in this nation today, is as one in condemning those words spoken with hate last night. To talk about the final solution—and I know the member for Isaacs would feel this particularly—was absolutely dreadful. I've just finished watching a documentary series on it. We've all watched The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. We've all watched Schindler's List, as the minister for immigration mentioned. Those atrocities that took place in World War II were not just felt then; they are still being felt today; and they will be felt for as long as decent humans walk this earth. It was atrocious. To even utter those words anywhere, let alone in this house of democracy, is dreadful. It is evil. We are a fine nation. We are the best nation on earth. The member for Chifley said: 'We don't need to make Australia great. We're already great.' This motion today proves that.
I came in here with a speech prepared. I came in here ready to roll up my sleeves and to fight and to defend, as I've had to so many times over the last 30 years. And I've sat here over the last hour and I've heard the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Home Affairs, the member for Chifley and the Deputy Prime Minister speak on this motion.
I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired. I'm tired of having to stand up against hate and against vilification, time and time and time again. I wrote in the speech that I had that I was proud to be a member of the Labor Party, that today honours the tradition of Bob Hawke when, in 1988, he stood up and put a motion to this parliament confirming Australia's non-discriminatory immigration policies. I'm also proud to be a member of this parliament that is united today in its condemnation of those terrible words that were spoken in the other place yesterday. But that pride is tinged with sadness. It's tinged with sadness that we've had to do this for 30 years.
I once attended a seminar put on by young migrant kids in my electorate, and they all stood up and spoke about some of the challenges in their young lives. These kids were 15, 16, right up to the age of 18. I sat there listening to them and I started crying. I'm a big sooky-la-la at the best of times; let's just put that out there—weddings, funerals, speeches in parliament, everything. They came up to me and said, 'Anne, we didn't mean to make you cry.' I said, 'No, you don't understand; your challenges today are the same challenges I had 30 years ago.' I just want to know when it's going to change for our future generations, when it's going to get better for them. But today, this morning, I see hope, I see possibilities, I see opportunity, I see leaders on both sides who are willing to stand up and I see that I don't have to fight alone anymore.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
Thank you for that. It means a lot. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to my kids. It means a lot to my mum, who was told to stand at the back of the line every time she went to get on a bus, while she struggled with two toddlers, and to repeatedly say her pleases and thankyous before she was allowed on that bus. This today means something. It means something to Australia. It means something that all of us here stand up against this racism, stand up against this hatred and stand up against the disgraceful use of that terminology. That neo-nazi, white supremacist terminology wasn't an accident. I won't accept that that was an accident. That was the deliberate use of a heinous term which brings back so many painful memories and sets a precedent for the future of our country that we need to stand up and stop. I just want to rise here today and say thank you. I'm not going to read any of this speech that I wrote. I just want to say thank you to our leaders for showing that leadership.
I in turn thank the member for Cowan for her very moving words just now. As the final government speaker on this motion, perhaps I could summarise what I think is the very strong mood of this parliament on both sides—that is, we condemn Senator Anning's comments last night in his maiden speech. They are not views shared by the government, the opposition or any fair-minded Australian. We will always maintain a non-discriminatory immigration program. The whole of Australia should hear those conclusions loudly and clearly today as a result of the remarks of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Home Affairs, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others.
The Prime Minister is right when he consistently says that Australia is the most successful multicultural country in the world. We've welcomed people from across the world to our shores, and in the process we've all been enriched and have largely maintained incredible social cohesion despite our diverse intake. The thing which unites us is our core values, as the Prime Minister articulated, of freedom of speech, of the fair go, of equality between men and women. The rest of Australia welcomes with absolutely open arms people who want to come to Australia to adopt those values and make a contribution, regardless of where they're from, their racial background, their religious background, their heritage or anything else. That's the only thing that matters.
When I look at the data, it not only backs up what the Prime Minister and other members of this parliament have consistently said; it does so categorically. If you look at the employment data, the unemployment rate for migrants is basically the same as that for those who were born here. That's very different to the EU, where the unemployment rate of migrants is six percentage points higher. When you look at the home ownership rate, it's very similar. When you look at education rates, migrants actually do better than the home-born. Across almost every single indicator, migrants do phenomenally well in this country, in part because we control the immigration process, we encourage people to do well, and we put migrants in the centre of the community, not on the fringes—and we've got to make sure that we continue to do that.
My daughters attend a girls school in Melbourne. It's a school which is made up of, by far and away, students from a range of multicultural heritages, including Indian, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Vietnamese, Singaporean et cetera. When people see a class photo from my daughter's school, they will often say 'Jeez, that school is 80 per cent multicultural.' My response is always: 'You know what? It's 100 per cent Australian.' That is absolutely the case, and all of us in this chamber know that. When those girls get together at our house, it makes no damn difference where they're from or what the colour of their skin is; they all just play together and get along. I think that has been, by and large, a trait of the entire Australian community.
