Part 1 transcript
- Belinda Probert:
Welcome everybody. And as I said, it’s great to see so many people here for this important and obviously significant debate. I’m Belinda Probert, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at La Trobe University and I’m here to chair the session. Can I say before I go any further that we’d like you to make sure that your phones are turned off and that the event is being filmed which is why we are uncomfortably sitting up here in this glare and you’ll all look a bit invisible, and so bear with us if there’s any glitches because it is quite blinding. But the importance of the filming is that that means that enormous numbers of other people will be able to see a version of this on the internet and that’s a very important way of communicating with a much wider audience. But I’m welcoming you to (all laughing) yes, we’ll just ... want to welcome you very warmly to La Trobe’s University’s Ideas and Society program which is a new initiative which is being co-ordinated by Professor Rob Manne and which is designed to provoke and promote vigorous discussion by staff, students, the wider community around important and often difficult current topics about the environment, the economy, social relations, the things that we know we need to be talking about. Today’s event is presented with the support of La Trobe’s Institute for human security and takes the form of a debate about a matter of fundamental importance to human security, namely racism and in particular, racism in Australia and it’s a topic that’s never far from the surface but it is of course, very much I think on our minds given the renewed media coverage of our approach to asylum seekers. We are not here attempting to provide a political platform for argument, that is not what this event is about, especially when the issue is one which is often felt as deeply personal and very divisive. We’re a university and our role is to provide a space for scholarly reflective debate where the focus is on the quality of the argument and the more politically the sensitive the issue, the more important that we provide this space for reasoned and unflinching debate. And we are extremely fortunate in having four of Australia’s most eminent historians and social scientists to give us their perspectives and to be unflinching and honest in their approach to this topic.
It’s been billed as a debate but it is not a debate in the sense of winners and losers, obviously this is a topic that could not be treated like that, we’re not going to be taking a vote, but we do of course ... people when they’re making presentations do want to know what people think of their arguments and that is what of course we will allow for. That each speaker will address us for about 15 minutes and there will be an opportunity for questions from the floor, because I’m sure there will be immensely complex and interesting ideas being presented here and the questions should be questions, it’s not ... as I say, we’re not trying to create a political platform here, which isn’t to say that people don’t ... shouldn’t feel you know that this is terribly important and feel very much it’s a matter of values. And also I’m hoping that there’ll be an opportunity for our speakers to comment on each other because they’re going to have very different views and I think some of the most interesting things might come from that.
So, just a brief introduction to the speakers and then I’ll introduce them more formally as each one takes their turn, the speakers are Ghassan Hage, Judith Brett, John Hurst and Henry Reynolds.