SAY NO TO RACISM
Mr. Pino Migliorino,
FECCA - Chairman
Dear Mr. Migliorino,
You are to be congratulated for standing up for multiculturalism and it is so sad that both political parties have been using "anti-multiculturalism" to win votes!
How low can they go in Australia?!!
The media is not doing much better during this campaign.
Unity Party WA
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We need to stand up for multiculturalism
August 20, 2010 - 6:54AM
The portrayal in this election of diversity as a villain that threatens the comfortable lives of Australians urgently needs some political will to defend multiculturalism.
This campaign has been hijacked by appeals to the odd marginal vote and pits vulnerable groups against each other, a remnant of the old habits of colonisation.
When the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia consulted its membership to gauge reactions to these elections, many bemoaned the "divide and conquer" principle of the rhetoric.
Politicians have appealed to the lowest common denominator of fear among migrants by portraying new arrivals as people who stay in hotels, are provided housing, jump metaphorical queues and take away the jobs of the other vulnerable migrant communities.
Australia's last multicultural policy expired in 2006. The Rudd government appointed the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council to advise the government on multicultural issues with a view to fostering better social cohesion. The council produced The People of Australia report in April, but since then there has been mostly silence about its recommendations from all sides.
In this campaign, migrants have been approached to affirm the anti-diversity stands of political parties. In some sort of diabolical logic, this seems to legitimise xenophobia. One quote from a migrant Ola Abdelmaguid in the council's People of Australia says it all: ". . . the media makes a lot of myths. They often select the most extreme person. And people believe what they hear and see."
Multiculturalism is a global phenomenon, perhaps this is why it is not popular in the current election debates, which have been focused (in the words of the Nobel prize winning Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore) within the "narrow, domestic walls" of Australian politics.
If anyone bothers to go to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which is where one should logically go for information about such matters, it will clarify some of the numbers being bandied about regarding population.
The fact of the matter is that two-thirds of our migration intake in recent years are temporary migrants including students and highly skilled 457 workers. The latter form part of the global labour market and are influenced by factors beyond Australia's control. This information is available to the public. So how come we persist in holding 4000 odd vulnerable people fleeing life threatening situations responsible for the future of Australia's living standards, resources, infrastructure and border security? What is the real intention of this unrealistic premise?
Australian policy has been in retreat from multiculturalism for some time now. The divide and conquer strategy of the elections might deliver a short term win for politicians but in the long term it turns communities against each other and will undo any good that governments have tried to do in building social cohesion. The challenge for Australia is to learn from some of our Asian neighbours and conceptualise population and diversity as assets rather than as threats.
For some time we modelled multiculturalism to the world, we need to find the confidence to do this again.
Pino Migliorino is chairman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia.