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PM mirrors Howard with anti-racism motion

AAP logoAAP 10/10/2016

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has mirrored his predecessor John Howard, presenting a motion to the parliament promoting anti-racism and equal rights for all Australians.

The bipartisan motion, similar to that presented to the parliament when Pauline Hanson first joined parliament in 1996, denounces racial intolerance and reaffirms the parliament's commitments to Australians regardless of race, colour, creed or origin.

"A 20 year-old unity ticket perhaps, celebrating and reaffirming the Australian values of fair go and mutual respect for all regardless of how they look, how they worship or where they come from," Mr Turnbull told parliament on Monday.

In 1996, then Labor leader Kim Beazley asked incoming prime minister Mr Howard to back the motion.

Two decades later, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote to Mr Turnbull seeking a similar motion at the opening of the new parliament, which marked the return to Canberra of the One Nation leader and new moves to water down protections against hate speech.

Mr Turnbull used Sydney Swan's AFL star and Sudanese refugee Aliir Aliir as an example of Australia's strong multicultural society.

"Australians do not define themselves by reference to race religion or ethnic background," he said.

"We are bound together by shared political values of democracy, the rule of law and equality of opportunity, a fair go.

"The glue that holds us together is mutual respect."

Islamic terrorists had succeeded in raising anxiety about Muslim immigration, Mr Turnbull said.

"We should not dismiss these concerns, they are real," he said.

"As leaders our job is to explain the facts, reassure citizens."

Muslim Australians were an integral part of the Australian family and generalisation of communities was more likely to mislead than enlighten.

"Australians of all faiths - and of none - work, live, play and learn happily alongside their Muslim neighbours, friends, colleagues and teammates."

The prime minister also noted former prime minister Kevin Rudd's apology to indigenous Australians saying it went "some way to heal our nation".

"But there's still more healing to be done," he said.

What unites all Australians is that they call themselves Australian, he said.

"We are defined not by one race but by many. We are defined not by one culture but by many."

The motion Mr Turnbull put forward states the House of Representatives:

* Reaffirms its commitment to the right of all Australians to enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, creed or origin.

* Reaffirms its commitment to maintaining an immigration policy wholly non-discriminatory on grounds of race, colour, creed or origin.

* Reaffirms its commitment to the process of reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in the context of redressing their profound social and economic disadvantage.

* Reaffirms its commitment to maintaining Australia as a culturally diverse, tolerant and open society, united by an overriding commitment to our nation, and its democratic institutions and values.

* Denounces racial intolerance in any form as incompatible with the kind of society we are and want to be.

Mr Shorten said attacks on minorities were weaker when parliamentarians set an example and showed the way.

"As leaders we have a responsibility to unite not divide," he told MPs.

"To reject the falsehood of a strong man or a strong woman imposing simple 'us verses them' solutions."

We are not being swamped by anyone, he said, in response to Senator Hanson's comments the nation was in danger of being swamped by Muslims.

The motion also reaffirmed the commitment to indigenous reconciliation, he said.

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