THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MOTION ON AUSTRALIA’S NON-DISCRIMINATORY IMMIGRATION POLICY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 15 AUGUST 2018
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
I thank both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for leading this debate.
This motion we are debating today is almost word for word the same as a motion moved nearly 30 years ago during the bicentennial year. At that time we were celebrating 200 years of migration to Australia joining 60,000 years of continuous culture here in Australia. The motion at that time, as today, was both a celebration of the great success of our multicultural nation and a repudiation of those who would seek to divide us along the lines of race, religion or ethnicity. On that occasion we were not only celebrating the success of our strong multicultural nation but also confronting the rise of anti-Asian immigration sentiment in the Australian political body and in the Australian community. Today we reflect on the words of Senator Anning in the other place.
On being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 the Jewish author, philosopher, humanist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said:
“…I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
While many in this place are in two minds about whether to engage with the words of Senator Anning, I think that it is very important to call out this racism, this divisiveness for what it is, and it's important to do it as a united chamber here today. We must not stay silent, because we are not neutral when it comes to racism. We again assert the importance of an inclusive non-discriminatory migration policy for Australia.
Australians are born in almost 200 different countries. More than 300 languages are spoken in our homes. We celebrate more than 100 religions and more than 300 different ancestries. How proud am I of that? How proud are we all of what we've built from that diversity? We are a nation of nations.
What does it take to be a good Australian? Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have addressed this question. For me there is a simple and elegant way of determining what it takes to be a good Australian, and it's in our citizenship pledge, which every new citizen takes and every citizen—Australian-born, first generation, eighth generation, 1000th generation—should be able to say from their heart:
“From this time forward—“
—maybe 'under God'; maybe not, depending on your personal preference—
“I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.”
You don't have to pledge loyalty to a government, a political party, a crown, a religion or a philosophy; you have to pledge your loyalty to Australia and its people. The significance of this pledge should not be lost on us. I've said for many years that I think Australian schoolchildren should learn the pledge but that each of us should be able to put our hands on our hearts and say that this is what it takes to be a good Australian.
In 1988, the year that the House originally passed the motion, former Prime Minister Hawke said:
“This is not to say that Australia has no central values. The reverse is true. Our democratic institutions, our belief in the freedom of the individual, our commitment to the rule of law, our recognition of the creative worth of entrepreneurial initiative and of the beneficial role of the state in assisting those who need assistance, our shared language—all these are fixed elements of the Australian community; values which we will not diminish.”
I could not be prouder to have been born Australian, but I was really struck by a conversation I had many years ago with a Halal butcher. In regard to his commitment to Australia, he said: 'When you have your first child, you think, ‘I can never love another child as much as I love this child. I will never love another child as much as this. Then you have your second child, and you realise that love is not divided: it is multiplied.’ That's how he felt about his new country. He thought, 'I could never love another country as much as my mother country, the country I was born in,' until he came to Australia, and Australia gave him safety, prosperity and a future for his children. He said, 'That's how I feel—like my love has multiplied, not divided.'
I don't think any of us should take this wonderful country for granted for a moment. We have to defend in every moment the multicultural, inclusive society that we have built, each one of us, through our contribution to this nation.
And I think it was particularly offensive when Senator Anning wasn't just focused on race but religion in his speech, because Australians of all different religions have contributed. He focused on Muslims and made some completely unsubstantiated remarks about jobs, welfare and extremism and so on that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have addressed.
But I want to say something about his use of the term 'final solution'. There are Holocaust survivors alive in Australia today. They and their children and grandchildren would be devastated to hear someone in the Australian Senate using this language. And there are people who went to Europe and the Pacific to fight fascism, who lost their lives, whose children and grandchildren, alive today, thinking about the sacrifice made by those Australians, too, in fighting fascism, would be deeply offended by the use of this terminology.
I am very pleased that we now teach about the Holocaust in the Australian curriculum, because I don't think it's acceptable that someone in the Australian Senate could claim to be so ignorant of the Second World War and the terminology associated with the Shoah that he could use that language and pretend it was an accident. It's a disgrace that he should pretend that that was an accident.
Six million Jews were murdered in the final solution, 1.1 million of them children, as well as thousands of homosexuals. Two hundred thousand people were killed for having a mental or a physical disability during the final solution, as well as up to half a million Roma. To use that language by accident is beyond belief. He should apologise for his comments about Muslims, and he should apologise for his comments about the final solution.
Nearly one million Australians fought fascism during the Second World War. Some 27,000 were killed in action or died, and 23,000 were wounded. Almost everyone in this place would have some connection to that history, would have a relative who fought or who was interned in a camp, would have lost a father or grandfather because of this, would have a relative who left behind everything familiar, everything they knew—their family, their language and their culture—to flee persecution. Almost everyone in our Australian community would have some connection to that disruption, and Senator Anning ought to know better.
As Elie Wiesel said:
“… to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”