Leaders share celebrations in Fairfield

Special guest: Prime Minister Julia Gillard gets up close to one of the lions during Saturday’s Tet Festival. Picture: Wesley Lonergan Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at the Tet Festival. Picture: Wesley Lonergan

Special guest: Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Tet Festival. Picture: Wesley Lonergan

Special guest: Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Tet Festival. Picture: Wesley Lonergan

THE smell of an election was in the air at the Tet Festival in Fairfield on Saturday.

The Vietnamese new year celebration drew heads from both sides of parliament just days after Prime Minister Julia Gillard named the date for this year’s federal election.

Ms Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, Premier Barry O’Farrell and state Opposition Leader John Robertson attended the event, as did local politicians.

The leaders were treated to a colourful welcome.

A string of red firecrackers was lit to start the opening ceremony of the festival at the Fairfield Showground.

Lion dancers and drummers led the dignitaries through a row of children dressed in tradition costume to their seats.

Ms Gillard mentioned in her speech it was the first time a serving prime minister had attended the event.

She went on to tell the community the reason for her visit.

“Friends, so many Vietnamese refugees came to these shores with only the clothes on their backs,” she said.

“You came with hope to this land of new beginnings.

“You matched opportunity with effort; citizenship with commitment.

“So four decades since the journey began, we are here as civic leaders to share this festival and to say thank you.”

Each of the leaders made an effort to say “happy new year” in Vietnamese, which was followed by loud cheers from the audience.

Mr Abbott told the Fairfield Champion he was there to show support to fellow Liberal Party members and the wider Vietnamese community.

“The new year festival is a very important part of the Vietnamese community’s annual calendar,” he said.

“There is a much stronger Liberal presence in this part of Sydney than there has been in the past including a lot of Vietnamese people in the local Liberal Party.

“I think it’s really important as the national leader of the Liberal Party that I try to show support to the Vietnamese community generally but in particular to Australians of Vietnamese background who happen to be Liberals.”

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