The Hon. HENRY TSANG [6.48 p.m.]: I want to speak about the recent celebrations marking the Centenary of Federation. It was with considerable regret that I noted the contribution of Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile on this subject last night, given its significance in our nation's history. Last night the honourable member expressed his disappointment in the celebrations not allowing for the full involvement of those present. I agree with him totally. Other honourable members also commented that the celebrations were for politicians only. Included in the celebrations were some worthy events which I would like to mention. I noted with great pride the Chinese community's part in Australia's history, and the recognition of Dr Victor Chang as an Australian of the century. I took great pride in the fact that a young Australian who was interviewed during the celebrations was of Asian origin. She spoke for all of us about Australia's aspirations as a nation.
At the invitation of the Chinese community in Melbourne, which organised this national event through the National Liaison Council of Chinese Australians to mark the occasion, I attended the celebrations marking Australia's Centenary of Federation. It is worthwhile noting that 100 years ago the Chinese community in Australia celebrated the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia and that 100 years later members of the Chinese community celebrated the anniversary of that occasion. The Chinese community built a ceremonial archway to commemorate the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia. I mention my pride in these matters because I attended the recent celebrations for a very specific reason: It was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the progress we have accomplished as a nation over 100 years.
Our history records that one of the prime motivating reasons behind Federation was the fear of the emerging Chinese community in Australia. The Chinese community was feared but simultaneously excluded and discriminated against. Members of that community suffered a type of discrimination that is different from that suffered by the indigenous population, which was dispossessed of its traditional lands and way of life: Indigenous Australians were removed from their families and communities and were subjected to diseases and prejudice. But the discrimination against the Chinese community was nevertheless real. Indeed, one of the very first pieces of legislation to be brought before the new Australian Parliament in 1901—and the first of lasting significance—was the Immigration Restriction Act.
As all honourable members would know, that Act became better known as the white Australia policy. This policy was enshrined in Australian law, and was not abolished and removed from the statute books until its last vestiges were removed for good by the Whitlam Government shortly after its election in 1972. The white Australia policy formed part of the Australian story for much of the twentieth century. Its removal set the platform for a bipartisan policy of multiculturalism to be adopted for the next 25 years, thereby changing the face of this nation forever—and, I think, for the better. Why does this all matter? It matters because it is an inalienable part of our history. Perhaps the issues faced by our leaders at that time are not altogether different from those that are still causing disquiet in some sections of the community today.
Some of those factors were: economic, with a fear of jobs being lost to migrants; environmental, with an increasing population placing added pressures on the land; racial, demonstrated in the lack of understanding and trust of other cultures; and social, with the disparity between urban and rural regions, between those adapting to new ways and those left behind. These are all part of the contemporary social and political landscape. As a Chinese-born Labor member of this House, it is a great privilege and honour for me to be a parliamentary representative, and I do not take that honour lightly.
Given the contribution of the Labor movement to the restrictive policies of the past, a clear illustration of our progress as a nation is that the party to which I belong selected me as its representative to serve the people of New South Wales as a parliamentarian. Whereas our first leaders may have shared some of the concerns with which honourable members are currently faced, they chose a different path from the one that we might choose today. That is why I was pleased to have attended the celebrations of the Centenary of Federation at the invitation of the Chinese community in Melbourne. As I said, it was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the progress we have achieved over the last century. [Time expired.]