Political agreement on multiculturalism, migration
As debate around migration and refugees turns toxic around the globe, the two leaders of Australia’s major political parties have both outlined of the benefits of the nation’s migration and multicultural policies.
Speaking at the recent Australia Settlement and Migration Awards held in Canberra both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten both extoled the virtues of multiculturalism and also signally hit out at the divisive rhetoric emanating from the fringes of Australian politics and society.
“Today Australia truly reflects the faces of all the peoples of the world who look to us.
But more than a mirror, we are also a lesson in harmony and security amidst diversity,” Prime Minister Turnbull told the audience in the Great Hall of Parliament.
“As so many parts of the world grapple with unprecedented movements of people, and consider how to integrate different races, religions and cultures, Australia continues to show how it can be done,” he said.
“We are the most successful multicultural society in the world and it’s a badge we wear with pride.
“In a time of tension and conflict and challenge right around the world, in a time when people who have lived together in relative harmony or centuries seem no longer be able to do so, Australia shines the light towards a better way,” Mr Turnbull said.
He said children growing up today among migrant populations old and new sees the world as full of diversity and with a sense value in our differences.
“All of us are enriched by the cultures of our neighbours. All of us, and I think Australians remarkably more than any other nation I have struck in the world have an extraordinary cultural curiosity,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We are fascinated by the diversity in which we live and we are all enriched by it, we are strengthened by it,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said immigration had played a major role in shaping Australia, citing those who worked on the Snowy River Hydro Scheme and who those who built roads, railways and ports.
“Generations of immigrants have placed their faith in Australia because Australia has placed its faith in them,” he said.
“This two-way faith goes to the heart of our success – the idea that we stand side-by-side as Australians not bound or defined by race, religion or culture, but by our shared belief in democracy, the rule of law, and a fair go,” Mr Turnbull said.
“No matter where we have come from, we are Australian. Proud of our histories, proud of our cultural inheritance but Australians first and foremost.
“And an example to the world. At a time of growing global tensions and rising uncertainty, we remain a steadfast example of a harmonious, egalitarian and enterprising nation, which embraces its diversity,” he said.
He said Australia’s settlement programs were the envy of the world.
“It will always be in our interests, both as individuals and as a nation, to continue working together to maintain Australia’s standing as a beacon of diversity and to further improve and modernise the system to address and anticipate matters at home and abroad,” Mr Turnbull said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the awards gathering immigration was an irreplaceable part of what Australia is.
“Australia has given migrants a chance and you repaid that faith many times over. Our horizons have been broadened, our eyes opened by every migrant generation,” he said.
“More often than not, messages of extremism like to talk about ‘One Nation’ but the ultimate goal is to divide our country,” Mr Shorten said.
But he argued migration boosted productivity, participation and population.
“It enhances and complements the skills of our workforce – adding new knowledge to our national understanding,” Mr Shorten said.
“I’ve been thinking about what makes a good Australian,” he said.
“It’s not the number of generations you’ve been here, or where your ancestors came from.
“It’s not your skin colour, your wealth, your postcode, your occupation, the god you pray to or your gender. It’s what’s in your heart.
“Millions of migrants have come here over the decades. Millions of Australians born here. Australians by choice and by birth – are all good Australians. And Australia is better for all of us,” Mr Shorten said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist