Does Australia’s values test have a future in Canada? Konrad Yakabuski

Yakabuski asks the valid question: could Australian dog whistle politics happen here?

To a certain extent, they already have: the use of the niqab and “barbaric cultural practices” tip line in the 2015 election, the Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney leadership campaigns. As he notes, survey questions highlight an underlying concern about immigrant values.

That being said, while we naturally enough see the similarities with Australia – immigration-based countries, large number of foreign-born voters, considerable diversity – we often fail to see some of the differences:

  • Indigenous/white settler dichotomy in contrast to the more complex Canadian Indigenous/French settler/British settler background and a history, albeit highly imperfect, of accommodation and compromise;
  • a political system that provides greater opening for far right extremist voices;
  • a political system that results in fewer visible minorities being elected than in Canada; and,
  • a generally harsher political culture.

So while we always have to guard against complacency, we also need to keep in mind that national elections are largely fought in the 905 and BC’s Lower Mainland, where new Canadian voters, mainly visible minority, form the majority or significant plurality of voters.

The Liberal success in these ridings (they won 30 out of the 33 ridings where visible minorities are the majority) suggest that values or identity-based wedge politics are a losing, not winning, strategy:

When Malcolm Turnbull staged an internal Liberal coup to replace an unpopular Tony Abbott as party leader and Australia’s prime minister in 2015, it was hailed as victory of the moderns and moderates over the ultraconservative ideologues and their nasty dog-whistling strategists.

Guess who’s blowing dog whistles now?

The plan Mr. Turnbull unveiled last month to screen immigrants for Australian values (sound familiar?) and make it harder to obtain Australian citizenship represents a crass U-turn for a Prime Minister who only a few years ago attacked a then-Labor government for seeking to cut the number of temporary foreign workers entering the country. “If you support skilled migration and a diverse society, you don’t ramp up the chauvinistic rhetoric,” he tweeted in 2013.

Now, it is Mr. Turnbull’s turn to target the so-called 457 visa, replacing it with a program that puts new restrictions on foreign workers. The Prime Minister says the immigration changes are all about “putting Australians first.” But they are really about exploiting largely, but not exclusively, working-class resentment toward visible minorities, especially if they’re Muslims.

“If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence … is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part, a very fundamental part, a very prominent part, of our process to be an Australian citizen?” Mr. Turnbull asked last month.

Well, for starters, because it demonstrates an astonishing degree of contempt for the very values that liberal democracies such as Australia purport to champion.

Is it really necessary to ask immigrants “under which circumstances is it permissible to cut female genitals” to convey the unacceptability of excision, which is already illegal? You can only answer yes if the real objective of such a measure is to pander to a substantial, but misguided, group of voters who seeks to alleviate their own insecurities by humiliating others.

You’d almost think this cockeyed plan was something cooked up by Sir Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who may or may not have been behind the 2015 election promise by former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to set up a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline. But Sir Lynton – the knighthood was bestowed by former British prime minister David Cameron after the so-called Wizard of Oz helped him win the 2015 British election – is currently too busy exercising the political dark arts in aid of Tory PM Theresa May’s election bid.

Sir Lynton’s business partner, Mark Textor, however, happens to be Mr. Turnbull’s chief pollster. And what the polls are telling Mr. Turnbull is that white, working-class voters in Australia are increasingly turning sour on immigration. This is something of a paradox in a country in which 28 per cent of the population is foreign-born, compared with about 21 per cent in Canada, and that has long been held up as a model multicultural society.

The truth is that both the Liberals (who are actually conservatives) and the Labor Party now only pay lip service to multiculturalism. Both are seeking to scratch an itch among white working- and middle-class voters. Labor recently ran an ad in Queensland promising to “build Australia first, buy Australian first and employ Australians first.” All of the dozen or so workers in the ad were white.

Support for the current policy of turning back boats of asylum seekers, or detaining them on islands off the Australian coast, remains strong, even among Labor voters. Hence, the dilemma for Labor Leader Bill Shorten, trapped between his party’s white working-class base and the urban progressives and immigrant voters Labor needs to win elections.

Mr. Turnbull, meanwhile, is looking over his shoulder at a renewed threat from the far-right One Nation party and Mr. Abbott, who appears to be angling for his old job. He just gave a speech denouncing the “cultural cowardice” of the elites, including the folks at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and their “pervasive ambivalence verging on hostility to our country and its values.”

Does Australia represent the ghost of Canadian politics yet to come? Polls show Canadians from across the political spectrum really like Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s idea of screening immigrants for Canadian values. She’s sticking to her guns, no matter how many old Red Tory friends she loses.

Hey, if Australia can go that low, why can’t we?

Source: Does Australia’s values test have a future in Canada? – The Globe and Mail

New Zealand PM Bill English hits out at ‘disappointing’ Australian citizenship changes – Updated

Collateral damage?

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has criticised the Turnbull government’s newly unveiled citizenship changes, expressing concern that tens of thousands of New Zealanders would now have to wait years longer to become Australian citizens.

The “special relationship” between the two countries needed to be maintained, Mr English said, adding that government officials were seeking to understand the impact of the changes on a streamlined pathway to citizenship unveiled last year for New Zealanders living in Australia.

There is concern among Kiwis that the changed citizenship conditions – specifically the longer, four-year waiting period before being eligible – undermine the pathway finalised last year by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former prime minister John Key.

“I wouldn’t agree it completely undermines it just because the deal was put in place and there is a path to citizenship and that wasn’t there before Prime Minister Turnbull agreed to put it in place, but it is disappointing for them – for the Kiwis [in Australia] and for ourselves – that it looks like it will take longer,” Mr English said in a press conference on Monday.

“We understand that Australia has a strong focus on its border control and citizenship. New Zealanders are caught up in that and we want to make sure we can maintain the ongoing special relationship and improved conditions and better deals for Kiwis who are in Australia.”

The pathway arrangement announced in February 2016 and coming into effect in July 2017 allows New Zealanders holding special category visas to secure permanent residency after five years in Australia earning $53,000 annually. They would have been able to attain citizenship a year later.

Source: New Zealand PM Bill English hits out at ‘disappointing’ Australian citizenship changes

Appears that PM Turnbull has overturned the changes applying to New Zealanders living in Australia:

Malcolm Turnbull has assured his New Zealand counterpart that the recently announced citizenship changes will not undermine the fast-tracking of Kiwi applications.

The New Zealand prime minister, Bill English, had previously expressed disappointment about the changes, saying he was not forewarned of the Australian government’s plan, which appeared to undermine an agreement between the two nations made last year.

That agreement meant New Zealanders could apply for citizenship after one year of permanent residence, provided they arrived in Australia between 2001 and 2016, and earned more than A$53,000 a year for five consecutive years.

But English’s office released a statement on Friday, saying the New Zealand prime minister been assured otherwise by Turnbull.

A spokesman for English said he had been assured the changes would not affect New Zealand citizens who had moved to Australia between February 2001 and 2016.

“Prime minister Turnbull confirmed that the pathway to citizenship for eligible New Zealanders, announced in February 2016, has not been changed,” the spokesman said. “It remains in place and on track, and is separate from the citizenship changes which Australia announced last week.

“Prime minister English has thanked prime minister Turnbull for this confirmation.”

English’s office confirmed this meant those eligible New Zealand citizens would not need to wait four years before qualifying for citizenship.

Source: Malcolm Turnbull clarifies Dutton ruling on New Zealanders’ citizenship fears

 

There is one silver lining for Indians in Australia’s tough new citizenship rules: English skills — Quartz

One of the better analysis of the planned changes to Australia’s citizenship regime by Alex Reilly, of Adelaide Law School:

Australia already assesses who to allow in—and to whom to grant residency—before any issue of citizenship arises.

Permanent residents in Australia enjoy almost the full range of civil and political rights as citizens. They have access to the welfare system (after initial waiting periods), Medicare, and education. Citizens alone are able to vote, and they have a greater security of residence.

Citizenship is the last step on the path to full membership. By the time someone is applying for citizenship, they have already been in Australia for a minimum of four years, and have made a life here.

We should be encouraging permanent residents to take up citizenship and to commit fully to Australia. Citizenship, in this sense, is a positive mechanism for inclusion. The government’s focus on citizenship as a mechanism for exclusion in its rhetoric and some of the proposed changes is, therefore, counterproductive.

