Mar 1, 2006

Albanese outraged at Liberal Party slur

Albanese outraged at Liberal Party slur

MEDIA RELEASE – ANTHONY ALBANESE MP

1 March 2006

Anthony Albanese MP, Federal Member for Grayndler, has taken on Tony Abbott, Minister for Health, after the outrageous comments in Question Time yesterday which exposed Mr Abbott as crude and intolerant towards Australians who don’t have Anglo-Celtic heritage.

Mr Abbott’s comments revealed his belief that anyone who doesn’t have an Anglo name is not a real Australian. Mr Abbott said:

"I’m reading in The Australian last Friday, he’s still got the Greek branches but he’s lost the Spanish branches and he’s lost the Vietnamese branches as well as the Cambodian branches.

"And I couldn’t help but think – are there any Australians left in the so-called Australian Labor Party today?"

It is reprehensible for Mr Abbott to claim that an Australian citizen, whether from Greek, Spanish, Cambodian, Vietnamese or any other heritage is not a real Australian.

There are not two classes of citizens in Australia.

Mr Abbott always goes one step too far.

Rather than repudiating these xenophobic comments, Prime Minister John Howard sat by and did nothing.

Mr Albanese, who is also Deputy Manager of Opposition Business, immediately demanded Mr Abbott withdraw his comments.

Mr Albanese said in the House, “The minister should withdraw that extraordinarily outrageous slur on every Australian who does not have an Anglo-Celtic name in this country. We have heard the dog whistle from this mob one after the other, but this minister, as usual, has gone too far and I ask him to withdraw it.”

When the Speaker said he did not find Mr Abbot’s remarks offensive, Mr Albanese continued, “Mr Speaker, I did and 46% of my electorate will find that offensive as well.”

Mr Albanese used the adjournment debate later in the evening to speak out about this issue again. He said, “For the benefit of the Minister for Health and Ageing, I remind him that, unlike the Liberal Party, in order to get a vote in the Australian Labor Party you have to be an Australian citizen. We only have one class of citizen in this country, not two, and it does not matter whether your name is Smith, Abbott, Albanese, Panopoulos or Wong—we are Australians all.

It took a number of interventions before the Minister for Health and Ageing eventually withdrew his remark. But that is consistent with what must be the government’s polling led push. Last week, in an attempt to appeal to the right wing of the Liberal Party, the Treasurer gave a speech in which he spoke of ‘confused mushy misguided multiculturalism’. He said: "Before becoming an Australian you will be asked to subscribe to certain values. If you have strong objections to those values don’t come to Australia."

No-one is suggesting that extremists of any sort—Islamic extremists, Christian extremists or Judaist extremists—should be tolerated. But the fact is that there is a pattern which is consistent from the top down. This year, some in the government will speak about 10 years of leadership. But it is not leadership to be prepared to divide the community—people against people. It is not leadership to be prepared to appeal to the base considerations of prejudice and discrimination. Yet this government is continually prepared to do this in order to seek political advantage.

What we need in this nation, particularly at this time of insecurity, is leadership that unites the nation, not divides it.”