The Howard Government may have dropped the dreaded “M” word from its official nomenclature. But 2006 census figures reveal that multiculturalism is alive and well in the community.

And now, the reality of multiculturalism is proving to be a reality even in John Howard’s own electorate of Bennelong where some 36% of residents speak a language other than English at home.

Howard, of course, has a difficult relationship with migrants. His old staffer Gerard Henderson wrote in The Age some years back that “the one significant blot on [Howard’s] record in public life … a certain lack of empathy in dealing with individuals with whom he does not identify at a personal level: for example, Asian Australians in the late 1980s and asylum-seekers in the early 21st century”.

I remember on the eve of the 1996 election, Howard was desperate to woo various South and South-East Asian communities, even going to the extent of trying to set up an “ethnic” branch in his electorate.

Census figures also undermine the Judeo-Christian heritage theory constantly bandied about by monocultural warriors. In the last decade, the number of people declaring themselves Christian has dropped by 7%. Meanwhile, the fastest growing religions in Australia have been Hinduism and Buddhism.

While Australia’s Hindu population has doubled in the last decade, Muslim numbers have grown by only 69%. Danna Vale should now be able to rest more easily. Australia still has more Buddhists than Muslims.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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