The Politicization of Ethnic Affairs
By Victor Bivell
This is the text of the speech delivered at the Macedonian demonstration
in Sydney on June 12, 1994
Macedonians have lived in Australia since 1893, over 100 years. We
have always been peaceful and hardworking citizens. And we have always
been known as Macedonian. We want to remain as Macedonians. We will
not change our name.
The "slav" prefix is rejected by all Macedonians everywhere.
The Government does not have the right to change our inherited identity.
The Greek lobby does not have the right to change our identity.
This directive is one of the most irresponsible and arrogant acts
by an Australian government in many years. It is unprecedented, outrageous,
dictatorial, and inhumane.
The Labor Government caved in to the aggressive Greek lobby for only
one reason: Greek votes. Labor did not care about right and wrong. Labor
did not care about the underdog. Labor did not care about ethnic peace
in this country. Labor's only concerns were firebombs, Greek demonstrations,
and Greek votes.
We say: Shame, Labor, Shame.
The key players in this scandal are the three most important ethnic
affairs ministers in the country. Senator Nick Bolkus, Federal Minister
for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, who is of Greek descent, Michael
Photios, NSW Minister for Ethnic Affairs, who is of Greek descent, and
Jeff Kennett, Victorian Minister for Ethnic Affairs, who has unashamedly
supported the Greek position.
This is a disgrace. We do not want Greek ministers. We want Australian
Senator Bolkus has tried to blame the Macedonians for the unrest this
prefix has caused. Don't kid yourself Senator Bolkus. If you want to
know the reason for all this unrest, take a good look in the mirror,
look at your own directive, look at your own behaviour, look at how
you have brought disgrace to ethnic affairs in this country.
Senator Bolkus has cynically tried to turn this unrest to his own advantage.
In the media and elswhere, he has tried to paint the Macedonians as
the aggressors. This is because he cannot accept the truth, he cannot
accept the message that the real issues are his own racist directive,
and his own conflict of interest as a minister of Greek origin.
The Macedonians of Wollongong told Senator Bolkus how they feel. Did
he listen? No. Senator Bolkus had a chance to be a real statesman and
withdraw the prefix. Instead he ignored the message and implemented
the directive. He irresponsibly and shamelessly escalated the situation.
The truth is obvious. Senator Bolkus cares more for Greek votes than
ethnic peace in this country.
Michael Photios is also guilty. Only hours after the Australian Government
recognized Macedonia, he issued a press release saying the Greek Community
had been "betrayed". And he kept claiming betrayal, even while
firebombs were destroying Macedonian property and terrorizing Macedonian
The only betrayal, Mr Photios, was by you. You betrayed your duty
as an Ethnic Affairs minister, and you betrayed your duty to keep the
peace in Australia.
But there is more. Mr Photios recommended that the NSW Government adopt
the "slav" prefix. He issued this statement only one day after
the announcement of the prefix and after all Australia knew that the
Macedonians had rejected the prefix.
Mr Photios did this to win Greek votes, and to further Greek national
goals in Australia. Like Senator Bolkus, Mr Photio is a disgrace to
The third guilty party is Mr Kennett. Like Mr Photios, he has politicized
ethnic affairs to win Greek votes. Most of the firebombing has been
in Victoria. But did Mr Kennett care? Instead of trying to make peace
between the communities, he went off to Greece to win more votes. Mr
Kennett may not be a Greek, but he is certainly a fool.
Bolkus, Photios and Kennett have abused their portfolios. They have
disturbed the ethnic harmony in this country. They have brought disgrace
on their governments and on Australia.
We say: Resign Senator Bolkus. Resign Mr Photios. Resign Mr Kennett.
These ministers support institutionalized bullying in Australia. They
support the persecution of Macedonians by Greeks. They have encouraged
Greek nationalism, and the Greeks have responded.
The impetus to introduce this prefix is coming from Greek members of
the Australian community. Not just from Senator Bolkus. Not just from
Mr Photios. It is also coming from the NSW Ethnic Communities' Council,
which has around 13 Greek members out of 26 on the management committee.
It is coming from the Canterbury Council in Sydney, which has a number
of Greek councillors. It is coming from the Greek lobby, from Greek
letter writers, and wherever there are Greeks who have the disease of
This is a very dangerous development for Australia. Yet the people
who should be stopping this, the ethnic affairs ministers, are themselves
the chief Greeks.
Macedonians are angry, and we have a right to be angry. And we will
maintain our rage until this prefix is withdrawn. This prefix holds
nothing but trouble for Australia. We cannot allow foolish politicians
to ruin this free country. Australia should be a refuge from political
persecution; not a political prison. This is a just cause.
Macedonians around Australia are united. We will fight for our name,
and for an equal, non-racist Australia. We will not give up until we