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citizenship test « Previous | |Next »
September 21, 2006

The cartoonists have had a field day with all the political talk about Australian (common) values, formal citizenship tests and immigration, and they have been busy highlighting drinking , eating meat pies and playing cricket as Australian values and the politics buried in what Australian values mean.

Australianvalues.jpg
Bill Leak

Australian values is mentioned in the new citizenship test proposed in the discussion paper, Australian Citizenship: much more than a ceremony, issued this week by Andrew Robb, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. It says:

A key question, which arises in the context of a test for citizenship, is whether a prospective citizen should be required to demonstrate not only that they understand the details of Australian life identified in a citizenship test, but also whether they are willing to commit to and uphold Australian values and to fully participate in Australian life? What should the form of such a commitment be?

That places what is meant by Australian values centre stage doesn't it, especially when it is politically contested (assimilation versus cultural diversity). If we require that migrants respect and share 'our' values we must agree on what those values are. Egalitarianism, the fair go, and the rights of workers are more than the macho interpretation of the socially conservative NSW Right who still hanker for the White Australia Policy.

As John Warhurst points out in the Canberra Times:

While this week's discussion paper emphasises common [Australian] values ad nauseam, Australians actually disagree about many things. That is healthy. In fact, the right to disagree with each other and with our governments is central to our democracy. The preamble to the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, quoted in the discussion paper, does a much better job. In 1948, Australian citizenship is described as "a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, uniting all Australians, while respecting their diversity". Why not leave it at that?

Though that 1948 preamble also looks to be pretty good to me, Australian values are the new battlefield, in the runup to the next federal election.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:04 AM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (2)
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Comments

Comments

Another benefit for the parties of fighting over values is that no policy has to be laid out. It is small target politics, where neither party can be criticised for crap policy or performance.

Cam,
well you have to say how you will make sure that migrants will adhere to Australian values--eg., a citizenship test. But you are right that is small target politics.

It is the dog whistle around the test---we need more integration and less multiclturalism ---that gives the big payback.