QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE Multiculturalism

 Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (14:05): My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the work of the Australian Multicultural Council that the government established last year, and why does mutual respect and tolerance form the foundation of Australian multiculturalism?

Ms GILLARD (Lalor—Prime Minister) (14:05): I do very much thank the member for Chifley for raising this question. A number of us in this parliament had what was the very special privilege last night of attending a first ever Australian Multicultural Council lecture delivered by a very great Australian, Frank Lowy. I was in attendance, the Leader of the Opposition was in attendance, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship was in attendance, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs was there, Minister Ellis was there, the shadow parliamentary secretary was there and the former minister for immigration Mr Ruddock was there, amongst a large number of others. It was a special privilege to be there and to hear the remarkable life story of a truly great Australian who, as a very young boy, fled the horrors of the Holocaust and made such a remarkable success of his life in this country.

I was very pleased that when I spoke, when Mr Lowy spoke and when the Leader of the Opposition spoke we saw a bipartisan embrace of multiculturalism and what it truly means. Multiculturalism is the meeting place of rights and responsibilities—the right to bring to this nation as a migrant your heritage and your culture and your language and your religion; to bring all of that with you and pursue it freely. It is the meeting of those rights with the responsibilities that come from making your way in a new nation, including responsibilities to find work, to learn English, to uphold our rule of law, to be a full participant in our democracy and to recognise women as equals in our society. Each person who spoke last night—I, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lowy, the chair of the Australian Multicultural Council—made the very important point that what we saw in the streets of Sydney last weekend was not multiculturalism; it was extremism and it should be recognised as such.

I am very pleased that we will now see this lecture happen once every year. It will give us a tremendous opportunity to come together as a parliament and I believe, as it becomes more publicly noted, to come together as a nation to celebrate what multiculturalism has achieved for this country. We certainly made a flying start with the address last night from Mr Frank Lowy. I very much enjoyed it. I know his representative in this parliament, the member for Wentworth, enjoyed it. It was a truly great occasion for this parliament and I wanted this parliament to add its voice to the very wise words spoken by a great Australian last night on multiculturalism.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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