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Coalition Minister defends multiculturalism

4 March 20160 comments

New Assistant Multicultural Affairs Minister Craig Laundy has launched an impassioned defence of multiculturalism, citing its cultural and economic benefits.

Writing in The Australian newspaper this week, Minister Laundy hit back at conservative commentators who have called for the federal government’s policy on multicultural policy to be axed.

Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Craig Laundy, launched an impassioned defence of multiculturalism

Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Craig Laundy, launched an impassioned defence of multiculturalism

He said Australia’s business and economic ties with the rest of the world are boosted by the deep and close networks our multicultural communities have with new, booming economies.

“Our business horizons have broadened and we have become more open to the world,” Minister Laundy wrote.

“Our diversity of cultures and our multilingual workforce give Australia a distinct competitive advantage in the global economy,” he said.

Last month, conservative commentator Janet Albrechtson, also writing in The Australian, called for multiculturalism to be “binned”.

“In the 70s, multiculturalism was sold to the people as the tolerant, moral alternative to earlier evil policies of assimilation and integration. But assimilation and integration were not intolerant ideas. On the contrary, these policies invited migrants to Australia with the promise they, too, could become Australians and enjoy the values that made Australia the country of first choice for millions,” Ms Albrechtson wrote.

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt – who was found by the Federal Court to have contravened Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act by claiming that a group of Aboriginal people sought professional advantage from the colour of their skin – has also been a staunch critic of the policy.

Minister Laundy replied by saying entrepreneurial and business-oriented ethnic communities would enable many of the benefits of newly-signed trade agreements to flow through to the rest of the country.

“Recent research in Britain and the US reveals significant links between multilingual ethnic communities and export and international business collaboration and investment,” wrote the member for the western Sydney electorate of Reid.

“A recent study on the economic impact of migration to Australia sought to calculate the strengths that our diversity presents.

“The study, undertaken by the Migration Council Australia and Independent Economics, estimated that by 2050, migration would contribute $1.6 trillion to our economy.

“The diversity of our immigration and humanitarian programs, and the social cohesion we have maintained as we have grown this diversity, are enormous achievements.

“We have one of the most cohesive and harmonious populations in the world,” Minister Laundy said.

He also revealed his views were sheeted home to his personal experience of multiculturalism.

“As a kid growing up in Sydney’s inner west I had classmates who came from all over the world,” Minister Laundy wrote.

“The next generation of Greek, Italian, Lebanese and Vietnamese Australians sat in class with Anglo and indigenous Australians. Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish — all faiths were represented.

“I took this diversity for granted. I did not look for a word to describe it. This diversity was part of my life.

“Only later did I realise how enriching these experiences had been, and how much they were to reflect the experience of modern Australia.

“This was a microcosm of what Australia has become. Today, my kids are experiencing an even more diverse school community, where they are mixing with new arrivals to our shores from places such as Iraq, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Korea and China,” Minister Laundy said.

He said Australians now identified with about 300 ancestries and spoke almost as many languages, including indigenous languages.

“For all of us, this diversity has enriched daily life,” he said.

Minister Laundy pointed to the 2015 Scanlon Foundation survey of social cohesion was proof that 86 per cent of Australians agree that diversity was good for Australia.

Trying to claim that it has failed as a social policy ignores the evidence that is all around us, in the most successful multicultural nation on earth.

 

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist