Multiculturalism and the Victorian election
As the Victorian state election approaches, it is good to know that bi-partisanship on multiculturalism appears to be alive and well Victoria – even if there appears to be a battle looming over migration policy at a national level.
A recent pre-election multicultural policy discussion featuring spokespeople from the major parties endorsed multiculturalism and revealed broad agreement across the political spectrum when it comes to valuing diversity and supporting diverse communities.
The three speakers on the panel; Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott, Shadow Multicultural Affairs Minister Inga Peulich and Greens Spokesperson on Multiculturalism Huong Truong each outlined their broad commitment to policies that promote multiculturalism and social cohesion.
Minister Scott made the salient and timely point that there is nothing about multiculturalism that sits outside democratic liberal traditions.
He said that for his party, multiculturalism “was at the heart of a free society that ensures people have the ability to live as they wish as long as they do not harm anyone else”.
Minister Scott said it was important to support diverse communities to retain the cultural expression of their heritage.
And he pledged his government would work to remove barriers to economic participation for people from migrant communities.
Minister Scott also announced an extra $50,000 in funding for the Ethnic Communities Councils’ of Victoria’s (ECCV) anti-racism campaign.
Shadow Minister Peulich also committed her party to protecting multiculturalism and pointed to the high numbers of migrants who start businesses in Victoria that employ people.
She also outlined her party’s plans to reinvigorate the Victorian Multicultural Commission with a dedicated staff and budget, a new strategic plan built around economic development, as well as subcommittees for individual communities.
Greens spokesperson Huong Truong spoke of the need for vigilance when it comes to racism and discrimination and the need to ensure there are opportunities for people, especially young people, from disadvantaged communities.
She praised both major parties for their support for multicultural programs which can make differences in the lives of people from emerging communities.
The panel discussion was held almost at the same time as the federal government revealed it was considering significantly lowering the ceiling on Australia migrant intake and focusing even more on skilled migrants.
Recent reports say the federal government is discussing “slashing” Australia’s immigration ceiling of 190,000 for the first time in eight years and focusing on an intake of “the best and brightest” in a major reform initiative.
But to avoid migration cuts impacting on the nation’s bottom line, the federal government is understood to be looking at changing the make-up of the intake to increase the proportion of highly skilled migrants — described in the reports as the “best and brightest” — who will still provide a positive contribution to the economy.
The reports quoted government sources as saying the wide-ranging immigration reform is scheduled to be announced in December or early next year, and is the result of two years of work by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the run up to next year’s federal election.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist