Australia Day 2015

As Australia Day approaches we can again reflect on how fortunate we are to live in Australia.

Our country provides us with a sense of progress, safety and we benefit from our healthy democracy. This has been achieved through the efforts of so many people, some who were born here and some who were not.

From our indigenous culture to the increasingly broad range of international cultures now represented here we continue to be enriched by the skills and traditions brought into our communities.

In view of recent world events – of which Australia has not been immune – it is critical that we don’t lose sight of the values that make us Australian. Now, more than ever, we need to value our unique cultural diversity with unwavering commitment to tolerance and inclusion.

The terrorist act which took place at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris has rekindled debate about freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech, however, can come at a cost and I am pleased that in Australia our political leaders consistently advocate for community harmony.

For harmony to continue, sensitivity to others is vital and I am glad that this view is supported by legislation in Australia, which allows action to be taken against those who incite hatred through bigotry.

While legislation can be helpful in encouraging people to reflect on the way we use our freedom of speech we need to continue to be active as a broad community to educate and promote awareness of the value in being tolerant and not making fun of or ridiculing others’ views.

Our Australian way of life depends upon this.

I am not Charlie but I am Australian.

Geoff Howard

Member for Buninyong

(Published in The Courier 23/01/15)