SPEECH: National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters' Council Conference - Canberra
SATURDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2017
Thank you very much Dr Tangi Steen, Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Professor Gillian Triggs, Auntie Matilda in your welcome to Country you remind us that there are in a nation of 24 million stories they all come into two types either stories that have been on this land since the first sunrise or stories that begin with immigration and thank you so much for the way you welcomed us today. Some people remarked that they were surprised that I had personally flown down for a speech that was so brief and I am going to try and pack a whole lot into a very short space of time but I have to tell you these next few minutes in talking to yourselves will be one of the most important speeches that I give because I’ve worked with all of you long enough to know that you are not simply broadcasters, you are not simply reporters, you are also community leaders and that role is critical because at the moment I believe our nation is at a turning point.
What Dr Tangi Steen said in the introduction is true, I have spent pretty much my whole political career being in the middle of issues relating to modern multicultural Australia and I’ve spent most of the time either speaking first or second to messages like the one we just heard from Minister Mitch Fifield where both sides of politics stand up and say something very similar and I want Australia to get back to that point. But I will not pretend and I will not pretend there is a bipartisan approach to multicultural Australia when there is not.
And at the moment we are at a turning point and it is not been because there has been a change of Government because we were not at this turning point in the first term of the current Government. But in the second term of the Government, we are now at a turning point and it is essentially going to the core of the definition whereas with the multicultural statement it does define multicultural Australia as the definition of the whole nation and that is good. But since the election, since One Nation arrived back in the Parliament there have been three markers that I just want you to think about before I say some more. Because these three things were never spoken about before One Nation was in the Parliament.
Almost a year ago today the Minister for Immigration stood up in the Parliament and answered a question from us. And referred to third generation Australians not as third generation Australians but as third generation Lebanese. Then we had a revival of the debate as to whether the protections against racial hate speech should be weakened even though we had previously been told that that debate had been settled. And then we had the changes to Citizenship which had not been flagged at the last election at all.
Now in case people think I’m being dramatic about the change to Citizenship I’m simply going to read to you two passages, I’m then going to do a show of hands and the question I’m going to ask is whether the first passage is the more difficult one or whether the second passage is the more difficult one. I’m not going to hold you to any views beyond that but I want you to be able to tell me whether you think the first passage or the second passage is the more difficult one. I’ll read the first passage:
The hairy adornment of the lion renders him more formidable in appearance. But the plain fact is that the tiger's head and jaws are more solid, heavy and powerful than the lion’s. We can only tell the difference when examining the skeletons of the two animals with a skilled anatomist.
That’s the first passage. Here’s the second passage:
Calisthenics enters the historical record at around 480 BC with Herodotus’ account of the battle of Thermopylae…. Herodotus reported that prior to the battle the God-king Xerxes sent a scout party to spy on his spartan enemies. The scouts informed Xerxes that under the leadership of King Leonidis were practising some kind of bizarre synchronised kind of movements akin to a tribal dance.
Could you put your hand up if you think the first passage was the more difficult? Could you put your hand up if you think the second passage was more difficult? Thank you. The second passage was taken directly from the IELTS test which is being proposed as the condition for Australian citizenship. The first passage is from the White Australia policy. You can draw your own conclusions but I’m not going to pretend we are not at a major decision point right now.
There are some people who will say oh but the difference with the White Australia policy was that only certain people had to pass the test. The passage that I just read - the IELTS test you will have to pass it if you come, up until recently the Government was saying the University level English, now they have gone for something slightly lower but it’s still the same test. If you come from the Pacific Islanders you will need that level English, if you come from Asia you will need that level of English, if you come from most of Europe, any part of Africa or from all of South America you will need that level of English but if you come from New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Ireland or the United Kingdom you will not need to pass the test.
That is exactly what has been before the Parliament this year. Now my sense of multicultural Australia is exactly as Dr Tangi Steen was kind enough to say in the definition, we are beyond considering multicultural Australia as though we are here to talk about a minority group. We used to do this with women’s issues, we used to talk about women as though they were a minority Australia even though they were the majority of the population. In the same way with multicultural Australia we need to get beyond considering multicultural Australia being some sort of minority group, we are talking about the definition of our nation.
That is what this is and when you are a country containing many diverse cultures there are three different ways of organising them. I often explain these in terms of food. If you are putting a meal together and you put all the ingredients in separate containers and leave them in separate containers that is a segregation model. If you throw everything in to a blender, press speed 10, wait until it all comes out into a smoothie or a soup so you can’t tell one ingredient from another that is an assimilation model on which the United States for example has tended to base itself.
If you make a salad and every ingredient keeps it’s identity but together you form a national flavour unique to our country that is the model of integration and model of multiculturalism. That’s the Australia that I believe in, that’s the Australia that i live and that’s the Australia where the key question isn’t well why doesn’t this person fit in. Well the key question is let’s learn about how everybody’s story is part of the Australian story. That’s an Australia where we get to the point of realising that if we don’t have enough people speaking a diversity of languages that is a national weakness not something to be afraid of.
Those of you who have the gift of other languages know that at it’s core there is no such thing as translation there is not a matching word in English for every word in your own languages of your heritage and by virtue of those languages living in here the emotions, the ideas, the passions that reside within that language get to live and contribute to Australia too. And makes us a stronger nation but this entire concept, this foundation for the strength of who were are as a country is under direct attack and we must not pretend it isn’t. I desperately hope that very soon both sides of politics are standing before you and delivering unbelievably boring but nice speeches that are in complete agreement with each other.
For years we have and the moment we can get close enough to call it bipartisanship I want to do that because we will be a better nation for it. But right now, right now, we have something to defend and it is your listeners we are defending, it is your viewers we are defending and it can only be you who lets them know what is at stake and that is why I dropped everything to be with you today.