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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 15 Hansard (Wednesday, 14 December 2005) . . Page.. 4876 ..


For all the denials of the practitioners of wedge politics, the parallels with what has been taking place in this country and Nazi Germany are there to be seen by those who will look. They are subtle, but becoming less so. People in this country have been put under so much pressure by the erosion of core services and values that consequently they have sought to scapegoat those who are different. In 1933, the German people allowed Hitler to become their dictator. They gave up democracy and believed that the reason for their troubles was the Jews, the unionists, the intellectually disabled, and the Slavs. In other words, those who were different.

While I do not believe that the people of this country would give up their democracy, there has been too much “us and them” behaviour. As I said earlier, my grandparents contributed a great deal to this country. They were not unique, and there have been countless immigrants to this country who contributed pieces to the puzzle of our Australian society, our Australian community. I will always speak against the policy of xenophobia, so that this rich tapestry of Australian life can continue to flourish.

Following my speech, several people made comment on that part of it. One person, a member of the Liberal Party, suggested I was being hyperbolic and outrageous in drawing parallels between Nazi Germany and Australia under the current federal government. I grew up in Maroubra and then Coogee. From school, university and work I knew and was friends with many people from the Sutherland shire. The scenes of the weekend were shocking in the extreme to me, not least because I am greatly familiar with those places. The Sutherland shire is a very Anglo, homogenous society—insular, wary of outsiders and not open to change.

A real estate agent in the area whom I know has readily admitted to working with other estate agents to stop Asians from buying in the shire. This is not something I say lightly under privilege. In contrast, the area of Maroubra, while always a fairly rough area when I was growing up, was always culturally diverse. There are no doubt many reasons to explain the shocking behaviour that has taken place in Cronulla and flowed on to other areas of Sydney in the last few weeks. Most of these we have limited or no control over but, as elected representatives, we have a responsibility to be careful of what we say, both within and outside of our legislatures. To illustrate my point, I quote Tony Burke, federal member for Watson. He said:

… there is something about the federal parliament that goes way beyond the legislation we pass here and way beyond our constitutional powers. I realised this one day about eight years ago when Cathy came home from work and told me the children were playing differently at the community based child-care centre where she taught and racist taunts had suddenly crept into the language of the children as they played. It did not happen because any law had changed. It did not happen because of government spending. It happened because a speech had been made by an Independent member in this chamber which was seen to legitimise racist comment in the name of free speech. There is something about what is said in this chamber that changes the mood of the nation, that gives us a role in affecting how Australians relate to each other. Just as we have the capacity here to run our politics in ways that appeal to the worst of the attitudes in Australia, we have the capacity to appeal to the best …

I will finish with what Hugh McKay said about this yesterday. He said each of us has the capacity to be a noble or to be a savage. We should encourage the noble.


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