Page 739 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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run down. There were at least 400 participants at the ball, and that is always a good sign of a well-run activity.

I must say the fashion parade was particularly impressive. The Spanish and Indian dancers were the highlight of that parade. They were particularly sparkling. However, I have to take my hat off to the young Pacific Islanders who were performing their first performance—indeed, young people who had to be pushed by their own community to come out and express themselves culturally. That, in itself, was in fact a major coup. They did particularly well. The colourful and rather expressive Mrs Helen Cross was MCing the fashion parade. Of course, she did that with gay abandon.

Mr Speaker, I would like to particularly also point out that the Kurdish/Iranian quartet who played had come recently from overseas. It was quite fascinating, actually, that they played a cross-section of western and eastern instruments. The highlight of that little ensemble was the playing of the lute, which is a peculiar looking instrument. It is something like a guitar. It is a stringed instrument that is played in Greece, Asia Minor and the Arabic world—a very mournful instrument. And it was well played.

By some coincidence, a couple of these performers knew some of the people that I had worked with in Sulaimaniyah in 1994. It is a small world and it was quite embracing to meet these sorts of people.

Consequently, we would have to congratulate Mohamed Omari and the Multicultural Council who put that ball together quite well, particularly given that the Multicultural Council is doing it a bit tough at the moment. My Liberal colleagues Mr Smyth and Senator Humphries were there. Regrettably, however, we did not see anybody from the government there. Neither the minister, who I understood—

Mrs Burke: I was there. My husband was there.

MR PRATT: I am sorry. There was a coterie of four wretched Liberals there, Mr Speaker. While the minister did apologise and did try to get there, he was unable to. Regrettably, nobody else in his place was, and that included no sign of a senior officer from any of those departments that have a role to play in the administration of multicultural affairs. I thought that was a bit sad, particularly given the sad position the Multicultural Council is in. We would like to see this government taking a leadership role in trying to assist and support the Multicultural Council in its current form and to—

Mr Smyth: We hoped the new minister could; the last one couldn’t.

MR PRATT: That is right, Mr Smyth. That is sadly lacking. I thought that the lack of interest in being present and supporting the Multicultural Council annual ball reflected quite starkly that deep concern. We need to see leadership; we need to see that area of multicultural affairs sorted out as quickly as possible.

Disability services

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (5.05): For the housing minister’s edification, I will continue where I left off before lunch. Again, I think it is quite fascinating how that debate was shut down.

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