Source: There is one silver lining for Indians in Australia’s tough new citizenship rules: English skills — Quartz

New ‘Australian values’ test planned for citizenship and related commentary

Clearly responding to concerns of the right, and a reflection that immigrant voters play a less important role than in Canadian elections, with the result of fewer immigrant and visible minority MPs:

Australia plans to raise the bar for handing out citizenships by lengthening the waiting period, adding a new “Australian values” test and raising the standard for English language as part of a shake up of its immigration program.

The move comes in a week when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced axing a temporary work visa popular with foreigners and replacing it with a tougher program in a bid to put “Australia First”.

Australia has seen the rise of nationalist, anti-immigration politics with far-right wing parties such as One Nation garnering strong public support, while the popularity of Turnbull’s ruling center-right government has been languishing.

The new citizenship requirements are expected to be passed by parliament with the backing of right-wing Senators.

On Thursday, Turnbull said basic English would no longer be sufficient to become an Australian citizen under the new test.

Applicants need a minimum level 6.0 equivalent of the International English Language Testing System, and a person will only become eligible for citizenship after four years as a permanent resident, up from one year.

“What we are doing is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our values,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. “Australian citizenship should be honored, cherished. It’s a privilege.”

“I reckon if we went out today and said to Australians, “Do you think you could become an Australian citizen without being able to speak English?” They’d say, “You’re kidding. Surely you’d have to be able to speak English.”

Turnbull said the current immigration process was mainly “administrative” while the citizenship test largely a “civics test.”

The current citizenship multiple-choice questionnaire tests a person’s knowledge of Australian laws, national symbols and colors of the Aboriginal flag. But Turnbull said it was not adequate to judge whether a person would accept “Australian values.”

“If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence…is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part, a fundamental part, a very prominent part, of our process to be an Australian citizen? Why should the test simply be a checklist of civic questions?”

The new citizenship test will include questions about whether applicants have sent their kids to school, whether they go to work – if they are of working age – and whether becoming part of unruly gangs in cities were Australian values.

“We’re standing up for Australian values and the parliament should do so too,” Turnbull said.

Source: New ‘Australian values’ test planned for citizenship | Reuters

And predictable expressions of concerns (valid) from groups who work with refugees and other vulnerable groups:

Refugees would be hit hardest by changes to Australia’s citizenship test, the refugee council says, with people deterred from applying for citizenship or potentially failing the test under new English language requirements.

The Refugee Council of Australia argues older refugees, and those who’ve arrived from conflict zones with disrupted educations, would find the strengthened English requirement hardest.

“While the overwhelming majority of refugee and humanitarian entrants are children and young people who typically learn English quickly, those brought to Australia as refugees include some older adults, torture survivors and people with disabilities who struggle to master English. These are the people who are most likely to miss out on citizenship under the changes being planned by the government,” the RCOA chief executive, Paul Power, said.

“The sad irony is that people who have come to Australia as refugees value the freedom and security associated with Australian citizenship more highly than any other group in the nation.”

Power said the proposed changes to the citizenship test would not achieve what the government has said it is aiming to do.

“No extremist or terrorist is going to be unearthed by a few questions about values. But the person who will struggle will be the 45-year-old Sudanese mother, who has come to Australia as a refugee, who has had a disrupted, if any, formal education, and is struggling in adulthood to learn a fourth language.”

Department of Immigration and Border Protection statistics reveal refugees apply for citizenship at a higher rate than any other migrant group. But they also fail the test at a far higher rate – refugees have a failure rate of about 8.8% , six times the rate of 1.4% for other categories of migrants. On average, a refugee needs to attempt the citizenship test 2.4 times, double the average for all migrants of 1.2 times.

…Citizenship already has a “basic” English test requirement, that will be strengthened to a “competent” level assessed by an independent, accredited organisation.

Henry Sherrell, researcher at the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, said the proposed new English language requirement would be a serious barrier to citizenship, particularly for refugees and people in Australia on family visas or the spouses of skilled migrants.

He said the proposed new English level, the equivalent English proficiency of some university entrance requirements, was too high.

“Migrants want to learn English. They want to work. However, not every single newcomer to Australia is in the position to achieve this level of English. This represents a fundamental change to citizenship in Australia with enormous consequences.”

In 2008, one of Australia’s most senior diplomats, Richard Woolcott, reviewed the citizenship test, which had only been introduced the year before. He found it was “flawed, intimidating to some, and discriminatory” and needed significant reform.

“Alternative and improved education pathways to acquire citizenship need to be established for different categories of people seeking citizenship.

