Labor launches strategy to better reflect Australia's diversity in parliament


Labor has created a new committee in the hopes of improving the input of migrant voices in policies.

The Labor Party is introducing a new caucus committee to focus on multicultural affairs and to help the party shape its policies.

One of those policies includes increasing the representation of culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The committee will be chaired by the first female Muslim elected to the federal parliament, Anne Aly.

Dr Aly said the measure is needed. 

"We often talk about Australia as a really successful multicultural nation but the fact is multiculturalism, the concept of multiculturalism, what we understand by multiculturalism and how we as Australians live and breathe multiculturalism really needs to move on,” Ms Aly said.

Labor Member for Cowan Anne Aly in the House of Representatives
Labor's Anne Aly says multicultural affairs need to be tackled more meaningfully.

“It really needs to move on from this idea of celebration and hey I'm going to put a bit of soy sauce on my sausage roll or get a bit of kung pao chicken and wear a sari and all of that stuff."

The new committee will deliver a Multiculturalism Budget Statement, which will accompany Labor's annual Women's and First Australians' Budget Statements.

Labor's immigration spokesman Andrew Giles said the committee will ensure that the concerns of multicultural communities are at the centre of every decision the party makes.

He said there is a representational deficit in parliament that needs addressing.

"These things aren't going to fix themselves and critically they aren't going to be fixed just by the actions of people in Canberra handing down decisions from above and that is why it is so important that we are creating a space for new and emerging communities to have their say and have their concerns reflected, he said.

"Hopefully over time this can contribute to making sure this parliament looks a lot more like the community than it does today."

Labor Senator Raff Ciccone said the committee will scrutinise legislation and overall policy framework.

But Multicultural Affairs Minister David Coleman said the problem isn't representational, it is political.

"The Labor party at the election took a platform that said let us crush aspiration. Now that was absolutely anathema to millions of Australians, including Australians of multicultural backgrounds who have to come to Australia in pursuit of opportunity."

The committee will also help to guide Labor's approach to the government's religious discrimination bill.

Mr Coleman says religious freedom is fundamental to Australian society.

"It is a fundamental tenet of Australian life that you should be free to practice your religion."

The committee will begin public consultations next week.

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