George Lekakis comments on the community and government strategy in relation to One Nation
02 March 2009
source not available
We led every rally. We were really alarmed by what was going on it was shattering to see years of great work – that this ugly reality was starting to – okay people talk about the opinion leaders and – they have specific terms about criticising multiculturalism and the left and this, that and the other but for me, it was just strange that all those ugly things I hated about what I heard at school – and we usually attributed those comments to young men who – and there were very few of them, we had only one – I won’t mention his name, but we only had one fellow in the whole school who dared speak about Hitler and denigration of particular groups of people and –
And the same characteristics that this guy had and the same angst that all of us used to pour on him as a group in class, started to emerge in the Australian reality. But we, again had a lot of networks in Victoria. So we were able to mobilise, if you went to Northcote, there was – there were people mobilised, ready to letterbox everybody, you know. “Put Hanson last,” in the first Northcote bi-election. We mobilised the local ECC and everybody else, we letterboxed – for us, it was clear, there was a clear – it came to a demarcation line, this was not a nice thing to hear.
Asians have been here from the beginning of time, whether they were here before Captain Cook, one questions that and recent evidence by some of my Indian community colleagues might bring up evidence that suggests otherwise, but Asians were here, the Chinese, treatment of the Chinese at the turn of the century and during the gold rush period, that was pretty poor call that – the Asians and the xenophobia that was levelled against them at a time when they were thriving communities and doing such good in Victoria. We had the Vietnamese communities taking hold in our precincts. I just felt this was pretty bad. And we rallied.
I’ll never forget the Horsham night. I was asked to speak at the Horsham Hall –Town Hall, with a whole lot of community led meeting – public meeting – and I went to address them and on the other side of Horsham was Pauline and her group. And the media seemed to follow Pauline rather than the concerned councillors. And I said on that night, “At least in Victoria, we have a political leader that stands up to Pauline Hanson and his name’s Jeff Kennett.” And people went – you know, some of the people afterwards, “How dare you mention Jeff?” Look he’s standing up against her and we’re the only state in Victoria that is doing that.
But everywhere she went, as soon as it was announced that she’d go to Geelong or go somewhere, people would ring up, the whole community was mobilised and we had a huge demonstration here, for 60, 70,000 people led by the trades hall, ourselves and a whole lot of others. Harkin (sp?) was organising that and – and my I say, Lee Hubbard played a great role at that time. They could have easily said, “Look..” Trade union movement could have said, “No. We’re not part of this.” But they took side with us. We mobilised lots of people and they also took side about the refugee debate. Up until the time Sharon Burrows got on the back of a truck in front of the State Library and called for the Howard Government for better treatment of refugees, the Labor Party were silent.
Then we had Labor for refugees, then we had motions in conference, then we had the Julia Gillard shadow immigration minister’s statements, we had Crean in Brisbane on Australia Day and so on and so on and so forth. But before that, the Labor Party was silent. But Sharon coming on the back of the truck, signalled an end. I thought, if you get the trade union movement on side on this, surely it will impact across the rest of Australia. In the same way the Hanson debate changed direction here in Victoria, when we had the trade union movement supporting us and we had 60, 70,000 people turn up at a rally in Melbourne.
So, they were critical times. The networks were strong, the relationships between people and organizations – the State Government was strong, Kennett was strong, everybody was strong.