“The special situations of refugee and humanitarian entrants and other disadvantaged and vulnerable people seeking citizenship must be addressed.”

The test underwent minor changes in 2009. The citizenship test currently has exemptions for people aged over 60 or with significant disabilities. A government discussion paper on the proposed citizenship test changes, released on Thursday, mentions these exemptions and indicates that they will continue.

Refugees already in the country face substantial – in some cases illegal – barriers to becoming citizens.

More than 10,000 potential citizens who have completed all the requirements for citizenship, including passing the test, and are awaiting only a ceremony to confer citizenship.

The government revealed in court there were 10,231 people who had qualified for citizenship who were living in limbo unsure, when, if ever they would be granted citizenship. Some had been invited to ceremonies only to be told by text message the night before that they would not be made citizens.

Source: Refugees will be hardest hit by changes to Australia’s citizenship test, experts say

And from those from English speaking countries (valid, but more than a touch of superiority):

Ian Sinkins, a British electrical engineer in Australia on a temporary skilled class 457 visa, has a serious beef with Australia’s proposed new citizenship requirements.

The changes, announced by the Turnbull government on Thursday, would require aspiring citizens to sit an English-language test, prove a commitment to Australian values and live in the country for four years as a permanent resident, instead of one.

“We’re being tarred with the same brush … [the plan] doesn’t differentiate where people have come from,” Sinkins told Guardian Australia. “We’re from a Christian background, we speak English, and there’s the shared heritage between Australia and England. And yet we have to take an English-language test, to prove certain things that are kind of obvious. It’s unsettling.”

On ABC’s 7.30 on Thursday, Malcolm Turnbull explained that the longer residency requirement “means there is more time to integrate, to be part of the Australian community”.

Turnbull said it was “in [migrants’] interests” to learn English, adding “they can maybe take longer before they make their application to be an Australian citizen”.

On Friday the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said speaking English was desirable “because it makes it easier for people to find work … to speak to their neighbours, to turn up to the local footy club or be involved in their church or mosque or whatever”.

But Sinkins, his wife Lisa and two children, who arrived in Australia two and a half years ago, have experienced no such difficulty. He said they have easily settled into their new life, love Australia’s culture, its work ethic and people.

Lisa Sinkins’ uncle and aunt came to Australia more than 50 years ago as “10 pound Poms” and she has first and second generation Australian cousins. “There is no recognition of such background history in the existing or planned changes to the visa and citizenship regulations,” she said.

Lisa is a head practice nurse in a Melbourne clinic, while Ian works at a German renewable company specialising in energy storage and has set up a local company which is growing to the point it will soon employ local engineers.

But with the planned changes, the family face an uncertain future as it will now take a total of eight years – four on the temporary work visa and a further four as permanent residents – to become citizens.

“We question the wisdom of extending the time on permanent residency from one to four years … for citizens from countries such as the UK that clearly have shared values,” he said.

And Sinkins and his family aren’t alone. Of the 95,758 people in Australia on a 457 visa, 19.5% are from the UK, behind India on 24.6%, to mention just one visa class among many that provide a pathway to citizenship.

Sinkins said Australia could be missing out on skilled and motivated people and families, who may rethink their current aspiration to become Australians and make the nation stronger.

“We are now wondering if we are really welcome in Australia with so many obstacles and changing goalposts … we are even now considering whether we should return to the UK,” he said.

Source: ‘Obviously we speak English’: Brits complain about Australia’s new citizenship crackdown

Multiculturalism will only work if all Australians sign up, Coalition’s first policy statement says – ABC News

A shift towards more explicit integration messaging, not unlike that occurred under former Minister Kenney starting in 2007:

The Federal Government’s first policy statement on multiculturalism declares it a “success” but says every Australian must sign up to shared values and mutual obligations.

Releasing Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful (Australian Government’s Multicultural Statement) today, Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs Zed Seselja said the Coalition had put its stamp on the “unifying” statement, which is also the first since 2011.

The son of Croatian migrants, Senator Seselja acknowledged there were some people who were “very anti” the idea of multiculturalism but said he believed most Australians supported the policy.

“Overwhelmingly it has been a success and I want to see that continue. But we need to bring the community with us and the way we do that is by reaffirming the fundamental values of our nation,” he told the ABC.

