Can I start by acknowledging the Indigenous owners of the land on which we meet and their elders past, present and future.
Can I acknowledge any of those who have served in our Defence Forces and our veterans in our communities and for those of you here to serve to say thank you for your service.
Can I say thank you to all of you here this morning for joining me. It is wonderful to be here with you. When I sat down and I looked out at this wonderful place with Jim and Badri I thought to myself, Jenny and I are coming back here. We’re coming back for a meal, we’re coming back for when the Bollywood night is on and we’re going to love coming back here. I can understand why this is a place that people feel very comfortable and happy and I’m sure you’ve had many great times here together and celebrated wonderful times together as a family and as a community and really that’s what I think all of this is about.
Can I acknowledge all of my colleagues who are here with us, of course, Celia and, of course, Michaelia. Can I particularly single out though Senator Dean Smith. Dean is a wonderful friend of the Western Australian multicultural community of this state. I’m sure my colleagues wouldn’t mind me singling Dean out in this way and he has been I think a great leader in the Liberal Party, in particular his engagement across the so many different communities of Western Australia. I want to thank you for that service Dean and for your leadership. Dean and I speak about these issues and I know that in our own region at the moment, in the Indo-Pacific, I know both India and Australia together are very concerned about what we are seeing [inaudible] and this is our neighbourhood, this is our part of the world where we all live and I know we are all deeply concerned when these things happen in our part of the world and we go together to a community opening in solidarity for the many peoples who live across the Indo-Pacific. But it’s called the Indo-Pacific for a reason and that is I think because of the great anchor that India provides within our region. It’s impact on the life and culture of our region over millennia and I’m just so pleased that that life and culture is so intertwined with Australian culture and Australian life. As Michaelia said, the values and principals and the democracy that is represented in the great nation of India attaches seamlessly to Australian culture and Australian life. It is a very easy and a very happy and a very reinforcive coexistence and so that’s why over many years now Indian nationality has become one of the fastest growing, if not the fastest growing, in Australia and we welcome this with open arms. I think this is absolutely tremendous because it is those values of working hard, those values of family, those values of commitment to community, standing up for democracy, and the independence and freedom that Australia stands for and indeed India stands for, the freedom of faith, the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, all of these values are so integral to our societies. And so that’s what we celebrate. So when Australians and Indians come together and particularly as they come together as citizens of the one country here in Australia I think that’s something we can greatly rejoice in.
Multiculturalism is explained in many different ways and in many different places but one way I love to describe it, because as Michaelia let you into a secret and some of you may have seen my cooking efforts on Facebook, it became a tradition in my family some years ago and when my girls were quite young and when you work as a politician and in public life you really try and prize those moments when you can come together as a family and you try and work hard to create them as well particularly when your children are growing up. And so one day I decided, and Jenny asked me, “What are you cooking for dinner tonight?” and that wasn’t something I normally did so this is something I said, “Yeah I will” and I went through all the books and she had this wonderful Indian cookbook and I said I’ll give that a whirl, seven years later it’s still pretty much a Saturday night tradition in our house and I couldn’t tell you the hundreds of meals I’ve cooked since then. I was just sharing the story that when we had family and friends over on a Saturday night and whatever it is I’ve happened to cook and they’ll say to my daughters, “Gee, that was pretty spicy, how do you deal with that?” and my oldest daughter says, “Well Dad cooked us a vindaloo when I was seven and we survived that so now it’s all downhill.”
