Cohesion and multiculturalism, not vilification

"Racism, the coarsening of public debate, public attacks andvilification do not just hurt the people who are vilified; they hurt everyone. They hurt our entire society. No-one gets to live on an island in Australiain a metaphorical sense;obviously there are people living on islands! No person gets to live isolated from our society. That is not the way it works. No matter how wealthy you areno matter how poor you are, no matter what you do or where you have come from, the nature of Australian society affects your life."

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (12:12):  I too rise to speak in relation to this motion moved by the Prime Minister and supported by Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, in what was intended to be a moment of national unity reflecting the same type of moment of national unity that occurred 20 years ago in 1996 when then Prime Minister John Howard and Kim Beazley, the Leader of the Opposition at the time, moved a motion in the same terms. Since this motion was moved, it has become, if anything, more important for national leadership on issues of unity than ever before in the history of this nation. We are in a situation today where decades of commitment to multiculturalism, immigration and reconciliation are at risk of being eroded—where that progress is at risk of being erodedand that is a terrible thing for our nation. Not only is it a terrible thing because of the sharp end of bigotry and racism but it is a terrible thing because multiculturalism, immigration and movements towards reconciliation have done so much for this country over such a long period of time.

It is estimated that 10 million people have arrived and settled in Australia since the First Fleet came here. Seven million of them have come to Australia since 1945, so there has been a massive amount of postwar migration to Australia. That massive amount of postwar migration means that, today, one in four Australians was born overseas and almost half of Australians—46 per cent—have at least one parent who was born overseas. That is contributing to making us the incredibly successful multicultural country that we have been for a very long time. It is estimated that migrants provide an estimated fiscal benefit of over $10 billion in their first 10 years of settlement here in Australia, so it is not just a cultural contribution, which is in and of itself very important, but an economic one.

The economic impacts are worth mentioning because they are so significant. Migration Council Australia estimated that by 2050 migration would be contributing $1.6 trillion to Australia's GDP. It will have added 15.7 per cent to Australia's workforce participation rate, 21.9 per cent to after-tax real wages for low-skilled workers and 5.9 per cent in GDP per capita growth. They have estimated that by 2050 each individual migrant would be contributing, on average, 10 per cent more to Australia's economy than existing residents.

That is not the only set of reporting or modelling in relation to the economic contributions of migrants. Professor Graeme Hugo's report Economic, social and civic contributions of first and second generation humanitarian entrants, which was a study commissioned by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, found that refugees and other humanitarian entrants provided significant economic benefit to our country. The report's analysis of data by country of birth found that for second-generation humanitarian arrivalspeople whose parents came here as refugeesat least half of the nationality groups had a higher level of participation than the Australian-born population and that, because humanitarian entrants are highly entrepreneurial, with a higher than average proportion of those entrants engaging in small and medium business enterprises, that makes a contribution to our economy. Also there is the willingness of people who have come from very difficult situations to fill some low-wage and low-skilled jobs.

All of these things are an economic contribution to our nation, and we should remember them, but more importantly when we talk about national unity we should remember the sort of country that we want to be. We should remember the sort of country that we dream of being.Racism, the coarsening of public debate, public attacks and vilification do not just hurt the people who are vilified; they hurt everyone. They hurt our entire society. No-one gets to live on an island in Australiain a metaphorical senseobviously there are people living on islands! No person gets to live isolated from our society. That is not the way it works. No matter how wealthy you areno matter how poor you are, no matter what you do or where you have come from, the nature of Australian society affects your life.

That is why we should be very concerned about some of the division that is starting to arise. In my own electorate it took the form of a party that was aimed at stopping Muslim immigration into Australia and that ran against me at the last federal election. It is also a situation where you see vilification and abuse online. The sorts of things that nobody would even have thought of saying on the street 20 years ago are now routinely written online.

I was particularly thinking about this today. I was recently in the media talking about a racial vilification case where some students had been alleged to have written some Facebook posts after not being able to use an Indigenous-specific computer lab, using words like, 'Where's the white supremacist lab?' and, 'Why are we meeting segregation with segregation?' There was a Facebook postand the person whose name was on it said it was a hacking, of courseusing the phrase 'ITT' and then the n-word. There were a number of matters alleged in this case.

The case itself was not successful, because the judge found that there was no reasonable prospect of success and struck it out around eight months after the applicants had made a strike-out application. That, to me, goes to show something really important, which is that the vilification laws are quite narrow in this country, and rightly so. You want to have vilification laws that meet their aims of both signalling the inappropriateness and wrongness of vilification and providing a remedy when the worst cases of vilification arise.

I spoke about that case on television recently, and today I received an email from someone I have known for a long time but not very well, and that is Susan Moriarty. She wrote to me:

I am the lawyer acting for Cindy Prior

who was the applicant in that caseShe said:

Up until Friday 18 November, there were over 9,000 comments

online

about Cindy's case. It has been like being forced to watch a public flogging. 'Just kill her - problem solved' wrote one North American on The Australian Facebook page, while another wrote 'wrap that bitch in plastic and sink her in the sea'.

Another wrote 'let's get crowd funding going, so we can bankrupt this black bitch' while another wrote 'she can't have been vilified because if she had she'd been lynched by now'. Another wrote 'this black c**t has set back the constitutional amendment remember that Prior'. Another screamed for her ovaries to be torn from her body and burned so that she could never breed.

Ms Moriarty wrote:

On and on and on and on went these murderous inclinations by white Australia. She arrived home to read this on her Facebook –

I just want you to know that you're a racist bigot and should be held accountable for your racist bigotry. Instead of you flashing a victim card while discriminating against individuals on the basis of their race, why don't you take a step back and realise what a hypocrite and unbelievably racist piece of s**t you are c**t. F**k you. You need special treatment because you cannot take responsibility for yourself as an individual. Anyone giving you special treatment is just practicing soft bigotry of low expectations. They expect you to be a leech, you f**king c**t.

Ms Moriarty went on to say:

Six month ago, the 'White Lives Matter' movement ... leafleted her—

the applicant's

suburb in Western Australia. Because she—

the applicant

was unambiguously an indigenous Australian she had remained hidden indoors for several days

  • commented 2016-11-29 10:55:58 +1000
    When is the quality of parlamenterians going to be improved.? I see you are a laywer, but you don’t know the law. So what makes you a person who should represent us in the “law” makers club. What hypocracy. Shame, Shame, Shame
  • commented 2016-11-28 20:38:28 +1000
    And there we have it. Insincerity writ large on the pages of Hansard.
  • commented 2016-11-28 19:36:47 +1000
    So you’re all for cohesion and against vilification unless of course you happen to be a white male studying at QUT and then it’s open season and you can say and about him or call him anything you like. But even those chickens are gonna come home to roost now aren’t they Terri. I can’t wait to see you sweating buckets over this little tete-a-tete. And you can see what it’s like to be on the receiving end. I hope you go down for every cent of that $150k for which you’re being sued. You’ve already suffered the humiliation of having your snivelling apology rejected. The money will be salt in the wound.
  • followed this page 2016-11-28 16:02:56 +1000

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