Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wedge issue hardly a fair go

When all else fails play the racist/xenophobia card. Here is another sign that Australia’s Howard government is feeling the pressure.

“Aspiring Australian citizens will have to demonstrate an understanding of English and pass a test on Australian history, culture and values, possibly including the concepts of mateship and a "fair go", under legislation to go before Federal Parliament in February.

” Announcing the decision, Prime Minister John Howard said there was "very strong" community support for the test.” Citizen test stirs Lib rebels SMH

This comes on top of the news that ‘lowest common denominator’ candidate, Pauline Hanson is preparing to have another try for parliament. Hanson has proved to be just a little dull, but there is always someone ready to manipulate here populist rantings.

She represents the knee jerk constituency, those ever ready to blame to country’s ills on the most vulnerable members of society. Although Howard’s Liberals disendorsed her prior to her only previous win Howard himself was quick to capitalise on the discontent she stirred up.

So Howard is at it again, seeking to change the focus from issues like Iraq back to fear of our neighbours. But Howard doesn’t have a clear run on this one, as already there is dissent in his own party.

What Potential Citizens Could Be Asked

The test will be 30 multiple-choice questions drawn from up to 200 possible questions, with subjects including:

■ Core civic values and responsibilities of citizenship.

■ Australian settlement and reconciliation with indigenous Australians.

Australia's system of government, including the three elements of federal Parliament: the Queen and her representative, the Governor-General; the House of Representatives and the Senate.

■ How laws are made and administered and the rights of citizens.

Most Australians could not answer those questions, it is sheer social manipulation to enforce the criteria on aspirant Australians.

It is also cynical, as the Howard government has sought to create its own version of question two. The reconciliation with indigenous Australians remains a sore point in this country, so whose version of history would serve in this proposed test?

But among those ‘cove civic values’ are notions such as ‘mateship’ and ‘a fair go’, terms Howard himself trots out when they suit his purpose. They are subjective terms, of course, but then much of the proposed citizenship test is subjective dependent again on whose version.

Surely the only objective measure of an aspiring citizens ‘value’ is their own history of behaviour in the country. Surely if candidates have spent their qualifying period in the country with a demonstrated contribution at least equal the average Australian, they have lived within the law and not demonstrated anti-social tendencies they have already passed the test.

Within the country’s legal framework there is ample room to expel potential candidates well before the question of citizenship even arises.

A fair go would accept that an aspirant should be no worse, or indeed better, than the average existing citizen. Imposing a nonsense test does nothing to prove an aspirants value, it is just one more cynical political wedge issue. Let’s get down to the real issues and leave racism out of it.


Anonymous said...

Aspiring Australian citizens will have to demonstrate an understanding of English...

(Oh such a set up! Never let it be said that I let an opportunity for snark go by...)

So that's what you call that language you speak! ;-)

(OK...I'm done now. Back to reality.)

God's teeth! Having to know even a fraction the issues surrounding the indegenous Australians, and then having to deal with the subjective interpretation of whatever government is in power, could keep anyone out of the country! So Mr. Howard is trying to just stop immigration cold turkey, I take it?

(BTW, sorry for the unconventional method of posting. Blogger is preventing is "non-beta" people from posting on beta blogs with our normal logins.)

Cartledge said...

The language issue isn't as bad as it once was. In the 'bad old days' that we are trying so hard to recreate there was no language specified, simply the need to be able to communicate in 'it'. So if the immigration officer didn't like the applicant he could demand Urdu or any other obscure tongue.
I don't thin Howard is trying to stop immigration as much as create a good knee jerk election issue.
Sorry about the beta, it was a bad choice.

Anonymous said...

I can't remember what country it is (UAE?) or the specific amount, but one country out there (at least) says, "Hey, if you have $10 million in the bank, we will sign you up!"

I don't think learning the language is an unfair requirement. Other than that, show financial security or at least a willingness to work and the lack of a serious criminal record and that should be plenty.

It is me, PT. Switch back!!!!!

Cartledge said...

PT, as I understand it, the cash will buy residency in most countries, including the US.
Citizenship is another issue. In fact, broken down it all becomes an emotional argument rather than essential.
It is a difference between living in a country and being a full voting member if you like.
But what fascinates me is how immigrants easily take on the imperatives of a chosen country. Just look at Canada, the US ans Aust, with essentially the same immigrant base but vastly different national characters. I still believe it is nothing more than a political ploy.