Thursday, 06 September 2012

Mr MARK COURE (Oatley) [7.36 p.m.]: The St George region is a testament to the diversity and tolerance of Australian multiculturalism. Identifying with a variety of cultures and belief, the region has historically been a place where individuals and families of different backgrounds have come together. The atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding that is a hallmark of my local area only continues to develop. The Coptic community has been a significant contributor to creating and strengthening that understanding. The Coptic presence not only in the St George region but also in New South Wales, Australia and beyond is characterised by the values of this New South Wales Government—a focus on the power of the individual, enterprise and family values. My grandparents were born in Egypt, so I appreciate and understand how the Copts have shaped and enriched our community. They are an essential part of providing a focus on the importance of education, the reward of a hard day's pay for a hard day's work, acceptance and the value of volunteering and community work. As a result, the Coptic community has made an invaluable contribution to securing the future of an increasingly diverse Australia, and growing passionate and aware young minds.


Over the past 18 months I have worked closely with Coptic leaders to deliver on these outcomes and values for our community. Recently I attended St Mark's Church for the fourth time, with the Hon. Tony Abbott, leader of the Federal Opposition, the member for Cronulla and the member for Rockdale. Previously I have attended St Mark's Church with the member for Menai. This visit highlighted the importance of strengthening our ties with the Coptic community and creating awareness for the struggles that Coptic Christians in Egypt are currently experiencing. Presently, the Coptic presence in Egypt comprises around 10 per cent of its population. Historically, religiously fuelled sectarian violence has threatened the wellbeing of the Coptic community and undermined social progress in Egypt. The Government has made progress, and has made a pledge to ensure that citizens are treated equally and the promised election of a new Coptic pope in the coming months. The Coptic community is concerned that the longstanding conflict between the Muslim and Christian Coptic populations in Egypt may not yet be at a close.


The Liberal Party has spoken openly of its deep support for the Coptic community, with prominent party members, including the Hon. Scott Morrison, addressing the sensitivity of the issue. As a Liberal I am committed to ensuring that we maintain that support in a difficult period of transition and uncertainty. While developments appear to be heading in a positive direction, far more progress must occur. As a State and a nation committed to providing care for those in need, we must ensure that our commitment to the Coptic community continues to grow. Whether it is advocacy to the United Nations for its needs, increased humanitarian support during a time of difficulty or encouraging the values of tolerance and acceptance, we must continue delivering on our interest in supporting the Coptic community here and overseas. It is a privilege of our public service to continue developing the bonds of diversity and unity that make our State a leader in Australia. The open support that this Government has expressed for the Christian Coptics here and overseas is a testament to the value we place on hope and opportunity. In strengthening our focus on reward and initiative we should continue to promote progress. I look forward to continuing my work with the leaders of the Coptic church to allow the great contributions of Coptic Christians to our diverse State to continue. I am confident that with the commitment of the New South Wales Government to furthering peace and acceptance beyond State borders we can work together to create a safe and sustainable future for the Coptic community in the St George region and overseas.