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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (12 February) . . Page.. 348..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

important that we reflect on that. It is important that we reflect on the essence or values of Australia-namely, the notion of a fair go; an egalitarian society. It is important that we continue to acknowledge that "a fair go"is something that has echoed over the last couple of centuries. We know that history determines what sort of a community we are, what sort of a place Australia is and what sort of place Canberra is-the place we live in.

Many Australians celebrate 26 January as a great day to celebrate the founding of this great country, at least in a European sense. For some, particularly our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Australia Day is a very painful day. It is a reminder of the land dispossessed and a negation of the prior possession and occupation of this land by indigenous people for 20,000 years. It is important that we continue to debate that. We have to acknowledge that, for those with a history of dispossession, Australia Day is not an occasion for celebration. It is certainly a day upon which we all reflect on what it means to be Australian, but if you are an indigenous Australian you would not be celebrating 26 January. It is important for us to understand and acknowledge why that would be the case.

It is important too on Australia Day that we acknowledge how great it is to live in such a great democracy where national conversations about our past and our future take place. We should celebrate the diversity of the Australian crowd. We should rejoice in the strength of the Australian chorus and the honesty of the Australian voice. We respect justice and we respect the law, we have a sense of humour and we love fun. We are grateful for the fact that we live in a community in which people are confident that they can do and achieve anything they want but, as I said, Australians also traditionally believed in a fair go for all.

We have, as I say, a very strong tradition of egalitarianism and a proud history of defending and protecting the vulnerable and those weaker than ourselves. Throughout history, with notable exceptions, we have actively promoted tolerance and embraced diversity. It is a proud history that I have in mind when I say that we need to acknowledge the extent to which that proud history is eroded. I am, always have been and always will be very proud to be Australian. It is because of the depth of my pride and the depth of my love for my country that I do feel that tinge and sense of shame-a shame at the actions of some of the activities of our federal government, at some of its cold-hearted and unforgiving policies in relation to asylum seekers and refugees. I do feel shame at that.

Australia Day is a day on which we, as proud Australians, can stand up and acknowledge that we feel shame at some of the things that we do. I similarly feel that it is appropriate on that day to reflect on our feelings around Australia's role in the unjustified, the bloody and the illegal invasion of Iraq-an invasion in which we participated, an invasion which we believe cost the lives of between 30,000 and 50,000 people as the Coalition of the Willing pursued weapons of mass destruction which we now know did not exist. It was a war fought on a lie in pursuit of weapons that did not exist. It is appropriate that we acknowledge that that does not fill us with any sense of pride at all. Australia Day is an appropriate day to reflect on these things.


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