Bill's Transcripts




FRIDAY, 19 JUNE 2015



Good evening everyone. Thank you very much for inviting Chloe and I here tonight.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

There are many distinguished Members of Parliament here and when I heard the roll call - I obviously acknowledge Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who is representing the Prime Minister, and my Federal Colleagues Jason Clare and Sam Dastyari and David Fawcett is also here.

There are so many state colleagues and so many councillors, I wondered if there was any members of the Arabic media here, because everyone knows that this is the place to be tonight.

And in fact my wife and I, we’ve flown up from Melbourne to be here, and I said to her, I’m going to take you on a date tonight with 400 of our best friends, so thank you very much for sharing it with us.

To Wally Wehbe thank you for the invitation.

Tonight we are here celebrating the Australian Middle East Media, and importantly, the community that it serves.

I pay tribute to:

  • El Telegraph, the oldest Arabic newspaper in Australia

  • Al Anwar

  • Anoujoum

  • The Middle East Online

These are all monuments to the long, proud tradition, the contribution of Australia’s great and growing Middle Eastern population.

Quality publications, providing important news coverage and analysis of the uplifting and sometimes difficult, news from ancient homelands.

These publications unfold the inspirational story of Australia’s Middle Eastern community.

And you are not afraid to take up the important issues of the day.

You were instrumental in leading the way in getting the Parliament to reconsider the changes to Section 18C.

And you are very important to encouraging a respectful, open and considered debate on the best way of countering extremism and the meaning of citizenship.

But I also understand when I see this room and I meet people in the Arabic and Middle Eastern throughout Australia, that the Middle Eastern community in Australia is much more than a conversation about national security.

Here in this room tonight, I’m witness to the defining role that the culture and the traditions of the Middle East play in shaping modern Australia.

When I survey this room from this enviable vantage point I understand how much Australian society is enriched by migration.

It is something which we should give thanks for, something which we all celebrate.

Because it sometimes gets forgotten I think in the public discourse, that apart from the first Australians, the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, every one of us migrant.

And whether our forebears came here in chains – like some of mine, they got a free trip from England, they got to stay here for seven years with no return ticket - or if they came here in comfort.

If people came here seeking gold, and some of mine did, they never found it. Or just seeking safe haven and a safe place to raise your children.

Whether or not Australia was someone’s dream, or perhaps their last resort, generations of migrants have enriched us all.

It is not an easy journey to leave behind the land of your birth, the home of your ancestors, where you grew up and went to school, or your parents and your grandparents did.

Departing the place where you first spoke, leaving the home where you first learned, where you first laughed, where you first loved – this is a sacrifice which requires great hearted courage.

Courage is the common ingredient of every generation of Australian migrants.

The courage to start a new life, the courage to put your family and their future ahead of your immediate comfort.

This is the courage which is as much a part of the Australian spirit as any other form of courage that we so admire in Australian public life.

Every generation of migrants has given our nation new enterprise and entrepreneurialism.

Industry, energy and enthusiasm, driving our national wealth, our common wealth as our national anthem says.

Every generation has nourished the national soul of Australia, with new art and architecture, new fashion, new songs, new ideas, new faiths, new ways of looking at the world.

And every generation without fail, without exception, has always given more back to the land which gave them their second chance.

I think of the community work, the nursing homes. I think of the volunteer work, the caring for others.

Giving Australia a newer and deeper sense of what it is to be an Australian.

In Australia, I do not and Labor does not ‘tolerate’ diversity – we celebrate it, we embrace it, we like it.

I give thanks, every day, for our enlarged, enriched and emboldened Australian family.

And our country and our people  are at our best when we include everyone, when we empower everyone, when we respect everyone’s right to be their best and to be themselves.

This is what binds us.

People say what is it that makes us special in Australia, is it that we can laugh at ourselves, yes.

Is it that we’re fair, yes. Is it that we believe in equal treatment, yes.

Is it that we’re smart, hopefully. Is it that we’re generous, that we help people in need, yes.

If we want strangers to our country to look at us, that is probably what we want them to see, if we want our children to know what we believe when Australia looks in the mirror, that’s what we want.

But one think that perhaps undermines this most importantly is that what it is to be Australian, means that we’re a migrant country. We do good migration here.

We’re good at migration, absorbing migrants, getting the best out of migrants and making us bigger in turn.

This is the miracle of modern, multicultural Australia.

So when I think about the media in this country, I’m glad you’re so independent and not controlled by two other media barons.

But in all seriousness, when I think about the leadership that your media plays, that our political leaders should play, that business leaders should play, community leaders – when I think about the leadership and role models that our parents have to be to our children, we do have a very solemn obligation to promote harmony.

It is easier to look what we have than to build what we have. And we must never let go of the marvellous story that’s Australia, and which is, we are a migrant country.

Thank you very much, it’s lovely to be here with you all.