Page 4492 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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when partisan politics should be put aside and we should debate things sensibly rather than in an undergraduate way where we throw out labels, appeal to the Howard haters and say, “If John Howard’s doing it, it’s wrong.” We saw it with the death penalty case. Somehow John Howard is being blamed for this tragic case in Singapore. It defies logic to try to draw that link, to blame the federal government for everything that is ill in the world, for everything that we consider to be wrong.

I support this motion. It is a good motion. I will be fascinated to see what the government does with it. I expect that they would have to support it, because they would want to work more constructively to enhance opportunities. I look forward to hearing what the Chief Minister has to say on the matter. I look forward to them supporting the motion.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (11.43): We have seen the Chief Minister continually taking up national and international issues, for a number of reasons—boredom with his job representing local Canberrans and supervising local government, self-aggrandisement, a desire to build his national portfolio with a view to going to federal parliament and his narrow-minded, bitter dislike for John Howard and the federal Liberal Party. For all these reasons, he has wandered off tilting at windmills, rather than delivering the essential services for the people whom he represents. In the process he is unnecessarily causing tensions with the federal government, and this is a disservice to the ACT community.

A number of examples of the Chief Minister’s strange and peculiar behaviour in this windmill tilting are as follows: I can recall vividly the multicultural community and the broader Canberra community being extremely disappointed with the Chief Minister’s 30th anniversary of multiculturalism speech delivered on 26 September 2003. It was a highly politicised and irrelevant speech about multicultural issues and a speech that badly let down the ACT multicultural community. Of course it was aimed at attacking the federal government but it politicised the multicultural community. The Chief Minister is first and foremost a minister for Canberra and was formerly the ACT minister for multicultural affairs.

The ACT government should be deeply ashamed that this Chief Minister chose to ignore this very important opportunity to properly celebrate the 30th anniversary of multiculturalism in the ACT. Instead, at that time, he chose to launch into a disgraceful speech, bagging this country generally and demonstrating an extremely pessimistic view about the state of multiculturalism in this country. In the process, he damaged our relationship with his federal counterparts. Furthermore, I recall vividly the comments of amazement and anger expressed by Phil Ruddock and Gary Hardgrave at the time, along with the negative comments expressed by multicultural leaders at the federal and national level.

The Chief Minister’s comments about Australia’s position and its commitments internationally are irresponsible and divisive and have done more to create disharmony rather than enhance harmony in our multicultural community. What is the fundamental responsibility of all of us in this place? Our fundamental responsibility is to enhance harmony in the multicultural community. And the federal authorities are not impressed when they see this Chief Minister politicising multiculturalism and causing division. Were these responsible and mature actions of the Chief Minister? I think not.

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