Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020



7:59 pm

Photo of Andrew BraggAndrew Bragg (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Australia is the most successful multicultural nation on Earth. That we have been able to settle millions of people after the Second World War in a harmonious fashion is, perhaps, the strongest record we have as a democracy and as a country. My own family has been a beneficiary of our very harmonious and cohesive society.

Over the last few months, during the coronavirus pandemic, there have been some troubling but isolated incidents against Chinese Australians and against Asian Australians, some of which have occurred in my home state of New South Wales, in Sydney. The Chinese Australian Forum, which is a group I've had quite a bit to do with during my time as senator, has started a petition. Its members have collected 10,000 signatures of people in support of cohesion and unity over division, which has been an important theme here in the Senate. The Chinese Australian Forum said:

We are living through some challenging and frankly scary times, but fear of the coronavirus is not justification for vilifying our fellow citizens. This petition sends a strong message to those who have been victims of racial abuse that our community stands with them.

In New South Wales, between January and April this year, there were 240 complaints, including 62 based on race. Again, these are very troubling fringe incidents but one incident is one incident too many, and we on this side join with our colleagues across this parliament in saying no to racism. There is no place for racism in Australia.

Chinese Australians have been thanked by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has consistently said throughout this pandemic that Chinese Australians have done more than any other group to protect us against the pandemic. The PM said they were the ones who first went into self-isolation. They were the ones who were returning from family visits to China and it was through their care, their commitment and their patience that Australia was protected in the first wave. Minister Tudge, the relevant minister, has also gone on to say that we have got to be very, very clear here in separating people's view about the Chinese government, the Communist Party of China, and Australians or permanent residents here in Australia who may be ethnically Chinese. The minister's point is that the coronavirus has nothing to do with our citizens and the coronavirus has nothing to do with Chinese Australians or Asian Australians. So that is why we have already, through the Human Rights Commission, launched a campaign, a very important initiative, because we need people to know that racism is intolerable in this country.

I am pleased to report to the Senate tonight that this has been a bipartisan initiative, and Mr Andrew Giles in the House of Representatives made some similar comments last week. I very much thank him for his cooperation and partnership in working on these difficult issues because, at the end of the day, we have been a shining light to most countries around the world. We have settled millions and millions of people since World War II in a harmonious way. Yes, there have been some incidents of racism during the pandemic, but, in the main, people have pulled together to get through this pandemic, and diversity has been a strength. Our Asian Australian communities have helped us more than any other group get through this pandemic. So the least we can do is to repay their efforts to help our whole country by not engaging in any form of racism, which has absolutely no place in our country, which we are all so proud of.