MULTICULTURAL NSW LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2014

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE [4.54 p.m.]: I rise to speak on the Multicultural NSW Legislation Amendment Bill 2014. As stated by the shadow Minister in the other place and our representative in this place, the Hon. Walt Secord, we will not oppose this bill. But, having said that, we do not oppose the bill because it has already been acted upon and its objectives have already been executed. In any event, I am keen to speak on the bill and to have my comments put on record. I want to speak about multiculturalism in our community, a subject which I am passionate about. Ever since I stared work as a community youth officer about 30 years ago, multicultural communities have been one key area of interest of mine. So I take great pride in working with multicultural communities from all parts of the world and all faiths, and celebrate their contributions to New South Wales and Australia.

This bill seeks to amend the Community Relations Commission and the Principles of Multiculturalism Act 200 to rename the Community Relations Commission as Multicultural NSW. From the outset, might I say it is a bit deceptive to say that this is a mere renaming of that organisation. The reality is that object (d) of Purpose and Description of the document that members have received from the Legislation Review Digest article on the Multicultural NSW Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 is:
To rename the Community Relations Commission of New South Wales as Multicultural NSW and to change the structure of that body so that it is no longer a commission constituted by commissioners and to confer management of its affairs on the Chief Executive Officer.
So this is more than a renaming of that organisation. As other members have said, particularly the Hon. Walt Secord, this change does devalue the commission. The Minister is of the view that this change will ensure there is no confusion about the body's role, or its scope, within the community. Effectively, the Minister has scrapped the Community Relations Commission and in its place created an advisory board, in effect demoting the commissioners and devaluing their role as they will no longer be responsible for the community; their responsibility will be as advisers to the Minister. That is a change that I certainly object to. An advisory board, made up of the chief executive officer and no more than 15 part-time members, including the chairperson, simply will advise the Minister. As I said, the New South Wales Opposition will not oppose this bill. However, it seems that the Government has pre-empted these changes.

In preparing to say a few words on the bill, I looked at the Community Relations Commission website this morning. There, I saw that the name Multicultural NSW is already emblazoned on the website. So the Government has already acted on this proposal; there is no longer any reference to the commission on the site or the site's organisational flow chart. I was not sure when this change was made, so I checked the recent media release. The only reference to the commission I could find was when Victoria Alhadef's resignation was mentioned in a press release. I looked deeper, and found it was a media alert from the Minister, not a press release. The media alert basically says:

Basically, the media alert states that ahead of the Multicultural Marketing Awards "the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello, will announce the new chair of the Community Relations Commission"—which was Dr Hari Hiranath—"as well as new advisory board members". That made no sense, so I looked further afield and read a www.weeklytimesnow.com.au article of 10 September 2014 that appeared under its "Breaking News" headline. It stated:
Ex-Cricket NSW boss appointed CRC head.

… Hari Harinath has been appointed the head of the state's Community Relations Commission.
What happened to the chairman of the commission? Was he demoted or sacked? The bill does not address those issues. The Legislation Review Digest lists the bill's objectives, one of which is:
(g) to revise the functions of Multicultural NSW to reflect its current functions and activities
That does not mean anything. I do not know what that statement is intended to mean.

The Hon. Walt Secord: It could be a typo.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: It could be a typo, but it is a whole sentence. Paragraph (g) just does not make any sense. Other objectives of Multicultural NSW relate to promoting the equal rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and a commitment to Australia. Such statements make me angry because they make a number of subliminal assumptions about multicultural communities in Australia. For example, it assumes that Australians from multicultural communities do not understand or contribute to Australian citizenship, and that those communities lack something and must change. The digest's background comments on the bill refer to the Minister's second reading speech, and states:
In his Second Reading Speech to Parliament, the Hon Victor Dominello MP, Minister for Citizenship and Communities, stated that in 2014 it is timely to re-examine the Community Relations Commission and Principles of Multiculturalism Act 2000 to ensure that it 'accurately reflects who we are and who we want to be'. 

It is clear who we are: We are Australians. But paragraph 3 of the digest's background reveals that the Minister also said:
'… but we need to do more to promote initiatives that bring people from diverse backgrounds together as Australians'. 

What are we? Are all those communities not Australian? Is that what we assume from that comment? I do not understand it. I take offence at those fairly blatant comments that imply multicultural communities are not Australian. The Minister made a number of similar comments when introducing the bill that I also consider offensive, particularly the claim that multicultural communities effectively need to become Australian. They are all Australian; we are all Australian, irrespective of our background. The Legislation Review Digest talks about "transitional savings" in its comments on the bill's provisions. Anyone reading comments knows that obviously means cuts. Has the Minister explained to the community where those cuts will be? Will staff numbers be cut? Will administration costs be cut? The digest does not make clear what will be cut.

The Minister has had 3½ years in this portfolio and his biggest contribution to date has been to abolish the Community Relations Commission [CRC] and urge multicultural communities to embrace some mythical Australian ethos without explaining which multicultural communities are doing that. The Minister is a proud Italian Australian; he is part of the multicultural Australia story. How would he feel if he were told that he needs to embrace Australia's ethos? I am sure his response would be that he already does so. Every member of the Australian community embraces that ethos. All multicultural groups would respond similarly. Unless the Minister has more to add or can explain exactly what he means, he may be best served by staying out of this debate. It is a shame that the CRC has been scrapped without proper community consultation. Devaluing the role of the commission and its commissioners is an insult.

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