This speech was delivered on 15.09.2016 in the NSW Upper House. You can read the full debate online here.
I appreciate this opportunity to speak in support of the motion moved by the Hon. Peter Primrose. To stand in the New South Wales upper House and speak in support of multiculturalism and the amazing contribution of people from around the planet, of all different faiths, races, creeds and countries, and hopefully to do it in a united way today, is a wonderful opportunity for any elected representative. The motion reads:
(1)That this House recognises the enormous contributions that those of sub-continent heritage have made to the New South Wales through hard work and determination for a better life, in particular the economic, social, education and cultural well-being of the State.
(2)That this House:
(a)congratulates the sub-continental community, and acknowledges the community’s commitment to social cohesion, and promotion of interfaith dialogue, and
(b)thanks the sub-continental community for sharing their rich and vibrant cultural traditions [with us] …
We are privileged to have this Chamber in the heart of one of the most successful multicultural global cities anywhere on the planet. It is a privilege to live in a diverse, tolerant and positive society. The Greens, and hopefully all parties in the Chamber, have long espoused and valued multiculturalism as a fundamental building block for modern Australia. It is that commitment to diversity and celebration of difference that has built the modern Australia of which we are all proud. It is the countless Australians from all over the world who have come together to contribute to making modern Australia the extraordinary place that in part this motion celebrates.
However, not every parliament is currently celebrating multiculturalism and not every parliament in this country is celebrating the contributions of people from the subcontinent—people of diverse faiths such as Christian, Muslim and Buddhist. In fact, Senator Hanson made a hideously divisive contribution in our Federal Parliament which should not be left unremarked upon. In her contribution earlier this week she said, “We are in danger of being swamped by Muslims…” I remember in 1996 when that same divisive, racist, ugly voice said in the Federal Parliament that Australia was in danger of being swamped by Asians. For the record, my wife and her family came to Australia from Hong Kong when she was 10 or 11 years old. The contribution that my wife’s family has made has been fundamentally positive to Australia and to my family—
The Hon. Greg Donnelly: And to you.
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Indeed, and my children are proud of their Chinese heritage.
I remember the hurt felt at the time following Pauline Hanson’s appalling statement in 1996 that Australia would be swamped by Asians. That was deeply hurtful to Asian Australians—Chinese, Korean, Japanese and South Asian. So I acknowledge the hurt that Australians of Muslim faith will be feeling now as a result of her gross intolerance and the gross intolerance that is being spread like a poison from the Federal Senate, from our Australian Parliament, and it should not be left unremarked upon in this debate. Pauline Hanson’s speech was vile and divisive and it had no place in any Parliament. I am proud of The Greens members of Parliament who at first sat there to hear a member speak but when she began to spill her racist, intolerant bile they walked out. Every member of Parliament should have walked out of that Chamber and given her no respect—she deserves no respect.
That is why—as I have heard from the contributions from the Hon. Peter Primrose, the Hon. John Ajaka and the Hon. Trevor Khan, and I particularly note the contribution from my colleague Dr Mehreen Faruqi—we have an obligation to do far better in this place; in fact, we have an obligation to do far better in every Parliament and to call out and identify racism. When racism and intolerance is coming from a member of Parliament we all have an obligation to call it for what it is, to reject it, to walk out and to defy it. I support the motion and I appreciate this chance to speak in support of the modern Australia that I value, which is multicultural and tolerant.