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Janet condemns Fraser Anning's racist first speech

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 15 Aug 2018

I want to acknowledge that we're here today on the lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and that sovereignty was never ceded and that all of us, other than the First Australians, are migrants to this country.

Over the 200 years of settlement of this country there's been a lot of hatred, there's been a lot of prejudice, there's been a lot of hurt and there's been a lot of harm. But we have been building a country, we have been striving for a country, that acknowledges and celebrates people regardless of who they are, regardless of their background. It celebrates people for what they contribute. It celebrates our common humanity. We have been building that country.

I grew up in Altona, a highly multicultural suburb with many postwar migrants from all over the world. I live in Footscray, where almost half the population were born outside Australia or have parents born outside Australia. It is a country, a suburb and a community that is thriving. We have been building this sense of 'We are all together as Australians.' We are all together as citizens of the world but we are all together as Australians building a peaceful, harmonious society. That's what we have been working towards. We have been striving towards that. 

In supporting this motion today, I want us to recognise how precious that is, this striving towards a country that does recognise and celebrate people—regardless of their background, their race, their religion, their sex, their sexuality or their abilities—that we are all humans, that we can all contribute, that we are all working together to be furthering a better and more tolerant and more celebratory society for all of us. That's what we've been striving for. But I also want to acknowledge that over the last decade, and certainly in the four years that I have been in this Senate, we have been moving away from that.

Up until about a decade ago, there was the sense that we were still making progress, that we were still making progress towards a more equal society, where everybody is celebrated regardless of their background. But over the last decade we have been moving away from that. There has been this rising racism in our society, this rising intolerance of people and division and hatred because of the differences between people. So I am hoping that debating this motion today, and the reaction to the awful hatred in Senator Anning's speech last night, can be a pivotal moment for us to recognise that we have something precious here in Australia—our multicultural society—to show that we can exist harmoniously. But we've got to work at it and we've got to totally reject the hateful racism that was on show last night and is on the rise in our society today.

We have got to work together. We have got to redouble our efforts to work together, to overcome that racism so that we can continue to strive for the society that we know is what we really want to have: a society that really, truly, respects everybody, regardless of their background.

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