Racial and cultural diversity in Parliament is fine. Just as long as you don’t sound any different.
In question time this week, Liberal Senator Ian MacDonald told Labor Senator Doug Cameron to “Learn to speak Australian.” Or – as he qualifies – “Learn to speak Australian, Mate.”
Senator Cameron is Scottish.
Being from the city of Glasgow originally, Cameron has quite a distinguishable Scottish accent.
While it appears Senator MacDonald’s comment was glossed over at the time it
was shouted across the Senate chamber slipped out, it did not escape the attention of Labor Senator Penny Wong, who asked Senate President Stephen Parry to have the comment withdrawn.
You can see Penny Wong address the comment below:
Wong labelled the comment inappropriate, stating, “In a multicultural society, that thing ought not be said in the national parliament.”
Senator MacDonald attempted to downplay the racial connotations, by clarifying that he did in fact add “mate” to the end of his request for Cameron to “learn to speak Australian”.
Because apparently, being colloquial and ‘dinky-di’ in your language choice is an excuse for criticising someone whose accent is different from your own ‘true-blue’ drawl.*
At least, it is according to President Parry, who stated there was nothing “unparliamentary” in the language used.
If you Googled the phrase ‘Learn to speak Australian’ you’d probably expect to find some pretty terrible Housos-esque spoof videos. Or maybe an out-dated urban dictionary post that features some of the phrases I’ve used above* (+ bonza). You wouldn’t expect to hear it spoken by the people running our country. And nor should you.
According to News.com.au, Senator Cameron told parliamentary reporters that due to Senator Macdonald’s increasingly erratic behaviour, “We should all rally around him.”
Senator Macdonald, at the age of 69, is the longest serving member of the Senate, an achievement that has earned him the role of Father of the House. And evidently, the right to shout prejudiced comments at opposition Senators.