Cut to multicultural programs a threat to multiculturalism, says Raj Datta

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Strathfield councillor Raj Datta has called upon Liberal leaders active in the Indian community to speak up against cuts to the Multicultural Program. “Anyone with any real experience of how migrant communities struggle to hold their lives together would know what an important role these grants play for nurturing the growth of Australian multiculturalism,” Datta says.

“I would like to call upon all the Federal and State Liberal Ministers and MPs who appear in various community events professing to be the best friends of multiculturalism to learn a lesson from recent history, when Philip Ruddock went against his party’s stance to support multiculturalism, and speak up against the cut. Let us take a few steps back in the recent history of Australian multiculturalism: the word ‘multiculturalism’ was first introduced in 1973, in a speech by Al Grassby, the minister for immigration in the Whitlam overnment.

“In 1984 Prime Minister Hawke argued that multiculturalism was an approach to ‘policy formulation and resource allocation’, which seeks to provide for equality, access and opportunity.

“He argued that it was not enough to support cultural maintenance without addressing structural matters. But all did not agree with him:

1. In 1984 Geoffrey Blainey said: Asian migrants were conducting a quiet colonisation of the country;

2. The then opposition leader John Howard said, among other things, that multiculturalism failed to reflect the sentiments of Australia’s suburban heartland. He said the pace of change has been too great! He called for abolition of multiculturalism with ‘One Australia policy’.

In 1988, under Prime Minister Hawke’s leadership, a parliamentary motion to affirm Australia’s commitment to a non-discriminatory immigration policy saw senior Liberals such as Philip Ruddock cross the floor to vote with Labor.

“We have records where Liberal members have spoken against their Government,” Datta says.

“As an Australian from Indian heritage looking at the irrational behaviours on occasions like this I worry that the ultimate danger to Australian way of life will not come from someone who might not have a particular look, or speak in a particular accent. The danger will come if we as Australians fail to recognise the humanity in every Australian regardless of heritage and fail to do our best to help all to build a truly multicultural Australia for all Australians.

“Dear Victor, Matt, Geoff I urge you to call upon Tony Abbott to restore the funding, and if he refuses it please ensure that the O’Farrell government makes up for the shortfall caused by the action of your federal counterpart. This will restore your credibility.”

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