Inquiry exposes fear of Muslems – The Australian June 27
PATRICIA KARVELAS THE AUSTRALIAN JUNE 27, 2012
AUSTRALIANS are comfortable with multiculturalism and racial diversity, but an overwhelming number of people have expressed concerns that Muslims are not integrating and are coming to Australia to impose their values on the nation. A far-reaching bipartisan federal parliamentary inquiry into the nation’s acceptance of culturally diverse communities, due to report in August, will conclude that the largest issue facing the nation is the acceptance of Muslims, who many Australians fear have an agenda not at one with the country’s values.
Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou, who chairs the inquiry, has told The Australian her committee believes the country needs strong political leadership to address the crisis over Islam.
She said the committee looking at multiculturalism would not extend “rights” and would not recommend the introduction of a multicultural act because people resented being told what to think.
The strengthening of laws has been on the agenda and this is the first time it has been ruled out.
“No, the multicultural act won’t happen, and neither is sharia law,” Ms Vamvakinou told The Australian.
“I think we do not need to prescribe things and I felt that people resent that there is this prescription for behaviour and this issue is too important to the broader community to let it fester.
“Australians are comfortable with multiculturalism. We don’t think a multicultural act will help multiculturalism. People don’t need new laws here.”
Instead of increasing laws, Australia needed to address how it could continue the positive elements of multiculturalism “without creating the sense of new rules being imposed”.
She said her committee was looking at recommending that the issue of Islamic acceptance engage political leadership because of alarming levels of discomfort with Muslims.
Ms Vamvakinou also said the committee had been overwhelmed by complaints that the multicultural system was failing to equip new Australians with language skills and suitable work.
She said the system was not helping migrants and refugees at the front door, particularly by failing to provide adequate language tuition and also by failing to recognise migrants’ unique qualifications.
“Clearly, there is a belief among some people that there is a worldwide agenda for Islamists to bring their values into Australia. There is a view that multiculturalism is a way for Muslims to come in and impose their views under the guise of multiculturalism.
“Our approach is not to ignore this. There is a section of the community that thinks this way. We think we need strong leadership on this because it emerged as a big issue. We have to balance this between people’s fears and the real facts,” she said.
Ms Vamvakinou said her committee would try to present the government with a unified response, rather than one that has dissenting reports by politicians of different views. “In the past decade, multiculturalism was a political football and I think that caused a lot of damage,” she said.