Remarks at the release of the Multicultural Statement 2017
Thank you Zed, and Christian, and Zed. It’s great to be here with you all, my Parliamentary colleagues, Julian Leeser, Alex Hawke, and others here.
You know, as you would have seen last week, I was up in the Snowy Mountains, up at Talbingo, at Talbingo Dam and Tumut 3 Power Station and reflecting on the extraordinary achievement of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, engineering marvel of the world.
It was built by thousands of Australians and thousands of migrants.
There were men and women there from every country in the world, certainly every country in Europe - so many came from war-shattered Europe.
There were men there who had fought against each other in the Second World War. And they came there and worked together to create this extraordinary achievement.
It is a triumph of engineering. It is a triumph for multiculturalism. It is a triumph that belongs to all Australians.
It is why we are so, so proud and pleased to be able to support the next stage, to carry on that vision for the expansion of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
The technology will be different in the 21st century. There won't be as many, as much gelignite and jackhammers, more of those big boring machines to build tunnels so it will be a lot of more modern technology.
But the next stage will also be an achievement of Australia's - the most successful multicultural society in the world.
What we have achieved here is extraordinary.
You know, we live in a world of increasing intolerance and disharmony in so many parts of the world. There are so many parts of the world where people of different faiths and different ethnic backgrounds and cultures who have lived together with relative harmony for many years, for hundreds of years if not thousands of years, seem no longer able to do so today. So many parts of the world are racked by that type of bitter conflict.
And yet, we manage here this remarkable achievement.
We are as old as our First Australians. We are here on the land of the Ngunnawal people. They have been here, caring for this land, our First Australians right across Australia, for over 50,000 years, from time out of mind.
And yet, we are as young as the baby in the arms of her migrant mother who could have come from any nation, any faith, any race.
We are an immigration nation. You can't look in the mirror - no-one can look in the mirror and say, ‘Australians only look like this’. Australians look like every face, every race, every background because we define ourselves and our nation by our commitment to shared political values, democracy, freedom and the rule of law.
And our diversity is extraordinary. We are much more diverse in terms of the number of people who are born overseas or are children of parents who are born overseas than any comparable nation.
Much more diverse than the United States, which prides itself as being one of the great melting pots of the world in terms of people coming from so many different countries. Only California has a percentage as a diversity that approaches Australia.
Since 1945, more than 7.5 million people have come from all corners of the world to make their life here. And they have added their own identity to the extraordinary project that is modern Australia.
We could not imagine the Australia of 2017 and its achievements without the contribution of all those people, everyone a thread in our national tapestry. Each one bringing a rich personal history that we welcome into our country at the same time that they formalise their commitment to our nation, our values and our laws.
The glue that holds us together is mutual respect. A deep recognition that each of us is entitled to the same respect, the same dignity, the same opportunities. The mutuality of that respect is of critical importance.
Our achievement in creating this harmonious nation is not an accident. It has been carefully crafted and we must not take it for granted. You have to continue nurturing it.
A necessary precondition for this harmony is national security, a resolute determination to defend our nation, our people and our values.
Security, after all, is the foundation on which all of our freedoms have been built and maintained.
And that is why it is a momentous thing to reflect upon, that if you open up all the doors of the Parliament from the door at the back of the Parliament, opening into the Prime Minister's Courtyard, right to the front door, going through the Cabinet, through the Great Hall, right to the front, what do you see? You see the Australian War Memorial - quiet, contemplative, a reminder that it is national security, the sacrifices of thousands of Australians, one generation after another, that has given us the security and the safety on which our glorious freedoms are built and in which they can be exercised.
Now, the Multicultural Statement this year, 2017, renews and reaffirms our commitment to a multicultural Australia in which racism and discrimination have no place and which integration and contribution are core elements of our success.
We are rich in our diversity, but we are bound together in our commitment as Australians, our commitment to those values and, as I said, the glue that binds us together is mutual respect.
So, I want to thank Zed and Christian and all of you involved in bringing this document together.
It captures the timeless values of which all Australians are proud and will cherish and defend.
We are citizens of a most remarkable nation.
Our people are our greatest assets. We often talk about assets under the ground, or the minerals and so forth, but 24 million Australians are our greatest assets.
People with so much diversity but united, as patriotic Australians, proud of our nation, the most successful multicultural society in the world - safe, secure and free with a shared destiny.
So, I commend the Multicultural Statement 2017 to all Australians.
Thank you very much.