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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3648 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

As a community, we have a fine record of cultural harmony and multiculturalism, but unfortunately we sometimes see evidence of not everybody agreeing that this is a beneficial record. Only a few days ago there was an attack on the National Jewish Centre in Barton. Those sorts of incidents, while rare, are of great concern. The ACT Human Rights Office annual report for 1999-2000 shows 13 formal complaints for racial discrimination and six complaints for racial vilification. We need to instil a sense that this kind of behaviour, to the extent it is motivated by race, is unacceptable and that the majority of the community's spirit or will is that these sorts of incidents do not fit within the expectation that one citizen has of another.

Mahatma Gandhi said, "Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit." Members may not be aware that, as well as being the International Year of the Volunteer, 2001 is also the International Year of Mobilisation against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. I am glad there are not TV ads running with that title, but the concept is a very important one to be pushed. It is perhaps a little unfortunate that the coincidence of the International Year of the Volunteer has not allowed much debate about those issues. On a positive note, perhaps it is also an indication of how little those issues have mattered in the ACT because of how small a problem we have had in those areas.

A study of racial vilification legislation was undertaken by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 1998. It found that racial vilification legislation was sometimes opposed by people because racial vilification-ethnic jokes, stereotypes, things of that kind-at worst, only leads to hurt feelings. Of course, it leads to much more than that. It leads to a sense of alienation, of disempowerment. If we accept these stereotypes that become associated with different groupings, we limit our potential to develop better as a community.

On that score, quoting Dr Martin Luther King is very appropriate. He had some experience of racism. He said:

There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.

When vilification of that kind, even just simple small acts of discrimination, becomes widespread, then we reinforce the silence by such groups at whom these acts are directed. People's career outcomes are affected, their educational opportunities are affected and their participation is limited. We only need to look around this community to see that that kind of limitation would be extremely deleterious to all of us.

The ACT has been able to use the strength of its position as a community at the crossroads of the world to the great personal advantage of the citizens of this community. A recent example of that is our capacity to be involved in the decision to secure the 2008 Olympic Games for the city of Beijing. The bridge that we built earlier, based on the sister city relationship, was built very much on the strength of the local activities of Chinese people living in the ACT. That opportunity, I am convinced, is going to be a very important commercial opportunity, as well as a social and cultural opportunity, for the city in the future.

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