Bill Shorten to Indians celebrating Diwali: ‘You people bring light and life to Australia’

Bill Shorten, MP, Leader of the Opposition gave the following speech at Deepavali celebration at Parliament House in Canberra on December 3, 2018


“Namaste. Vanakkam. Kem Cho. Bula.

Your Excellency, parliamentary colleagues, the Member for Banks representing the Prime Minister, distinguished guests one and all, welcome to Parliament House.

You do this parliament great respect by coming here, thank you and I acknowledge that Diwali enriches the life of our nation, it brings light to our country every year.

But may I say to the community here, you,  the people who celebrate  Diwali, you bring light and life to Australia every  day of every year. You are all  diyas, shining brightly.

Now I understand that Diwali covers many different nationalities, but to all of our friends with Indian heritage, you may be interested to know that I had the privilege of meeting with the President of India during his historic visit to Australia a couple of weeks ago.

I said to him that the greatest strength of the Australia-India relationship is the Indian-Australia  diaspora  who call Australia home, thank you very much.

I did say to him that with the  first test starting this week, we’re about to get another reminder of how big and passionate, joyous and loud the community is – especially if Virat Kohli’s form continues.

My party, Labor, if we are elected to government in about 24 weeks, I promised the President of India that I would seek to elevate  Australia and India’s friendship into a more comprehensive  strategic  and  economic  relationship.

My vision for our growing relationship is to have more  direct air services between Australia and India, and we want to provide greater educational and cultural exchange for students from both nations.

As part of that, my party has made clear in our  FutureAsia  policy that we will provide scholarships for Hindi speakers in Australia to become teachers, so more schools can offer the language.

Of course, it’s not just students. We want more Australian business leaders and executives to develop the skills and experience to succeed in our region. And this is I think, the greatest contribution of the Indian and South Asian  diaspora  in Australia.

But I say tonight that my main reason to be here is not to talk policy, but to simply say thank you.

I cannot begin to understand, although my father was a migrant, the strength of character it takes to decide to leave the towns or the villages where one grew up, the music of  ones  youth, the people one went to school with as you start a new life in another country.

There is much that is said in the current debate in Australia about immigration.  I make you this promise on behalf of my party, South Asian and Indian immigration to Australia is a good thing and thank you very much for choosing to join your story to ours.

I guarantee you, as I’ve said before, there is not an Australian in a suburb in any postcode in Australia  who ever  complains when you get an Indian family or a South Asian family move next door. Because you know what you’re going to get with those  neighbours.

You get hard workers, you get taxpayers, you get people dedicated to passing on a better deal to their children – and we might have a change with a better cricket team as well.

I would also like to thank  Prakash Mehta and the new committee of the Hindu Council of Australia for these festivities.

I think at this time of year when all of us are coming to the close of a busy year, this is a very well-timed festival.

Regardless of  our heritage  or our faith, most of us when we get to this part of the year we look back and take stock of the year that’s been.

With the benefit of hindsight we can always see the mistakes we’ve made. When you’re in parliament, we share the benefit of hindsight with our political opponents on their mistakes.

We can always find things to regret, we can always think about things that we could have said or done a little differently.

But Diwali encourages us to look forward. It is the celebration of the most precious human quality of all: hope.

Hope that is stronger than fear, hope for light in the darkness, the hope that we can  ”˜slay ignorance with the sword of wisdom’.

The hope for  dharma  to triumph over evil, the hope that our future will be a brighter and more fulfilling destination for everyone we love.

So tonight, in the year ahead, let us be filled with that spirit, let us be filled with that hope.

I wish you all the true wealth of peace, prosperity, health  and  happiness in the future.

Shubh Deepavali!”

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