Page 3266 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

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Members of the Legislative Assembly acknowledge their diversity of background and personal beliefs and that of Australian society, and maintain their loyalty to the Commonwealth of Australia and the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

As an Australian citizen, I am very proud to stand up and say that I agree. Each of us in this place has a responsibility to ensure that the major tenets of Ms Porter’s motion are upheld at all times. It would be safe to say that, compared to many other countries in the world, we in Australia, particularly in Canberra, live in a tolerant and respectful society. However, sadly, the place where one would most expect leadership in this vital area to emanate from—the ACT Legislative Assembly and, more importantly, the government—there has been in recent times an element of personal attack in the area of what can only be seen to be racially motivated comments at times, and that is disappointing.

Focusing particularly on the first part of today’s MPI—the importance of maintaining tolerance and respect within the Canberra community—there has been, I would suggest, a breach in the observance of generally accepted parliamentary practice or conduct in an effort, it would appear, to satisfy personal agendas. It is from within the ACT Legislative Assembly that members should be setting a sound example at all times to the rest of the Canberra community about the importance of maintaining respect and tolerance for all with whom we come into contact. This should happen irrespective of whether we are faced with times of unease or confusion as a result of dealing with the uncertainty or unpredictability of threats of all forms of terrorism, be they local or international.

This MPI is certainly an opportunity to call for the continued tolerance and respect of believers of all faiths, all religions, and those that are conscientious and mindful of other people’s beliefs and values. Regardless of our race, creed or colour, if we all practise and afford each other the level of respect with which each of us expects to be treated regardless of our own personal belief systems, we will be more open to the opportunity to engage in measured debate to project a viewpoint without the risk of discrimination and have the real prospect of seeing the validity of another person’s viewpoint.

Regardless of racial background, colour, creed or religion, we all should feel that the opportunity is always there to speak our minds, to enter into a debate without fear of vilification or a personal attack, so that as a society we are capable of determining what issues are of most importance to the Canberra community. I highlight that in this Assembly an unfortunate pattern is emerging whereby the government has oft times sought to shut down debate or berate and criticise alternative viewpoints that do not promote their social engineering plans. It is more likely that there will be an attempt to indoctrinate this community with a belief system of its own that in no way seeks to promote healthy debate or embrace differing views.

Sure, there will always be differences of opinion and perhaps a distinct line drawn in the sand when political ideology is brought into question. However, we as members must lead by example and avoid the unfortunate scenario of adversarial politics creeping into general debate. For example, it is sad and unfortunate that I have been berated in this place for being “a migrant to Australia, a member of an ethnic community and a person who speaks with a foreign accent”. Those may be the facts, but those were uttered by

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