Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Today the government announced it's values and English language tests for Australia citizenship continuing its policies of restricting immigration and citizenship. This he insisted was not the re-introduction of racially discriminatory immigration policies but the re-alignment of emphasis on those things that unite us over the things that divide us.

Although Howard's policy does in some ways smack of White Australia days and almost certainly attempts to dredge up support re. simmering ethnic tensions that came to his aid during the Tampa 'crisis' there is an issue underlying all this that needs addressing. And it's supporters of multiculturalism that should be stepping up to bat.

Whatever Utopian feelings supporters of multiculturalism (and I'm most definitely one) there are limitations. Before you explode let me explain that these limitations are quite broad. There's an old saying: the law must make a decision. This is true, one has rights or one doesn't.

Consider, for example, a case where in one's country of origin it's normal to compel girls to marry according to the father's wishes. This is problematic because an Australian citizen has a right to self-determination and this means that everyone is free to marry (or not) on the basis of personal choice. That doesn't preclude arranged marriages as such but, in the context of democracy, they can only take place freely chosen by a consenting adult. Ergo a tradition in which a fourteen year-old is required to marry at her father's behest is inconsistent with her rights as a citizen and in contravention of the legal age of consent.

A tricky issue sure, especially considering that some indigenous communities practice coercive arranged marriage. Still one has certain democratic rights or one does not. To suspend rights on the basis of cultural relativism is ethnically discriminatory. That is, saying you have to do what your traditions dictate even though it conflicts with your rights as a citizen effectively says you have no rights on the basis of your ethnicity. This is racist.

My arguments are not against multiculturalism which I regard as a fact of Australian life but rather to preserve multiculturalism. After all a Muslim Imam is just as capable of being a bigot as an Anglo-Saxon political wannabe. And labeling all non-Muslim Australian girls as meat for rapists is as divisive and unacceptable as saying all Africans have AIDS.

Ethnic tension does exist and those who voice concerns about it should not be automatically branded rednecks. The tolerance of others regardless of ethnicity, sex, sexuality etc. is a general requirement. It applies to everyone no matter who they are. Supporters of multiculturalism must assert themselves on this agenda so that it is not the sole province of people like Pauline Hanson.

Although I believe this problem is not as serious as it's made out to be I do not believe it doesn't exist. A collection of mutually hostile ethnicities is not multiculturalism it is potentially explosive.

Whether or no an English test or more importantly a multiple choice questionaire re. Oz values is the way to go is another matter. The cultural values test appears to me to more of an examination of one's capacity to rote learn rather than one's actual feelings about the country. I could sit down and write an essay stating why I think fascism is the best possible political system, that certainly doesn't mean I actually believe that. I reckon maybe the way to disseminate true democratic feelings is through the education system but this is slow-working and unlikely to create much self-serving argument re. the question of 'ethnics' before next year's election. Still maybe I should shut-up and try and think of better solutions.

So long as the Left persists in refusing to see existing problems it will be the Right who deal with those problems to our exclusion. To brand them racists, deservedly or otherwise is not good enough. We need to look at the problems where they exist, be mindful that racism is not an exclusively Anglo-Celtic phenomenon and fight it by contributing our own perspectives and solutions.

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