This doesn't mean that our overall multicultural success and our social cohesion is God-given. Of course it's not. We've got to continue to work on this. We continually refine our immigration programs to ensure that we maintain our overall success as a nation. As the members of this chamber know, we abolished the 457 visa program last year, for good reason. We want to constantly work on ensuring that we guarantee our social cohesion going forward into the future. But Senator Anning's comments didn't contribute to any progression of Australia's social cohesion or address any of the challenges which we might face. To the contrary, I think they did the reverse.
Many of Senator Anning's comments were factually incorrect. He made an observation about abolishing the 457 visas. We abolished them last year. He made an observation that international students take Australian spots in universities. Well, that's just factually wrong; if anything, they subsidise Australian students. He made an observation that the family reunion program should be exclusively maintained for spouses and children of Australian citizens. Well, again, I point out that 90 per cent of the family reunion program is maintained exclusively for them. He made the observation that many people come here and go immediately onto welfare. I point out, again: that's not the case. Nobody who comes here through the skilled migration program or the family reunion program is able to go onto welfare for two years, and we have a bill in the parliament to extend that to four.
Many of Senator Anning's comments were factually ignorant, but there were other comments that he made that were deeply divisive, as members of this parliament have pointed out today. Then there was his final comment which was not just deeply divisive but very, very offensive and hurtful, particularly to members of the Jewish community—that is, the use of the phrase 'the final solution'. That is a phrase which should never be used when discussing immigration or citizenship or any other such matters. It should never be used in that context. I think that if Senator Anning had an ounce of character he would apologise for using that statement. He should rightfully do that, even if, as he maintains, he did not appreciate the context.
We live in a terrific nation. It is a proudly multicultural country where we welcome people from around the world. We've got to work to continue to maintain this social cohesion, and I hope that all Australians today will hear very loudly the government, led by the Prime Minister, and the opposition, led by the member for Maribyrnong, calling out divisive comment and racially based comment, and saying that we will always maintain a non-discriminatory immigration program.
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for moving this motion and I thank all of the speakers who've supported it. On behalf of everyone who lives in Melbourne and on behalf of the Greens, I wholeheartedly endorse it.
I want to tell the parliament about Sondos. I met her a little while ago, when she was 11. She goes to Carlton Primary School in my electorate. She was running in the 800 metres in the athletics carnival and, halfway through the race, someone yelled out to her: 'You're a terrorist. Go home.' They yelled that out to her because she had a hijab. She broke down and was unable to finish the race. She went home and talked to her family. One of her fellow students told me that, in their family, who are Sondos' neighbours, when someone heard a speech from a member of parliament a couple of years ago about Muslims no longer being welcome here, they said, 'Does that mean that we have to move countries now?' That, of course, had been their experience before coming to Australia. When someone from a different political grouping to you gets into parliament, then it means you are no longer safe in your home and you might have to move.
When I walk down the streets of Melbourne, I never have to worry about getting stopped and searched. When I walk down the streets with my friends, I never worry about people thinking that maybe we're a gang. When I get in robust political debate, I never hear the epithet thrown at me, 'Go back to where you came from.' But these things happen to people in Melbourne and right around the country every day, and they happen because of the colour of their skin or because of their religion, and, when they happen, they hurt. When those words are uttered by someone who is in parliament, that hurt is multiplied a thousandfold. What I wish the senator who made those comments realised—and perhaps he does, which worries me even more—is that, when he makes those comments, not only does it cause people and their families to hurt, to retreat and to shrink, but it opens the door to violence.
Just over a decade ago, in Melbourne, there was a young man, and I'll call him an Australian. He was South Sudanese in terms of his family's origin, but he was actually an Australian citizen. His skin was black and he was in his 20s. He was beaten to death by a white Australian, who said, during the course of the attack, that he wanted to take his town back. And I've been hearing reports in recent times, from the outer suburbs of Melbourne, of people who are now finding themselves in hospital and whose assailants have said similar things to them. They say, in essence, 'I'm beating you up because you're black.'
When people in parliament stand up and use, as has been said, what can only be described as white supremacist, proto-fascist, neo-Nazi language, and they start to say, 'We want a country where the only people welcome in that country are welcome on the basis of a certain race,' we open the door to hate and we open the door to violence. And it warms my heart no end to see this parliament uniting to send the strongest possible message to everyone sitting in their lounge rooms, their schools or their workplaces who are listening to and are hurt by the comments that have been made today. The message that is being sent is very, very clear. We stand with you. We do not accept what has been said. If you are hurting as a result of what you're reading or hearing today, know that the whole parliament stands with you. We hear your hurt, and we are doing everything we possibly can to stamp it out.
We are entering, I fear and I worry, a potentially dangerous period in our country. That is why this is so important. We're entering a potentially dangerous period in which white supremacists are signalling to each other from our TV screens and our parliaments and making calls that they hope that other people will hear. You only need to look at what is happening around the rest of the world to see where that ends: it ends in hurt and it ends in death. Today's action—this motion and the unanimous support that it is receiving—is, I hope, a bulwark against Australia sliding down that path.
I want to make a plea to the senator but also to everyone else: please tone down the rhetoric around African gangs—please. It is going to result in people dying. It has before, and it will again. As someone who has gone to many, many events in Victoria and in Melbourne over the years that I've been here, one of the things that I enjoyed the most and that warmed my heart the most was going to the events where, at the time, the state Liberal minister from the Liberal government would get up at the events and say, 'One of the good things about Victoria is that you'll never find people who will use race to try to win votes. We have differences of opinions about other things, but you won't find us using that.' I hope we can maintain that not just in Victoria but right around the country. If this unique moment in parliament gives us the opportunity to stop and reflect, I hope we can reflect on the things that we say over the coming months in the course of our political contests.
I also want to, lastly, just say that we've been trading barbs about a number of things over recent weeks, but I listened very closely to what the member for Kooyong said this morning when he was asked about the senator's speech yesterday. He said a number of very, very good and important things. One of them is especially worth reflecting on. When asked about the use of the awful phrase 'the final solution', the member for Kooyong invited the senator to go to the Holocaust museum and perhaps have a discussion with people there. Amongst all the other things that the senator should do and that everyone should do, I think that's something that the senator should do and something that everyone should do. When you have spoken with someone who has survived the Holocaust, you know that the only way that this will never happen again is if every single one of us is vigilant in everything we say and everything we do and we stamp it out at the first sign of it happening. If they've done that, there is no way that words like that could fall from someone's lips. We are in a dangerous situation because, as we get to the point where the last of the survivors leave us, it opens up the space. Unless those of us in this parliament and everyone else continue to do the remembering, it opens up the space for people like that to be able to use those words and it not have the same kind of firm response, which is why I am so pleased with what this parliament is doing today.
Lastly, I'd like to end by doing something that's often done at the beginning, which is to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land. To say that this galls me is an understatement: how can someone be so wilfully blind to this country's history as to talk about Australia being a white-only country when we have a black history? If the senator wants to talk about saying, 'Well, go back to where you came from,' he's probably included in that category as well, as is every one of us who's not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Many of them must be looking at the things that he is saying with the same kind of revulsion. I know that there's a lot of work going on between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and members of the African communities in my electorate and in Melbourne more broadly at the moment. But I think it's appropriate to acknowledge the traditional owners of this country and pay respects to them.
Picking up on the theme at the end of the member for Melbourne's speech, we did all come from somewhere else. In fact, even the very first Australians came from somewhere else, maybe 65,000 years ago when they made their way to the place we now call Australia. More recently, in 1788, the First Fleet—11 little, tiny boats—sailed into Port Jackson with over 1,000 people on board, including my great, great, great, great grandfather, was, to that point in time, the largest mass migration in world history. And, of course, since then there have been waves of all sorts of people—the Chinese in the gold diggings; many Europeans, including southern Europeans, central Europeans and others, in the postwar era; and, after the terrible wars in Indochina, the Vietnamese and the Cambodians. More recently, waves of people have made their way to our shores from South Asia and the Middle East. The result is that we are indeed one of the world's most remarkable and successful multicultural countries. I would challenge anyone to identify any other country in the world that has been so successful as a multicultural nation.
The result is what I'd describe as being not unlike a mosaic. When you see a mosaic on a wall when you're out and about—and it's a beautiful mosaic with countless colours and hundreds of tiles—it forms a beautiful picture. But, as you walk towards the mosaic, you see that it's actually made up of many individual tiles, each of their own colour. That's how I would characterise multiculturalism in this country. It's not just a big melting pot where everyone's thrown in the pot and someone stirs it up and we get a grey mush. Instead, it's actually a beautiful mosaic, where we celebrate all of the people who have come to our shores and allow them to be what they are and to reflect on where they came from. When you look at all those little tiles in the mosaic and you see all of the different races and all of the different religions and all of the different cultures, I think it's self-evident that not one of those races or ethnic groups or cultures or mainstream religions is inherently bad. They are all inherently good. Whether it be people from Africa, from Europe, from North America, from South America or from New Zealand—from all over the world—they are all inherently good and all of the religions they practice are inherently good, whether it be the forms of Christianity, forms of Islam or anything else.
The problem arises when a very small number of those people act in an extreme way. That's the problem. It's extremism. In fact, when I reflect on my life and the terrible conflicts around the world that I've paid particular attention to, I think of Northern Ireland—Christians killing Christians. When I think of the second worst terrorist attack in US history, I think of Timothy McVeigh, the white supremacist Christian who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. No one race and no one religion has a monopoly on violence. It goes on all over the place from all sorts of people practising all sorts of faith. The problem is extremism. I don't know if Senator Fraser Anning understands the irony that he's the one standing in the other place acting like an extremist. He's the extremist—not the people he criticises, not the people he wants to keep out of this country. He's the extremist. He's the dangerous one.
To pick up on the points made by the member for Melbourne so eloquently, comments like that from someone in a position like that will get people killed. They will inflame hatred in the community, when that hatred is unwarranted. I think it is unforgivable when members of the federal parliament, who first and foremost should be leaders who unite our country, so deliberately tap into the fault lines in our society for their own political gain. If that senator wants to act like that to get himself re-elected next year, then that's unconscionable behaviour. It's unconscionable behaviour that will get people killed, and he is being a really good example of what he criticises: a downright extremist. He should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. I thank the House.
Question agreed to.