Celebrating Multiculturalism

26 March, 2024

I'm going to ignore the spurious attacks on previous governments by other speakers on this motion, and I'm going to do that for a very good reason. On this day I've got to say that all the governments I have served with or under in this parliament have reflected one of the lines of this motion: 'supporting a cohesive and inclusive multicultural society'. It doesn't matter whether you come from Tasmania—like you, Deputy Speaker Archer—or from New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria. A number of members have claimed that they have the most multicultural community in the whole of Australia. The member for Bruce claims—with some veracity, I think—that he has the most multicultural electorate in Victoria. There are those on each side who, as we heard from the member for Fowler, would say: 'No. I have the most multicultural community; here are the figures and here are the numbers.'

What is beautiful, broad and brazen about this whole Australian community is that we are changing, as we always knew we would, as time goes on. I can remember in this place when the word 'multiculturalism' was an absolute no-no. It started with the New South Wales state government removing the word 'multiculturalism' from any ministry, and then the same thing happened in the federal parliament. I grew up in a multicultural community called Koo Wee Rup. We could say then we had the most diverse European community of all towns, but it wasn't really, because there was also Werribee and all around Melbourne. The Italians dominated our communities; they came in poor and they worked hard, and their children worked hard. Their children were well educated, and they went on to do really good things. The people who came here from Sicily were tiny little people, because they'd been starved for generations. If you could see their sons and daughters now, three generations down the line—talk about two axe handles wide and six axe handles high! These are big people, and they have prospered. It's not only the Italians but also the Germans and the Yugoslavs, as we called them then. That name has changed a few times over the years. We had them all, and they came here to build a community.

In my electorate of Monash, we have people who had worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme and then came to work for the state electricity commission or in the open-cut mines in the Latrobe Valley, which have been an absolute blessing for Victoria. Just as Tasmania has the gift of hydroelectric power, where fourth-fifths of all of Tasmania's power comes from hydroelectricity, Victoria had this golden opportunity out of the Latrobe Valley. It was built by Monash and his team—my electorate is named after him—and it supplied Victoria's manufacturing community with cheap electricity, allowing them to be one of the most powerful manufacturing states in the world from the early 1930s through to the 1960s. That changed when all of a sudden we decided to say: 'We want renewable energy. We're not going to look at that brown coal as gold anymore; we're going to look at it as a pollutant.' Power stations that were to be built in the Latrobe Valley were abandoned, and now we're about to lose two more. I fear for our nation not because of its multicultural status but because this government is leading us on the way to a very poor future.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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