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Anti-Discrimination Speech

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (10:50):  This week we have seen an issue dominate our national conversation that this parliament and our society must treat with utmost seriousness: that of discrimination. As someone who is not from a minority ethnic group, it is my responsibility to speak out when I believe our society is embracing a movement towards greater discrimination. Yesterday, in the other place, we witnessed a speech that sought to do exactly that. I subscribe to the Voltairean principle of respecting someone’s right to say things that I disagree with, but when that speech uses broad brushstrokes to demonise an entire religion, and all the observers of that religion, this must be called out for what it is: it is racism; it is discrimination. When someone considers they know more about that religion and feels empowered to instruct those who have spent a lifetime studying that religion how they should better practise it, this must be called out for what it is: ignorance.

Unfortunately, our nation has dark chapters in its history where racism and ignorance have combined to produce shameful results. The massacre of Indigenous people upon settlement and the treatment of Chinese people in the goldfields are just two examples. As policymakers and leaders of this nation, it is our responsibility to ensure that racism and ignorance do not combine again. That starts by identifying it and rejecting it, which is the purpose of this speech today.

Islam is a religion followed by 1.6 billion people worldwide. It is the majority religion in places from Kuala Lumpur to Kosovo. To insinuate that every one of these people share any trait, let alone one of hatred and violence, is preposterous. It is true recent atrocities have been carried out by an aspirational Islamic State. The number of these terrorists is equivalent to less than the population of Canberra and approximately 0.01 per cent of Muslims globally. Terrorists should be judged on their actions and their crimes, not their identity.

I am proud to represent one of the most multicultural electorates in the country. In Bennelong we have large communities of people with heritage from China, Korea, Italy, Armenia, Persia and many other countries. These communities work together to form an Australian community, to create a society that brings together the best of each group. We socialise together, we dine together and we play sport together—especially that wonderful game of tennis—and we are all better for it. Those words we heard yesterday were abhorrent, but the reaction today has been positive. The freedom of speech has spurred a greater freedom: one to pursue the Australian dream—a dream of equality where there is no discrimination, where enlightenment replaces ignorance.

Anti-Discrimination Speech: