Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Scullin Electorate: Multiculturalism
What's said in this place matters. We saw that last week, and we continue to feel it in the community, particularly in those communities that I represent. I'm so very proud to represent a diverse, multicultural electorate in Melbourne's northern suburbs, an electorate in which more than 70,000 people were born overseas and a considerably greater number speak a language other than English at home.
The electorate of Scullin is, in microcosm, modern Australia and, in one respect, I share the aspiration and the pride of the Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth—he appeared to be a Prime Minister last time I checked—when he talks about the multiculturalism of Australia being one of our greatest successes. This is fine, as far as it goes. It must go further, because the rhetorical position of the Prime Minister, and too many members of this government, sit uncomfortably with some of the rhetoric government ministers have been using. I refer in particular to the description and the awful references to African gangs which have licensed bigotry in my town. I think about other attacks under this government on multiculturalism, in particular, the continued attempts to deny citizenship to people for a whole range of entirely irrelevant reasons.
I also reflect on questions of faith, as someone who is of no religious faith. In the Scullin electorate there are 13,000 Australian Muslims. They represent a resilient and generous community. I cherish my relationship, in particular, with the community around the Thomastown Mosque. It is appalling that they and so many of their friends around this country have been subject to so many outrageous attacks again in this place and in the other place, I should say, in particular. These Muslim Australians should never be made to feel as if they are anything less than equal. It's incumbent on all of us to stand up for them and their faith, a faith of peace, and to recognise the extraordinary contributions they are making to our communities.
I'm also proud to represent a very large number of our First Australians, who are increasingly prominent in Melbourne's northern suburbs. I hope that, should the member for Dickson be elevated, he will reflect on his appalling actions in 2009.
It's past time that he apologises and sends a signal to our First Australians, because what we need from this government at every level is leadership. The statement and bipartisanship in the House of Representatives last week was important, but it must be a start. It was necessary but it is by no means sufficient. This parliament should be for all Australians. We've got to make it clear that modern Australia is a diverse and multicultural society—not a tolerant society but an inclusive one in which every Australian, regardless of their faith or background has every opportunity to fully participate. (Time expired)