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Statement on Multicultural Australia


Senator Anning’s widely reported first speech to the Senate included a number of references to the Whitlam Government and its policies, including "[Gough] Whitlam and his hard Left cronies adopted Soviet inspired UN treaties on discrimination and banned preferential selection of migrants based on their ethnicity".

Whitlam’s courageous and monumental final shift away from the White Australia Policy has, and will continue to, go down in Australian history as fundamental building block of the national identity and national unity we share today. There is no going back.

As the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG made clear in his 2010 Whitlam Lecture, the Whitlam Government’s ratification of international law across the board, but in particular in relation to human rights treaties, was one of the Government’s lasting achievements. 

By ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and making it the first United Nations human rights convention ever to be substantially enacted by Australia in domestic law – in the form of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 – the Whitlam Government indicated, for the first time, a clear parliamentary instruction enforceable by law, that racial bigotry against members of a particular race would not be tolerated in Australia.

The Whitlam Government sent a powerful message to the world that Australian law would no longer accept any lingering relics of the White Australia policy and would put in place measures designed to reverse the previous culture of racial inequality. By ratifying the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, Michael Kirby also noted that Whitlam’s government, again for the first time, offered opportunities of protection to people without regard to racial origins, displaced in Asia or Africa, who otherwise had no identifiable connection with Australia.

The Whitlam Institute last week hosted Dr Tim Soutphommasane’s final official speech as Race Discrimination Commissioner, which called on those in public life to “restore some standards in our public debates.” It is crucially important for the political leadership in Australia today to reinforce bipartisan support for racial equality, multiculturalism and a non-discriminatory immigration policy.


Media Contact

Lyndal Howison | 0404 854 033 | l.howison@westernsydney.edu.au