Australia pushes for new citizenship test

Australia pushes for new citizenship test
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said a “values test” will be added for those considering permanent residency. The test is in consideration by the government to protect it’s successful multicultural society..

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said a “values test” will be added for those considering permanent residency. The test is in consideration by the government  to protect it’s successful multicultural society. 

Background 

Aboriginal Australians arrived on the Australian mainland by sea from Maritime Southeast Asia between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. The artistic, musical and spiritual traditions they established are among the longest surviving such traditions in human history. Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch explorers attempted to cross the Torres Straits, but deemed the barren land as having no value.

In 1770, Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy took possession of the eastern coast of Australia in the name of George III. The colony of New South Wales was formally proclaimed only in 1788. Transportation of convicts eventually brought a total of about 160,000 prisoners to Australia.Roads, bridges, and other transportation facilities necessary for commerce were built by convict labor, as were government buildings.

The Australian colonies became self-governing while undergoing great changes caused by the discovery of gold in 1851. Australia’s six states became a nation under a single constitution on 1 January 1901.

In 1975, the Racial Discrimination Act came into force, making discrimination in different parts of public life against the law. In 1995, the Act was extended to make public acts of racial hatred against the law. Today, the Act stands as a legal commitment to Australia’s celebrated multicultural society.

A quarter of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas. Nearly 20 % of Australians speak a language other than English at home.In 2013, overseas migration represented 60% of Australia’s population growth in the year.Migrants make an enormous contribution to Australia’s economy and provide an estimated fiscal benefit of over 10 billion dollars in their first ten years of settlement. 

Analysis 

Speaking in London at the Australia/UK Leadership Forum, Minister Alan Tudge said he is pushing for migrants to sit an Australian “values” test before being granted permanent residency. He argued that  the  practice of granting permanent residency to about 100,000 migrants a year ­before "ever stepping foot in Australia" needed "further consideration". 

The Australian government is looking to combine the proposed English language skills test with  “values” test for those seeking permanent residency in the country. PM Turnbull believes that this will aid with integration. However, the government’s attempt to make citizenship harder were rejected by the Senate last year.Immigration is shaping up as one of the upcoming election’s biggest issues, as the government faces pressure to cut Australia’s immigration rate to ease population pressures in major centres. 

Mr. Turnbull said,"We have generally done this well, through a combination of a heavy emphasis on skilled ­migration, making up almost 70%  of our permanent migrant intake, and a strict vetting process.” His proposal for potential changes to the vetting process comes in the wake of the Turnbull Government's recent cuts to the annual permanent migration ­intake from 190,000 under Labor to less than 163,000 this year.

"Diversity can be great, but not when it includes those who want sharia law and will use violence to achieve their ends," Mr Tudge said. He warned Australia was veering towards a "European separatist multicultural model" and must do more to ensure the integration of migrants by taking active steps towards social cohesion. 

Even with the Racial Discrimination Act in place to protect the multicultural society, 1.5 million of Australia’s adult population believes that some races are inferior to others. Out of the 500 complaints lodged under the Act in 2012-13, 192 were related to incidents of racial hatred. Recent migrants face difficulties in finding their first job due to lack of Australian work experience and references or their skills and qualifications are not recognised. 

Multiculturalism in Australia has a rich heritage but also problematic consequences that need to be acknowledged. Australia struggles to encompass the whole range of “micronations”, each with their own political and cultural agenda. There is disunity among ethnic communities as well as them and “Australians” who consider themselves foremost loyal to Australia.  

Professor Loring Danforth has admitted that "Ironically, Australia's own commitment to multiculturalism may also encourage immigrants to involve themselves in the national conflicts of their homelands.Multiculturalism, with its emphasis on community languages and ethnic media, promotes the development of these ethnic identities and impedes the development of a strong Australian national identity." 

Counterpoint

Responding to Mr Tudge's comments, shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese said he found it "pretty odd" that an Australian Government minister "goes to the UK and talks our country down".

"What we have in Australia, I think, is a bit of a microcosm for what the world should be: people from different religions, races and backgrounds living together overwhelmingly in harmony," Mr Albanese said. 

Assessment

Our assessment is that the Australian government must develop mechanisms to assess people seeking citizenship on their “Australian values”. We feel that the government is promoting a core set of Australian values to tackle the effects of its multiculturalism model on the society.

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