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Citizenship changes make a new enemy of the migrant

  • 24 April 2017


If I were applying for Australian citizenship today I would fail the test, since I don't subscribe to Australian values — at least those espoused by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (the inhumane treatment of refugees, the refusal to legalise gay marriage, the deviousness of dog whistle politics).

Our discord on what constitutes Australian values is irrelevant, of course, since I am the sort of migrant Turnbull would approve of: white, English-speaking, hard-working, law-abiding, adaptable and of Christian heritage.

But if we forget for a moment my skin colour, mother tongue and religious heritage, we are left with the attributes that the vast majority of migrants, by their very nature, possess: a willingness to work hard, to abide by their adopted country's laws and to adapt to their new circumstances.

It's these very characteristics that have helped to build Australia — a nation of migrants — into the powerhouse it is today. And it's those attributes we don't necessarily share — race, ethnicity, culture, language and religion — that have transmuted Australia from a country colonised by whites into a multicultural melange.

Australia has long had a successful migration program, and the country's economic success is proof of this. So when Turnbull calls a press conference to impart the news that 'membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be afforded to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia', he is making a redundant point. The vast majority of migrants and new citizens already do this.

Moreover, his newly announced citizenship test is not going to improve the calibre of migrants, for Australia already ensures its migrant intake is largely well-educated, skilled and experienced. Nor is it going to weed out those with nefarious tendencies — after all, who would admit in a citizenship test that they don't hold Australian values dear?

Of course the real purpose of this policy change is to reassure right wing voters that the government has the power to refuse citizenship to people feared by them: Muslims, refugees, Sudanese gang members.

But there's another sinister message implicit in this statement: migrants will be held to higher standards than Australian-born citizens. They must be skilled and fluent in English and willing to work on school P&Cs and other volunteer positions to prove their commitment to their new country.


"If migrants must submit to a citizenship test designed to