Multiculturalism is one of the great hallmarks of our country and of this State. We all have value and our country is built by many hands on the foundations of mutual respect.
When I first spoke in this House back in May I spoke of the important contribution migrants and asylum seekers have made throughout Australia, and in the Summer Hill electorate in particular.
I spoke of how Marrickville would not be Marrickville without the Greek or Vietnamese migrants who have enriched our neighbourhoods; how Ashfield would not be Ashfield without the Chinese migrants Prime Minister Hawke encouraged to our shores. Each of our suburbs is a rich melting pot of cultures. Many languages are heard on our streets and our kids celebrate different cultural holidays.
Multiculturalism is one of the great hallmarks of our country and of this State. We all have value and our country is built by many hands on the foundations of mutual respect. In every way, our diversity makes us stronger. I stand today to reiterate those values on behalf of the people of my electorate and on behalf of the Labor Opposition, and I am sure I speak for all in this place.
The images coming out of Europe over the past few weeks have been deeply moving. Like many Australians, I have been moved by the videos of families running across the border into Macedonia, and I have been awed by the sheer scale of the refugee camps. I have been moved by the images of Germans applauding and welcoming refugees with gifts and open arms. Of course, like many, I have been shocked and horrified by the photograph of a little boy, lifeless and limp, washed up on a beach.
These images speak to our humanity and they call us to action.
At our best, we are a generous country. We recognise that migrants, asylum seekers and refugees make a vital contribution to our culture and economy. Here in New South Wales—the biggest and boldest State in the country—we have a capacity and willingness to do more. I thank and congratulate the Leader of the Opposition for calling for an additional 5,000 Syrian refugees to be welcomed to New South Wales, irrespective of their beliefs. I congratulate Premier Baird for being one of the first political leaders to call for Australia to step up and accept additional refugees this year as a result of the crisis.
I am pleased to hear that the Federal Government has agreed to an emergency humanitarian intake of an additional 12,000 refugees.
I know that many of them will make New South Wales home and will make a vital contribution, as the waves of immigrants who came before them have done. There is no doubt that the Abbott Government would not have made this announcement were it not for the leadership shown by our Premier and Leader of the Opposition over the weekend and for the thousands of Sydneysiders who turned out to the Light the Dark rally in Hyde Park to show their openness, compassion and willingness to do what is right for those facing the hardest and most tragic of circumstances.
Like many Australians, I am deeply concerned by our country's treatment of asylum seekers. In an era defined by the detention of children, turning back the boats and deaths at sea, I hope we can look back at this moment in history and say we did the right thing.
I hope that we will take this opportunity to demonstrate a more compassionate approach in our immigration policy in this country. We should increase our refugee intake to at least 30,000 and end offshore detention. I am pleased that here in New South Wales we are ready and willing to welcome Syrian refugees who have fled from violence and persecution and who have taken the greatest risk, and perhaps the only opportunity they could, for a better life.
At the end of their journeys we will meet them in what I know is the typical Australian way: with warmth, respect and friendship. I commend the motion to the House.