The statement emphasises that Australians are bonded by the “shared values” of respect, freedom and equality and adds the “fundamental rights of every individual” cannot be broken.

It also addresses growing concerns about the threat of global terrorism, and the need for social cohesion, by declaring that every Australian is expected to obey the nation’s laws and support its democratic processes.

“Underpinning a diverse and harmonious Australia is the security of our nation,” the statement says.

Coalition MPs including George Christensen have questioned the benefits of multiculturalism and used the rise of violent extremism overseas to push for greater restrictions on immigration and citizenship.

Labor’s multicultural statement, released by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011, focused primarily on fairness and inclusion; the Coalition’s version places a stronger emphasis on national security in a time of greater global uncertainty.

The statement promotes the principle of mutual respect and mutual obligations and states the Government “continues denouncing racial hatred and discrimination as incompatible with Australian society”.

But Senator Seselja denied this was at odds with a push within the Coalition to change the contentious section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, saying the latter was a debate about where to draw the line in terms of free speech.

“There is no contradiction whatsoever,” he said.

Multiculturalism was conceived as a policy in Australia in the 1970s, replacing the previous approaches of assimilation and integration.

Source: Multiculturalism will only work if all Australians sign up, Coalition’s first policy statement says – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Australian Senator proposes a tough new citizenship test | Starts at 60

For those advocating values vetting such as CPC leadership contender Kellie Leitch, this example of an Australian Senator’s idea of what should be asked is revealing.

And perhaps those proposing values vetting might consider what their questions would be, not to mention the broader question is whether this is needed or implementable:

At the moment the citizenship test consists of questions about Australia’s government and justice systems.

But many politicians and other commentators have argued the test is too easy and want it to focus on more people’s ability to integrate into society.

It’s a plan that has been discussed by many politicians including Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and One Nation senator Pauline Hanson, and now Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm is weighing into the debate.

He’s proposing a new citizenship test with questions that focus more on people’s beliefs than their knowledge of Australia.

Senator Leyonhjelm told NewsCorp he believed there needed to be “extreme vetting” of applicants for citizenship.

“It is only citizens who elect our government and determine what kind of society we create,” he said.

“We should therefore only grant citizenship, and the rights that come with it, to those who have contributed to and assimilated into our society, and who share our values.”

He’s provided a list of his questions, which have been published by NewsCorp and they’re getting plenty of attention.

The questions are:

1. Should there be a law banning slavery?

2. Should tax obligations differ depending on a person’s religion?

3. Should there be a law banning female circumcision?

4. Should there be a law banning women from:

– voting?

– being elected to government?

– driving?

– showing her head hair, arms or legs in public?

5. Should there be a law banning a husband from:

– hitting his wife?

– having sex with his wife without the wife’s consent?

6. Should there be a law banning a wife from:

– leaving the home against the wishes of the husband?

– driving against the wishes of the husband?

– showing her head hair, arms or legs in public against the wishes of the husband?

7. Should there be a law banning adults from:

– drinking alcohol?

– gambling?

– having sex with a child?

– having sex outside marriage?

– holding hands or kissing someone of the same sex in public?

– homosexual acts and relationships?

– owning or viewing pornography?

8. Should there be a law banning children being married?

9. Should there be a law banning a person from refusing to marry according to a parent’s instruction?

10. Should there be a law banning divorce?

11. Where a mother and father of a child are not married, should there be a law granting custody to the father?

12. Should there be a law giving preference to men over women regarding the receipt of inheritances?

13. Should there be a law banning the schooling of boys and girls in the same class room?

14. Should there be a law banning:

– the charging of interest on loans?

– people abandoning their religion?

– blasphemy?

15. Should the punishment for killing be reduced if the killer says it was done for family honour?

So, how do you know what the right answers are?

Well, Leyonhjelm provided NewsCorp with those too.

1. Yes

2. No

3. Yes

4. No

5. Yes

6. No

7. No, except for 7(iii) Yes

8. Yes

9. No

10. No

11. No

12. No

13. No

14. No

15. No

Controversially, he is also arguing that only those who pass the test should be given welfare.

But his citizenship test and comments about welfare have been slammed by some.

Australian Council of Social Services CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie told NewsCorp that Senator Leyonhjelm’s proposal would “take us back to 1909”.

“Australia has the most targeted system of income support in the world and there are already strict rules around eligibility for payments,” she said.

