Let us have a meaningful debate on social cohesion for ALL Australians
The Hon Alan Tudge, MP, Minister for Population, Cities & Urban Infrastructure, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, made an important address, targeting Australian diverse diaspora at the National Press Club on 28 August, 2020 with the title “Keeping Australia together at a time of COVID-19”.
In his speech, the Minister elaborated on 4 major points:
1. A standard bearer in social cohesion
2. Challenges to our cohesion
3. Maintaining our social cohesion and
4. New measures to enhance social cohesion.
All these issues raised by the Minister showed that he has considerable understanding of the subject matter and he is well informed and knowledgeable in immigration and settlement matters as his Liberal predecessor, the Hon Philip Ruddock.
Generally, his plea for national cohesion in the midst of the global COIVID-19 and recognition of the lack of funding in some settlement areas (especially AMEP) is welcomed by the community. There is another area of funding which is very much needed, i.e. the funding for the prevention of racism through civil education and legislation in Australia to protect all citizens especially the vulnerable minority groups.
In response to the speech, we would like to make the following statements:
1. The National Chinese Australian Leaders Group (NCALG) supports the principle that foreign governments should not be interfering or exploiting Australians. If Australia is going to develop an independent foreign policy, it needs the input of the wide Australian diaspora of immigrants to come up with a cohesive and unified foreign policy of our very own, without interference from any foreign government.
2. The Foreign Interference Transparency Scheme (FITS) is a sufficient reminder of the responsibility of Australian citizens to ensure our national interests and sovereignty are protected at all time.
3. The Foreign Relations Bill (FRB) would be an “overkill”. Although It would put a protective shield against foreign interference however it may lead to serious collateral damages to Australia’s multicultural society by having the opposite effect i.e. more divisions among intra-community and inter-community relations.
(a) According to Colin Heseltine a former Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (2001-05), head of Australia's representative office in Taiwan (1992-97) and deputy head of mission in the Australian embassy in Beijing (1982-85 and 1988-92 & board member of Sino Gas and Energy (2011-18). In Opposition to Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative – Is it Valid?(Article published on 1 September 2020 on P&I, John Menadue Blog)
“The feverish opposition to the Victorian government’s MoU over the Belt and Road Initiative is nonsensical and shows a worrying lack of understanding from those who should know better. If we are to avoid drifting into a global backwater, we have to find ways to integrate our economy into these new developments.
(b) According to Andrew Farran' s opinion ( former diplomat, trade adviser to government and senior academic (public law including international law) :
Under the proposed Foreign Relations Bill the states might be down but they are not out. ( published on 1 September 2020 P&I, John Menadue Blog on 1 September 2020), he advised:
“If Mr Morrison wants to ride roughshod over certain state interests in the external sphere, he had better be prepared to brief counsel at the High Court.”
(c) If Victoria (BRI contracts) and WA (iron ore contracts) continue to trade with China when the FRB is passed, it will open up an unnecessary High Court case to argue on States rights on Constitutional grounds which will be extremely costly. Figures just released this week shows Australia already is in serious “recession” as experts warned. Any unwanted confrontation with China, our largest trading partner who provides lots of jobs and lots of food on our tables, should be avoided. Many of us would really like to see the exact number of proven cases of foreign interferences and espionages that warrant another "Foreign Relations Bill" that our existing laws and legislations cannot handle? Think twice before wasting more tax payers' money and creating more "social division" instead of "social cohesion" in our multicultural society as Minister Alan Tudge outlined above.
(d) Although the FRB did not mention China by name, the collateral damage will be the same as for COVID-19 with increase anti-China bashing, sinophobia and xenophobia in the media and the communities in Australia as borne out by the 1.2 million Chinese Australians who are loyal to this country. In other word, the ill effect of the FRB could produce side effect of would be inter-and intra-community divisions i.e. contrary to the Minister’s proposal for a cohesive society.
4. Australia’s multicultural policy: If the Multicultural Bill proposed by Senator Natale in 2016 is resuscitated, it would address all the issues mentioned by the Minister in his speech. If we study the policy statement carefully, one would conclude that the Multicultural Bill covers all aspects of Multiculturalism and encompasses the “social cohesion” principle of Multiculturalism championed by the Minister.
Lastly, we thank the Minister Hon. Alan Tudge for bringing up an important issue for discussion as it concerns all Australian citizens equally; to the new and old migrants and locally born citizens of various backgrounds including the 1.2 million Chinese Australian community. A proper national debate and dialogue is timely and we welcome it.
Dr Anthony Pun, OAM, Foundation President, Chinese Community Council of Australia.
Dr Ka Sing Chua, National Senior Adviser, Chinese Community Council of Australia.
Kingsley Liu, President, Chinese Community Council of Australia Inc.
National Chinese Australian Leaders Group: Maria Chan, Shirley Huang, Dickson Mak, Daphne Lowe Kelley, James Leung, Lee Xj Li, Tony Pang, Kee Guan Saw, Junxi Su, Khoon Tan, Tony Tang, Dr Yen-Yung Yap, Michael Yau OAM. Li Zhang, Mark Wang and May Hu, OAM.