Mike Baird sounds warning over anti-immigration politics in Australia Day speech

NSW Premier Mike Baird speaks at the at the 32nd Australia Day Lunch in Sydney. Photo: JOEL CARRETTHow to be chosen as Australian of the YearComment: Putting a bit more kitsch on the barbieComment: Patriots need to find better angels

The NSW Premier Mike Baird has used his Australia Day address to warn that Australia is at risk of losing its character to anti-immigration politics.

“I believe strongly we are now at a fork in the road,” Mr Baird said in the address at Luna Park on Friday afternoon. “We are potentially at risk of losing what makes Australia the best place in the world to live because some want to shut our door and avert our eyes.

“To shut our doors to refugees as some here and around the world calling for […is] not our history, not our character.”

The warning comes as some candidates in the US presidential election have called for restricting America’s immigration intake from Syria and other majority-Muslim nations.

In recent months some far-right groups have held anti-immigration rallies in Australian capital cities and small protests to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Cronulla race riots.

Mr Baird – whose father, Bruce, was a famously outspoken MP in the Howard government over its asylum seeker policies – made the case for continuing immigration with reference to the story of Sydney lawyer Deng Adut.

Mr Adut, a former Sudanese child soldier who immigrated to Australia in his teens, gave an Australia Day address to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Thursday.

“He is living proof of what people can achieve when they are given the opportunity and we as a nation share our luck,” Mr Baird said. “He reminded us very poignantly in our national anthem are the words ‘For those who’ve come across the sea we’ve boundless plains to share’.

“My genuine and honest fear is what will happen to Australia if we shut our doors to people such as Deng, whether it be out of fear or ignorance.

“We have a choice to continue on the path that brought this nation to where and who we are today, or we can let fear blind us and hate infect us.”

Mr Baird used the same address last year to call for an increase in Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake.

Australia has committed to re-settling about 12,000 refugees from war-torn Syria but the federal government has emphasised that their number will be “hand picked” to avoid fears of terrorism.

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