Harmony Day

30 March 2017

DR CHALMERS (Rankin) (14:26): Last Friday, at Mabel Park State High School in my electorate, we celebrated Harmony Day with the Bridging Cultures event, and I wanted to congratulate Access Community Services, Multilink and all of the groups involved in putting on such a successful and wonderful event. I wanted to thank Principal Mick Hornby as well, not just for letting us chop up his oval, as we did on that wet day, but really for his commitment to multiculturalism in our area.

So much effort goes into sending that important message that everybody belongs, whether it be in our schools, our community groups, our places of worship, our businesses, our sporting organisations, our peak groups or our settlement and service providers. And, while all of this work is going on to strengthen the bonds between people, the Turnbull government is going out of its way to weaken those bonds, by changing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. On what planet should the big priority of a national government in a country like ours be to weaken protections against racist hate speech, with all of the challenges that we have to deal with as a nation? Why is it that this government wants to make it easier to run someone down on the basis of their race? That is what is being debated in the Senate today as we speak. Even if it fails, as it should, it will send a damaging, if not devastating, signal to people all around the country that, while communities are working towards one honourable, peaceful and inclusive objective, the government of their country is working against us.

I am proud and privileged to represent such a diverse, multicultural, musical and colourful community, and people from 189 different homelands who want what we want: they want to raise their kids in a safe environment; they want jobs for their children; and they want, as we all do, to live amongst peaceful neighbourhoods. The government's attempts to change section 18C run counter to those objectives; they run counter to our values; they run counter to our interests; and they run counter to what so many communities around the country, especially in mine but all around Australia, are trying to do to strengthen the bonds between us and not to weaken them.

I say to the people of my community who are doing this important work: do not be deterred by the attempts of this Prime Minister and those opposite to weaken the protections against hate speech. Do not be deterred. Your efforts and the efforts of the people on this side of the House who stand with you—our efforts—will prevail.