Multicultural Recognition Bill

Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (7.41 pm): I rise tonight to speak to the Multicultural Recognition Bill 2012. At the outset let me say that it is a pleasure to explain to the House and to members of the ALP opposition why this bill should not proceed and, to be blunt, why it should be consigned to the wastepaper basket. 

The Health and Community Services Committee tabled its report on 23 October 2012 recommending that the bill not be passed. The government will also not support the bill. I will comment on the bill by going through it step by step. I will skip over clause 5 and come back to it towards the end if I am able. 

The bill in its current form simply could not effectively achieve any real outcomes for Queensland’s multicultural community. The only purpose this bill could currently serve is to impose on the multicultural sector an insane amount of red tape and burden the state with unnecessary costs and useless processes. Given that we only have a small amount of time, I think it would be useful to step out some of the history that has led to this particular bill and where we are tonight. 

When the Leader of the Opposition introduced the bill she said, ‘The LNP government has not taken up the cause of Queensland’s multicultural community by reintroducing this important piece of legislation which lapsed at the end of the last parliamentary term.’ I remind those opposite that the Labor Party had something like 20 years in which to put multicultural legislation into this parliament. The Goss Labor government was elected in 1989. There was a break with the Borbidge-Sheldon government. The Beattie-Bligh Labor government was in power between 1998 and 2012. So for 20 years the Labor Party was in power. 

The Leader of the Opposition and I were elected in 2006 and both came into the parliament together. She was very fortunate when she came into the parliament that she came into government. In 2009 she became the minister for multicultural affairs and disability services. In 2011 she became the minister for transport and main roads and multicultural affairs, but it was not until October 2011 that a piece of legislation appeared.  

Ms Palaszczuk: It is called consultation—something that your government knows absolutely nothing about.

Mr ELMES: I suggest that what the Labor Party is speaking about here tonight is consultation, more consultation and more consultation—and after 20 years of consultation they ran out of puff. After 20 years of not acting they dare to come into this House tonight and suggest to the LNP government that after 11 months of being power we are under some sort of pressure to pass a bill that they could not get through in 20 years. That is not the way it works. That is not the way it works over here. Any legislation that we will be putting through in terms of multicultural affairs will be clearly thought through, and we will go about it in the proper way.

Let us have a look at what we have done since we came into power. We have a stand-alone department, which has never happened before. We have an Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, the member for Brisbane Central. The bill that the opposition is suggesting that we pass recommends that the advisory group meet twice a year. Our round table that we have already put in place has met twice in four months and that includes the Christmas-new year break. 

The development of outcomes focused on multicultural policy is also very important to us. We have stepped out a lot of money in grants and processes that we have put into place. The government has announced a review of MAQ by Frank Peach, a former director-general, and we are expecting the results of that review near the end of March. We will be considering that review

I spoke in the parliament today about the South Sea islander community. A very important anniversary for the South Sea islander community—their 150th—is coming up. We have put well in excess of $40,000 into a grants program for that sector. We have helped fund the Vanuatu rugby league team to do a series of matches along the coast of Queensland. I encourage members to read the speech I made today and incorporated into Hansard for more of the background. I would particularly like to highlight the work that Australia Post did by producing the envelope that everyone got a copy of at no cost to the government. That is an example of where we will look at a sector and say, ‘How will we do something that will highlight the matter of significance that is there for them?’ And that is what we have done with that.

I went through and looked at all of the submissions very carefully, both the submissions from the previous government and I think the nine submissions that were submitted on this particular occasion. I took particular notice of the submission from the LGAQ. I spoke to the assistant minister today and we are going to talk to the LGAQ about joining the round table because I think it is a very important issue, and I have taken that point on board. We have 12 members who currently sit on the round table excluding the LGAQ. There are two from the Chinese community, four from the African community, two from the Greek community, one from the Indian community, one from the Muslim community and two others. The LGAQ will be another one plus the assistant minister and me. 

One of the things that the government did in terms of hurrying up and advertising this bill today was an e-petition. The e-petition was laid on the table on 5 March but only 21 people signed it. 

An opposition member interjected

Mr ELMES: It is interesting, though, when you look at the people who signed it. There was a fellow by the name of Nino Lalic, who is the President of Young Labor. When you have a look at his bio, it reads— 

Being a part of Queensland Young Labor has helped him be a part of shaping the future, rather than complaining about the present. Nino’s learnt from campaigning at local, state and federal elections ...

At the South Australian election Nino was caught with a dodgy T-shirt on purporting to be from Family First, handing out dodgy how-to-vote cards. Congratulations to Nino on his introduction to politics! 

MS Palaszczuk interjected

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Watts): Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting. 

Mr ELMES: If ever this piece of legislation were to pass the House—and I can assure honourable members it will not—it would set out a whole series of things to do. There is the charter that those opposite want to put in place. There is the advisory council they want to put in place. There are programs they want to put in place. There are systems and policies within each department that need to be put in place that then need to come back to government. There are people like me who would be required to stand up in front of the parliament and deliver reports. If honourable members go to clause 5 of the bill, ‘Application of act’, they will see it states—

(1) This Act does not— (a) create rights for anyone; or (b) impose legally enforceable obligations on the State, the Minister, a department, a chief executive, a member of the council, a public service employee or anyone else. 

So why have all of this in legislation? Why create a situation that is not enforceable? Not long after I became the minister I stood at South Brisbane in front of 220 people from the sector and I made a presentation to those people. There was one question asked about legislation. I stayed there for a lot longer than I was scheduled to. The subject of legislation did not come up again. What we talked about is policy—and that is what the LNP will do. It will have a policy and that policy will be enacted.