“This proposal would take us back to 1909 when people had to show they were of ‘good character’ to get a pension and automatically exclude large numbers of people from social security and throw them into destitution.”

Source: Senator proposes a tough new citizenship test | Starts at 60

U.S., Australia have ‘very strong’ relationship despite reports of tense phone call

A reminder that despite all the preparations and efforts by the Canadian government to meet the Trump challenge, there is a high degree of unpredictability at play, and a real challenge for the first Trump-Trudeau meeting:

Australia’s prime minister said his country’s relationship with the United States remained “very strong” but refused to comment on a newspaper report on Thursday that an angry President Donald Trump cut short their first telephone call as national leaders.

At the heart of the weekend conversation between Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was a deal struck with the Obama administration that would allow mostly Muslim refugees rejected by Australia to be resettled in the United States.

Turnbull declined to comment on reports in The Washington Post that Trump had described the agreement as “the worst deal ever” and accused Turnbull of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

The Boston Bombers refer to Tamerlan and Dhozkar Tsarnaev, U.S. citizens born in Kyrgyzstan, who set off two bombs at the 2013 Boston marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260 people.

Turnbull also would not say whether Trump had abruptly ended the expected hour-long conversation after 25 minutes as the Australian attempted to steer the conversation to other topics.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t go into details about his phone call with the U.S. president, only saying ‘I can assure you the relationship is very strong.’ (David Gray/Reuters)

“It’s better that these things — these conversations — are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” Turnbull told reporters.

Turnbull said the strength of the bilateral relation was evident in that Trump agreed to honour the agreement to resettle refugees from among around 1,600 asylum seekers, most of whom are on island camps on the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Australia has refused to accept them and instead pays for them to be housed on the impoverished islands.

“I can assure you the relationship is very strong,” Turnbull said. “The fact we received the assurance that we did, the fact that it was confirmed, the very extensive engagement we have with the new administration underlines the closeness of the alliance. But as Australians know me very well: I stand up for Australia in every forum — public or private.”

Hours after the Washington Post story was published — and after Turnbull’s comments — Trump took to Twitter to slam the deal.

“Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why?” Trump tweeted. “I will study this dumb deal!”

Source: U.S., Australia have ‘very strong’ relationship despite reports of tense phone call – World – CBC News

Aussies Say Yes to Multiculturalism, Marriage Equality But No To Politics | PBA

The key findings of the annual Scanlon Foundation report:

The Mapping Social Cohesion report is the annual study tracking Australian attitudes on issues including immigration, multiculturalism, discrimination and political trust and is described as the largest study of its kind with a collective sample of more than 35,000 people since 2007.

Report author Professor Andrew Markus said while Australia was overall a stable and cohesive society, some indicators showed a negative trend.

“There was an expectation that following the victory of the Coalition government in 2013, there would be a significant increase in trust. However, in 2016 only 29 per cent of respondents have a high level of trust in the government, which is 19 per cent lower than in 2009,” Markus said.

The report shows one-third of Australians were politically disengaged with this year’s federal election. Some 34 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they had little or no interest in the election. Among young men aged 18 to 24 years, 23 per cent indicated that they had no interest at all in the election.

Results showed there was also a significant increase in support for change to the system of government – 31 per cent of respondents believed major change was needed, an increase of 8 per cent since 2013.

“One factor influencing disengagement and a lack of trust in the system may be a disconnect between politicians and the public on key topical issues,” Markus said.

Of those surveyed, 83 per cent of respondents supported medical use of marijuana, 80 per cent supported medically approved euthanasia, and 67 per cent supported marriage equality. Reduced reliance on coal for electricity generation was supported by 70 per cent.

The report said the findings also challenged the view that negative attitudes toward Muslim Australians, immigration and multiculturalism were increasing.

“Over the course of the last six surveys, there has been no significant shift in negative opinion towards Muslims, which remains in the range of 22 to 25 per cent,” it said.

Support for multiculturalism has also remained high. The 2016 report found 83 per cent agreed that multiculturalism had been good for Australia.

“There is a positive view of multiculturalism. Most people see multiculturalism as a two-way process of change, involving adaptation from Australian-born and migrants,” Markus said.

Scanlon Foundation CEO Anthea Hancocks said the report provided valuable insight for government, business and the community and those working towards building welcoming, inclusive communities.

The 2016 survey was conducted in July and August, in the weeks immediately after the federal election, and employed a national representative sample of 1,500 respondents.

