Page 4563 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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… The Singapore Government refused to comment on the Myanmar Fund investment when the connection was first reported in 1997—

in Australia—

by SBS; but when the then prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, was confronted during a US visit later that year he admitted the government had quietly liquidated its investment.

“Singapore has hundreds of millions invested in Burma. The Myanmar Fund was just a very small portion of it,” Dr Chee said. “Where has it gone, to other projects with Lo Hsing Han?” He called on the Government to state clearly that the Burmese military junta was not helping or turning a blind eye to drug trafficking.

The 100 people who met in Singapore were warned that police were probably videotaping the event, so it was a very brave move on their part. We also need to remember that the people who are getting jailed, as in Bali, or hanged, probably, as in Singapore, are just a very small part of the chain and that the people who profit and remain invisible while these people are paraded daily through our media are getting off lightly and indeed profiting.

Multicultural council

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (6.18): Mr Speaker, I rise this evening to talk about the attacks on the funding of the ACT Multicultural Council and the dire consequences thereof for the ACT multicultural landscape. We have heard over the last couple of days, confirmed today by the Chief Minister, that the government will be having a crack at their funding. That has come about on the back of four years of neglect in relation to how effective and how efficient the multicultural council has been. We have had damming reports by the Auditor-General on the workings of the multilateral council itself and the lousy relationship that exists between the multilateral council and the Office of Multicultural Affairs and, by extension, the government.

I feel for the Office of Multicultural Affairs and I feel for the minister. I understand the difficulties of making that relationship work. I think, frankly, that the multicultural council is dysfunctional. I think the minister feels that way, too. It is not easy for him. But I have to say that there has been stunning silence for some time now at the political leadership level of government here about what to do and how to fix the ACT Multicultural Council’s woes. Secondly, there has clearly been a massive erosion of harmony within the multicultural council and between the council and those ethnic organisations that it is required and supposed to serve. That is clearly a consequence of divisive political behaviour.

I think that things have just got out of control in the last couple of years. I think also that some of the Chief Minister’s inflammatory political statements on international issues have divided opinion and polarised opinion within the multicultural community. I have seen evidence of that within the multicultural council. That has not helped things either. What has the government done, firstly, to repair the bridges between government and the multicultural council and, secondly, to depoliticise the council and rebuild harmony? I do not think it has done much at all.

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