But when I think of Australia’s multiculturalism the best description of it that I can pull together is one from that experience. A masala. A masala brings together all the amazing spices, each in their own individual way are magnificent, but when you blend them together and I do it that way, I just don’t go to the packet, I get them out, I grind them up, I do the whole thing. [Inaudible] roast them, that’s the best way. Isn’t that the best way? Have we got our Indian chefs in the house? That’s the best way to do it and it’s fresh and it’s real and you blend them together and when you put that, when you put that, that makes something amazing. The aroma, the flavours and for me that is what Australian multiculturalism is all about. When you put in the fennel and the bay leaves and the cloves and the cardamom, the jeera, the coriander, the Kashmiri chilli powder, you put all that in there don’t forget, don’t forget the black and the green cardamom. You’ve got to have both of those, you’ve got to have both of those, and when you put all that together I think that is something quite amazing. And that for me really does say why multiculturalism in Australia is so great. You know when I talk about how great is Australia, how good is Australia, these are the things I am reflecting on and what we are seeing here this morning, these are the things I am reflecting on because it is the great coming together of families and individuals and communities with all of their stories, not keeping separate, but actually coming together that’s what makes it so amazing and I think a masala does reflect that togetherness and the blending together and how the things complement each other, the various backgrounds and differences that we have and that makes me quite positive about Australia’s future.
Let me just touch on one or two other things. I’ve talked about how important our shared democracies are between Australia and India and that is true and today we’ve seen the Dialogue is on in India, I would have very much liked to have been there and Prime Minister Modi who has become a good friend over the many years and we share so many passions and so many shared visions of the future of our region and essential to those is the sovereign independent states of the region and how important liberal democracy is to ensure that we have a region that favours freedom in the balance that is achieved. Right now we are working together in one of the biggest collaborations together with the United States and Japan together with India and Australia in what is known as the Quad. We had our first ever leaders’ meeting of those four nations very recently. It had to be done virtually, Narendra and I were pretty keen on doing it in person but that was not able to be done and we will have a face to face meeting later this year. But what we discussed, were not just the important current issues that we are dealing with in the region but what we discussed was something I think really important to all free peoples of the world, there is a tendency at the moment to think, well in some countries that have a more authoritarian way of doing things, that aren’t democracies, they say well maybe that’s a better way to go, maybe that’s a better way to manage countries, maybe by just dispensing of this thing we call freedom and democracy, that it will make the hospitals better, or the jobs will come more easily. That puts on a great responsibility on the leaders of nations like Australia and India to say no, no, no, no, liberal democracies get the job done, liberal democracies not only give people freedom, but they give them the great services and the quality of life and well-being that can be enjoyed in our country and it is true as we all know in this country and so India and Australia must be beacons of freedom and for liberty and for democracy and we need to live those values out proudly and we need to stand up for them very much in the region and we have a great partnership with India to that end and that partnership is only growing more strongly by the day.
In conclusion, I know that for many of you there will be great heartache at the moment as you see COVID ravage India. It is an incredibly difficult challenge, it’s different in this country in how we have been able to be successful in managing and supressing COVID-19 here in particularly in Western Australia and I want to thank the entire community for the amazing job that you have done supporting each other and ensuring that Australia has come through to this point with great success. Everyone has given up something, everyone has made sacrifices, there have been losses that individuals and communities have had to put up with, holy times when you would gather together in ceremonies, times of family and community that you haven’t been able to have and I understand how important those things are to you as individuals and to you as communities and that has had to be put aside for a time for the safety and security of the wider Australian family.
I’m looking forward to those times as they are already beginning to happen again becoming a part of our daily life but I also know that your hearts will be burdened by what’s happening in India at the moment where there is great loss, where there is great suffering, where there is great challenge but what speaks amazingly of the Indian character and spirit that at a time when they are facing such hardship and such difficulty they are also exporting vaccines for the rest of the world to help other countries and I think that says something amazing about the Indian character and spirit about their commitment not only to do the right thing by their own people but to still be a nation that is able to reach out and provide help and support to other countries including right here in our own region and so my thoughts are with all of you, and from Jenny as well, and we are thinking of you as you are thinking of those loved ones who are maybe still trying to come back to Australia or are there and are dealing with incredibly difficult times but today is also a time for great gathering together and celebrating what we all have in common and to Jim and your family, to Stuart, Badri, to Sara and the Gosavwi family and the entire Indian community here can I say thank you for your tremendous support, we as the Liberal Party, my Government in particular will continue to recognise the great contribution that is being made here, the great community that makes Australian life so viable. I love the masala we are making together and I look forward to ensuring that we can enjoy that for all of our days, thank you very much.