Thursday, 28 February 2013
Suspension of Standing Orders
Just when you think this debate cannot get any lower and the opposition cannot plumb new depths, they manage to surprise you. They do it with some of the most reprehensible and appalling dog whistle politics that we have seen on this debate so far. We had Senator Abetz this morning saying that we need to be careful about people moving into our neighbourhoods who do not speak English.
My grandmother came to this country and was here for 50 years. She came as somebody who was a migrant from Italy. She was illiterate. She spent 50 years in this country and she did not speak any English. She managed to produce a family of lawyers, teachers, factory workers and doctors. She made a huge contribution to this country. What Senator Abetz said this morning was not just a slight on people seeking protection in this country under the law as they are entitled to do; it was a slight on all of those people who come to this country under difficult circumstances and facing enormous challenges—people like my family. I thought that this debate could not get any lower and yet it has.
The question now for Mr Abbott is: where does he sit on all of this? What is his view about how we should be treating people who come to this country seeking our protection? Should they be treated equally under the law, as we have a long-established principle in this country of doing, or are we going to continue with the dog whistle? What concerns me is where we have got to in this debate. How much lower can we go than we got to today? (Time expired)