By our community reporter
Melbourne: The Labor Party has criticised the Baillieu government of stripping the independence of the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC). Earlier, Multicultural Affairs Minister, Nick Kotsiras announced via media release on 3 February 2011, that the VMC would lose its policy and administrative functions, which would be transferred into the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
State Labor MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Opposition Leader, Colin Brooks said it was obvious the changes would weaken the VMC’s independence and reduce its ability to provide frank and fearless policy advice to Government.
“It is disappointing that at a time when State and Federal Leaders on both sides of politics are rightly defending and espousing the benefits of multiculturalism, the Baillieu Government has removed Victoria’s peak multicultural agency’s ability to do its job,” Colin Brooks said.
“The stripping of the policy and administrative functions from the VMC is reminiscent of way the Kennett Government operated – nobble any person or agency that may have a different view to the Government”.
“The Minister says that the changes to the VMC are in accordance with the Liberal Nationals Coalition policy taken to the election but they must have been written in invisible ink, because there is no mention of the stripping of these functions from the VMC. In fact, the policy says the Commission will “represent all Victorians and not the Government.”
In contrast to their policies, the Liberals have now cynically corralled the engine room of multicultural policy within the bureaucracy.
“To top off this savage gouging of the VMC, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs attempted to spin the Government’s actions as “strengthening the independence” of the VMC – a very clumsy attempt to confuse and then justify the weakening of the Commission’” Colin Brooks said.
In a media release on 3 February, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Mr. Nicholas Kotsiras MP said, “Membership of the Commission, while remaining at 12 members, will include a youth representative and a representative from a peak community organisation. Eight Regional Advisory Councils will be established to work in partnership with the VMC and local communities, operating as important conduits for information on regional settlement and service delivery.”
“The Government will also establish a Ministerial Inter-departmental Multicultural Services Advisory Committee to co-ordinate a whole-of-government approach to multiculturalism and citizenship. Chaired by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, this committee will provide an important additional link between the OMAC, VMC and government departments, “the release said.
The VMC is an independent statutory authority that was originally established in 1983 under the name of the Victorian Ethnic Affairs Commission. The Commission now operates under the Multicultural Victoria Act 2004.