The NSW Labor Opposition has accused the Baird Liberal Government of abandoning the State’s multicultural communities following the extraordinary admission by Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello in Parliament this week that he quietly disbanded 15 Multicultural Consultative Committees at the start of August.
The Committee members were appointed by the NSW Liberals and largely consisted of Liberal members, donors and supporters.
They had been the centrepiece of the Government’s engagement with multicultural communities and a sounding board for advice.
The following Committees were in operation and have now been sacked: Chinese, Egyptian, Filipino, Greek, Indian, Italian, Jewish, Korean, Lebanese, Macedonian, Maori and Pacific Island, Russian, Sri Lankan, Vietnamese and Croatian.
In March, Dominello was forced to remove disgraced lobbyist Nick Di Girolamo from the Italian Committee amid questions from Labor about his influence over the Liberal Government.
At the time, Dominello had effusively praised the role of the Committees.
Questioned in Budget Estimates this week, Dominello made the following surprise admission:
•“Those committees no longer exist. The Community Relations Commission … is improving its community engagement strategies…Basically there are going to be metropolitan consultative forums … they will conduct those in November. They will be undertaken in Strathfield, Liverpool and Hornsby.”
Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Communities Guy Zangari said today, “Minister Dominello has serious questions to answer about why he has quietly shut down the Baird Government’s central strategy to engage with multicultural communities – and what he is replacing it with.”
“The Government has shut down all 15 Committees in the dead of night – yet it was not even six months ago that Victor Dominello was praising the role of these Committees to the rooftops.
“What happened between March and August? Having removed Nick Di Girolamo, does the Government no longer want to be associated with these Committees given its current exposure before ICAC?
“Why didn’t the Minister inform the public at the time he made this decision – instead of having the news dragged out of him at Budget Estimates?
“The Minister claims Committee members were written to regarding their sacking. However, members I have spoken to have not been advised of the closure of their Committee.”
Zangari noted that multicultural communities have felt let down by the Liberal Party ever since the Abbott Government moved to legalise bigotry and hate speech by eliminating Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The Liberal Party has left the position of Chair of the Community Relations Commission vacant after its last appointee decided to step down.
For two years, Zangari has sought answers in vain from the Government as to who is on the Committees, how often they meet and what they have achieved.
“Migrant communities have been treated with contempt by the Baird Government – and shutting down these Committees under the cloak of darkness just proves it,” Zangari said.