Yesterday I attended a Harmony Day function at the Brolga Theatre in the town of Maryborough. It was great to get away, even briefly, from the Senate and all its Santo shenanigans, and get back out into the real world – particularly a part of it lovely as Maryborough. If you’ve never been there, I’d recommend a visit, even if only to stroll around a few of its wide streets looking at some of the many fantastic old timber Queenslander houses which give so much character to the place.
It is close to the town of Hervey Bay, which it shares a (usually) friendly rivalry with – a longstanding rivalry that has gained a bit more spice with the recent very rapid growth of Hervey Bay due to sea changers and tourism, along with the traditional retirees. It is also the main jump off point to the truly magnificent Fraser Island, which everyone really should go visit at least once before they die (although I do have to say that the visitor numbers there can sometimes be so high that it can seem like half the country has just had the same urge)
One of the more bizarre consequences of the recent electoral redistribution in Queensland is that Maryborough and Hervey Bay have ended up in different electorates – for what I suspect is the first time in history. Maryborough is in the seat of Wide Bay (which now doesn’t actually include the Bay), while Hervey Bay is in the seat of Hinkler.
Despite this recent electorally mandated separation, there is still enough connection, and enough harmony, for the Councils of the two cities to be working together on Harmony Day (and Week) celebrations. The purpose is to promote and celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity, so the function I attended included all sorts of music, dancing and singing. In amongst all that, I had to give a speech on economics, and in particular the economic benefits which can come from fostering cultural diversity.
It is always easy to blame migrants for taking jobs, reducing wages and conditions or generating division, so I believe it is important to keep promoting the ample evidence, from both Australia and elsewhere, which is that fostering cohesive cultural diversity generates jobs and wider wealth, rather than hinders it. At the current controversy over 457 visas shows, ensuring migrants are not exploited is important, but we shouldn’t forget the massive benefits we get from the contributions they make and from the many different perspectives which diversity inherently brings.
You can read my speech at this link.