Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Remarks at the Federal Parliamentary Interfaith Breakfast

09 August 2017

The National Press Club Barton, Canberra

Prime Minister

E&OE

Well thank you very much, John.

It is wonderful to be here at this interfaith breakfast and you know, when you think about it at the heart of all of the faiths represented here this morning are meals, breaking bread - it's at the heart of the Christian faith, the Eucharist, the mystery of breaking bread together.

It is such a human thing to share food, to share company, to take that opportunity to sustain each other, and in doing so, to help each other, to understand each other, to demonstrate in a very practical and tangible way, love.

After all, that is when we are closest to God, when we love. When we open our heart and think not of ourselves, but of others. Seek to help them understanding that our truism - if you like - not just to our closest relations, not just to our family, our children, our wives and husbands, but to others. To the stranger, to the person we don't know, perhaps don't understand, but nonetheless something urges us to reach out and help them.

And John Fahey spoke about the work we do in the Parliament and while it often appears to be made up of sound and fury, particularly during Question Time, that 70 minutes of ferocious interchange. Nonetheless, everything we do in the Parliament is motivated by a love for our nation and its people. And not just the people who are here today, but the generations that are yet to come.

The Great British politician, philosopher and writer Edmund Burke talked about that change of continuity of the way in which our society lives, the generations that have gone before us and the generations that are yet to come.

That’s often overlooked I think in the work that we do and its often overlooked by those who focus on the conflict and fail to recognise that when we are arguing with each other we’re arguing about – or debating about what is the right way forward? What is the best way we can show our love, our commitment for the Australian people today – what is right for today – but also what is right for the future.

So when I see school groups come to the Parliament, and of course they visit all the time and we’d like to see more of them, and they are undoubtedly the happiest visitors to the Parliament. Well they do, they feel good about themselves. Why wouldn’t you? You go and watch question time and you realise, I’m not nearly as badly behaved as they are.

So they sit up there, and even the rowdiest boy or girl feels thoroughly virtuous. It is a bit of a worry I’m sure Bill feels the same way, you look up at those little smiling faces in the gallery and you think – I hope somebody’s saying don’t you try that when we get back.

Well look it’s wonderful to be here, and I’m delighted to be here with Bill Shorten the Leader of the Opposition and of course Richard Di Natale the Leader of the Australian Greens and John Fahey and Greg Craven from the Australian Catholic University, all the distinguished leaders of our religious communities, and so many of my Parliamentary colleagues. 

I just want to conclude by reflecting on the point John Fahey made about the diversity of Australia. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. That there is no doubt.

You know more than half of all Australians have one parent, at least one parent born overseas. And we are close to 30 per cent of all Australians being born overseas. In my own city of Sydney it’s closer to a third.

And our immigration nation has come from every corner of the world and obviously from every faith. Now all of that diversity enriches us. I think one of the most important things, for us to encourage our children to do – and for us to do too, encourage each other to do – is to be curious about our friends, our neighbours, histories, cultural histories, religious values, religious interests. Because the more we understand each other, the more enriched we are.

Everybody’s culture enriches everybody else’s.

And we in Australia are blessed with such diversity, from the oldest human culture in the world. That of our First Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, think of that you know. Bill and I were at Garma just over the weekend with many others among you. And Galarrwuy Yunupingu spoke in Yolngu, in his language, and he spoke with words of fire he described them. Words that were not really translatable, but that is not, that only underlines their significance.

You know often when people say what’s the difference between poetry and prose, well poetry is that which cannot be translated. Words often carry a deep history, a deep cultural history. But when he concluded his remarks and said “I am speaking Australian”. And he was, and we are. And the faiths all of us practice, each of us in our own different ways, all of these faiths here this morning are Australian.

Because we are all Australian. United this morning, as every morning in our love and our commitment to ours, to the greatest, most successful multicultural society in the world.

Wonderful to be here, thank you.