Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 June 2016) . . Page.. 1814 ..
Our National Multicultural Festival each year is a testament to our celebration of diversity and the wealth of knowledge and experience it brings. This adds to Australia’s 40,000-year history of multiculturalism with many distinctive languages and different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. To that we have added the rich diversity of the backgrounds of migrants and refugees over the past two hundred years.
All these contributions and living in harmony are part of what it means to be an Australian and a Canberran. That is why it was very disturbing, Madam Speaker, to see the federal Liberals, especially Mr Peter Dutton and the once small “l” liberal Mr Malcolm Turnbull, returning to the divisiveness and the dog whistling of old. The federal Liberals are again demonising and insulting refugees. These refugees are people who find themselves in much the same desperate situation that many in their community or their forbears were once in.
The federal Liberals have form on this—brutally exploiting any potential community division based on race or cultural difference. No wonder Mr Peter Dutton used the lines he did; they are just an extension of Mr Tony Abbott’s dog whistling stop the boats campaign. When the Abbott government came to office less than three years ago the newly minted Attorney-General, Senator Brandis, made the repeal of a section of the Racial Discrimination Act his first priority. Those changes would have given a green light to racial abuse in Australia. It took until August 2014 for the Liberal government to recognise the revulsion these proposals had caused in the community and to finally abandon their proposals to change the Racial Discrimination Act.
The reaction against the proposals in the Canberra multicultural, Indigenous, legal and social services communities was overwhelming and resonated in our wider community. They were especially appalled that the federal Liberals did not seem to care about what the changes might unleash. In the end the federal Liberal government, which included Ministers Turnbull and Dutton, was stopped by the widespread public opposition to the changes which was reflected in the Senate. However, their government is still prepared to run racially and socially divisive campaigns at the expense of vulnerable asylum seekers.
I am proud to be part of an inclusive government prepared to call the Liberals out on this and to welcome refugees and give them sanctuary in our great city.
MR HINDER (Ginninderra) (12.04), in reply: I thank members for their contribution to the debate today. I will close by making a few comments in response to some of the comments made by other members in this place. Mrs Jones quoted the ALP’s national website. It appeared to me that much of that was out of context. What there is, I notice, on the ALP’s national website is a commitment to re-establish an office of multicultural affairs in the Department of Social Services. If we were to think back to how the need for that happened, I think you will find it was Liberal governments that abolished that organisation.
Also on the ALP’s national website is a rundown of Labor’s record against the coalition’s record in relation to multiculturalism and Australia. It notes that the Office