Mar 25, 2015

Constituency statements – Multiculturalism

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:20): I am pleased that the community-based Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville, in my electorate, has apologised for refusing to allow the Jewish student group Hillel to use its space on the basis that it was pro-Israel. I was disturbed to read newspaper reports about this earlier this week. They said that after Hillel sought permission to use the space for a cultural event the Red Rattler had informed Hillel via email:

Our policy does not support colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine.

Australia is a multicultural community. Multiculturalism is our strength. In the inner-west of Sydney, we live in harmony. Different people of different beliefs live side by side. We are enriched by our diversity. Many people came to Australia from strife-torn regions where people do not enjoy the same level of safety and harmony that we enjoy in this country. There is no place, in Australia, for the lack of tolerance shown by that email to this Jewish student group. This should not be confused with a proper debate about solutions for the Middle East. Like many people, I was deeply concerned by television images of Israeli bombs levelling schools on the Gaza Strip last July and August, in the latest manifestation of this conflict. I stated then that that was wrong. I believe that is the case today. I believe there needs to a Palestinian state, but I also believe that Israel has a right to exist in peace and security. A two-state solution is the way forward.

From what I can see, the Hillel group is an international organisation that seeks to bring together Jewish university students for social events, leadership training and cultural events. From what I can see, it is a group promoting friendship and celebrating cultural traditions. The Red Rattler is a community-based theatre in my electorate. It has been used by a range of communities and some political parties. It is important that tolerance be celebrated, and that where intolerance is shown people are prepared to speak out about it. I am pleased that the statement from Red Rattler’s directors says that they welcome organisations from all cultures, and they have invited Hillel to hold a forum there. Former US President John F Kennedy once made a critical point about tolerance that is worth reflecting on today. He said:

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.