Hancocks said the findings build on the data collected in eight earlier national surveys, produced in partnership with Monash University and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.

Summary of findings by demographics:

  • Almost a quarter of young males had no interest at all in the federal election, compared to 7 per cent of young women.
  • The biggest predictor of acceptance of immigration and cultural diversity is age, followed by the level of completed education and financial status. Strong rejection of immigration and cultural diversity was around 7 per cent among those aged 18 to 44 years and 4 per cent among those with a bachelor or higher level qualification, compared to 22 per cent of those over 65 years of age and 22 per cent of those whose highest level of education was year 11.
  • A minority of respondents, 26 per cent, opposed marriage equality. Further insight into attitudes to marriage equality by age group shows that of those over 75 years of age, 47 per cent were opposed, 34 per cent aged 65 to 74, and a much lower 17 per cent aged 18 to 24.
  • Support for multiculturalism remains high at 83 per cent, and the strongest positive association of multiculturalism is with its contribution to economic development.
  • Sense of belonging in Australia remains high at 91 per cent, but is lower than the 94 per cent to 96 per cent reported between 2007 and 2012.
  • Just 34 per cent considered that the immigration intake was “too high”, the lowest recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys.

Source: Aussies Say Yes to Multiculturalism, Marriage Equality But No To Politics | PBA

Australia: Repealing 18C will consign the idea of a ‘fair go’ to the dustbin of Australian history | Richard di Natale

Australian Green Party Senator di Natale on the proposed watering down of anti-discrimination legislation:

Malcolm Turnbull is a smart man. He must understand that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act just sets the minimum standard of engagement in a respectful, multicultural society and all that is required is that any public debate on matters of race and culture be conducted “in good faith”.

And he must also know that the 18C debate is a proxy. When certain far-right politicians say they want to repeal 18C, what they’re really saying is that they want to repeal multiculturalism itself.

Just last year we celebrated forty years of the visionary Racial Discrimination Act, the final death-knell of the White Australia policy and a signal moment in our journey towards becoming the world’s most successful multicultural society.

Multiculturalism – the celebration of cultural differences within our diverse Australian nation – is one of Australia’s great strengths, a source of our prosperity and happiness. Multiculturalism is a source not only of cultural capital, but financial capital as well. When we attack it we become poorer in every respect.

By reviving the toxic debate about section 18C, Malcolm Turnbull has given in, yet again, to those who seem determined to consign the notion of the “fair go” to the dustbin of Australian history. What we politicians say in our nation’s parliament has a direct impact on communities – right down to how children are treated in playgrounds and on their way to and from school. Opening up 18C just gives cover for some people to be racist.

Source: Repealing 18C will consign the idea of a ‘fair go’ to the dustbin of Australian history | Richard di Natale | Opinion | The Guardian

Turnbull rebukes Labor over citizenship questions, saying ‘get on Australia’s team’ | The Guardian

Never a good idea to make this kind of accusation, reflects poorly on the accuser:

Malcolm Turnbull has attempted to shut down questions from Labor about the validity of the government’s citizenship revocation laws by borrowing a locution from the Abbott era and advising the shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus to “get on Australia’s team”.

In question time on Monday Labor referenced a media report saying a “notorious terrorist” was set to have their citizenship revoked in the first case to be taken under the government’s citizenship revocation laws.

The report suggested the government was anticipating the move would be tested in the high court.

Dreyfus asked the prime minister whether the case referenced in the Daily Telegraph report would proceed under the same legislation where the attorney general had “incorrectly represented advice from the solicitor-general?”

The solicitor general, Justin Gleeson – courtesy of a bitter public dispute with the attorney general, George Brandis – has said very clearly he did not sign off on the final citizenship bill passed by the parliament, an account which cuts across a suggestion made by Brandis at the time that Gleeson had advised the government its citizenship revocation package had a good prospect of clearing the high court.

“What the shadow attorney general is now doing is taking his feud with the attorney general into an area where he is putting our national security at risk,” Turnbull told parliament on Monday.

The prime minister said Dreyfus needed to “get over these petty personal animosities and get on our team, get on Australia’s team, to ensure that we have the right legislation”.

Source: Turnbull rebukes Labor over citizenship questions, saying ‘get on Australia’s team’ | Australia news | The Guardian