Speeches Chris has made in the Australian Federal Parliament.

Matters of Public Importance - Multiculturalism

March 05, 2020

Mr HAYES (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (16:01): The simple truth is that, other than First Nations people, in this country we are all either immigrants or descendants of immigrants. There is no greater story in Australia than our pattern of immigration. The more immigrants I get to talk to, the more I know they have come here for the same two reasons. It is always for a better life for themselves and for a better life for their families. Australia's development has been based on that. But the criticism I make of the government is that I think they have taken multiculturalism for granted. Sure, they'll be at the Tet Festival, the Moon Festival, the Chinese New Year and every other event there is out there. But can I put this from a personal perspective.

I have the honour to represent one of the most multicultural communities in the whole of Australia. People in my community come from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Turkey, I have many Uighurs from China, and many Chinese as well; and, more recently, people coming from Iraq and the Middle East. We are, quite frankly, a successful example of multiculturalism and of how people can live together and work together in harmony. But the point I want to make is that this doesn't just happen by chance. We have a strong, successful multicultural community because we work at it. You cannot take this for granted.

I've heard what other speakers have said in terms of the attacks on the mosque in Christchurch and, similarly, the Muslim woman who was attacked in Parramatta. I employ two Muslims on staff, one who wears the hijab, and they have reported to me how they've also been singled out. They don't decry the fact that their religion or anything else distinguishes them. They are also very, very pleased that they work and live in a multicultural environment. Now, we can all go and find problems in it, but the thing is that you've got to work to make it happen.

More recently, we have had many, many migrants come in as refugees from the Middle East. As a matter of fact, we supported Tony Abbott's plan to take 12,000 immigrants from Syria under the Special Humanitarian Program intake. Of those 12,000, as the Minister is aware, 7,000 came to my area of Fairfield—7,000. My area is not hostile to refugees or hostile to immigrants, but we do expect a fair go.

I would like to think that, because we accept the majority of refugees coming to this country under a special humanitarian intake, we would get some form of special weighting when it comes to allocating the finances to resource their settlement. Settlement is so critically important. It's not just getting a kid to school or getting someone into a house; it's inculcating becoming part of community.

As a matter of fact, the police spoke to me about this. They said that one of the things we have in common, not that I necessarily follow it, is soccer, and their suggestion, particularly for the Middle Eastern enclave coming here, was that maybe we should get more kids from there into playing soccer, because they are passionate about it. They thought that, by doing that, their families would get involved in getting kids to training and taking kids to matches and they would become part of the community—they would have something in common. That's why I got really upset when I saw the San Souci Soccer Club getting $50,000 awarded to it for a building that was already not only built but also officially open in San Souci—which is hardly the multicultural capital of New South Wales—when we didn't get anything for any of our local clubs that are doing things with kids from multicultural backgrounds.

If we want to get serious about settlement, it doesn't mean just pushing pieces of paper around; it means getting people focused on becoming—and being allowed to become—full members of our community. And it's not just about jobs and housing; it's also about providing kids with the opportunity to advance. This is something that the government have seriously missed in the way they went about the allocation of money, particularly with the sports rorts. We can do those things better. We have an obligation to do those things better in a country that we can proudly say is the most multicultural country in the world. And no greater successful multicultural example of that is my electorate of Fowler.