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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4065..


Multicultural Affairs

MRS CROSS

(5.55): I want to continue my speech on the MPI that Mr Pratt brought forward today. As I said, I do not agree that the ACT government has not provided adequate support to the multicultural community. Indeed, its support up to date has been quite good and, from what I have seen so far from the Chief Minister, his support of the community has also been quite good. My concerns related to a speech that he made at the National Press Club on the 30th anniversary of multiculturalism in Australia, at a function hosted by my friend Al Grassby. I will continue from where I left off.

The children of Iraq are back at school learning. Small business associations are being set up. Local government councils have been set up and are attending to a wide range of everyday matters. The government council is forging ahead in the development of a constitution and preparations for later elections. Specialist advisory groups have been widely established. Oil revenue is being acquired for development, despite the actions of some saboteurs-saboteurs who have no future in Iraq and who want it to fail and go back to what it was.

The Chief Minister either does not know what positive things are happening or does not want to know because it will interfere with another political agenda. It is important for us all to keep in mind that Iraq has wealth, whereas Dili is very poor. It is a pity that the Chief Minister used that occasion to condemn the federal government rather than to highlight the positives of the last 30 years, particularly all the good that has come out of multiculturalism and the fact that its benefits will continue.

He referred to our moral obligation to Iraq. Perhaps he has been suffering from selective morality or selective memory. I found his comments, particularly on the war and the sister city relationship, a little insulting. The speech from our leader, which I was looking forward to hearing, instead of fostering harmony in a multicultural community and talking about the positives, caused disharmony and friction in the audience.

The audience did not all agree with the sentiment. They were looking forward to hearing a speech that promoted the positives of multiculturalism in the last 30 years. The speech was seen by some as divisive, and it is a pity that the occasion was used as a political football to condemn the federal government rather than highlight what the ethnic groups in this country have been contributing for many centuries.

I believe that this Chief Minister does care about the multicultural community; I have seen it in his actions during the last three years. I do not believe he possesses an iota of racial prejudice, which goes strongly in his favour. But it is important that events that are hosted to celebrate multiculturalism are used to promote harmony and not friction, particularly when a federal issue, one that has divided the country somewhat, is used as a hobbyhorse by this Chief Minister.

I support the Chief Minister's position of expressing to various ambassadors his views on and concerns about human rights, particularly the Falun Gong situation. Having lived in China for many years, I believe that we have an obligation to tell the Chinese that we feel that the way they have handled the Falun Gong issue is inappropriate. The Chinese are not going to stop trade relations with us if we do that. In fact, if it is done in a


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