Senate debates

Thursday, 28 February 2013


Suspension of Standing Orders

3:07 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | Hansard source

The (—) (): If the Australian Greens were genuine about this they would not be coming into this place so grossly and wilfully misrepresenting that which has been said, trying to take to this issue with an egg beater to whip it up into something it is not. The suggestion about a register was not mentioned by me; it was in fact mentioned as a result of a question to me by journalists about paedophiles being put on a register. I addressed that and I then said, 'And if I might say, I wouldn't put the two'—namely, paedophiles and asylum seekers—'in the same category, necessarily.' That is what I said.

In relation to notifying the community about immigrants, can I quickly—I do not do this often—share my own life story. I am an immigrant to this country. I could not speak one word of English when I arrived. Nor could Senator Arthur Sinodinos, for that matter. We were dropped into school so we could learn English and could undertake grade 1. Do you know why it is helpful for social harmony to tell somebody that they might be having people living next door who cannot speak the language? It is helpful for social harmony so that when somebody shouts across the fence 'G'day, mate,' and they do not answer, it is not because they are snobs but because they do not understand. Those of us who have personally lived the immigrant experience and know about it understand these things and believe that it is helpful to tell the community that they might have somebody next-door who cannot speak English. That is what the local Good Neighbour Council did way back in the 1960s when we arrived in a Hydro house in Tasmania. People then understood that we might not know what some of the salutations were.

It is about social harmony; it is about people understanding the issues. Those of us who have actually lived the experience know this. Those who seek to take up this issue for cheap political point scoring—at least we were spared the tears from Senator Hanson-Young this time—should not be telling people such as me, who have personally lived this sort of experience, that what we are saying is designed to vilify immigrants to this country. It is good to let people—the local police and health services—know that there might be somebody in the community who will need their assistance. I have raised this issue at Senate estimates in the past. It is all about social cohesion, letting people know so that they can understand—


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