Thursday, 20 April 2017

Whose values?


Today Malcolm Turnbull announced changes to the process of obtaining Australian Citizenship, including a test meant to show an applicant is willing to adhere to ‘Australian Values’.


According to the Department of Immigration and Border Control website, current applicants for permanent and some temporary visas have to sign the following statement:


“I understand:

  • Australian society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good
  • Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background
  • the English language, as the national language, is an important unifying element of Australian society.

I undertake to respect these values of Australian society during my stay in Australia and to obey the laws of Australia.”



So why introduce a new, or additional, values test for those applying for citizenship?  Leaving aside the fact that neither the current values statements, nor the new additions, are uniquely Australian, what exactly is wrong with the set of statements we already have? I can think of only one reason for this announcement and these changes – to pander to the far-right and the media focus on Pauline Hanson and those with similar views.



Rather than let the far-right determine the agenda and force policy, the government should examine its own values and see if they are up to their own standards.  Let’s start with the three values statements above:



If Australian society values ‘the equality of men and women’, why is the nationwide gender pay gap for full time workers 16% according to the government’s own statistics?
Gender Pay Gap
 
If Australian society values ‘a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good’, then how can 48 millionaires pay no tax – tax that funds education, healthcare, infrastructure, welfare – i.e. the public good?
Millionaires Who Don't Pay Tax
 
If Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals regardless of ethnic background, why are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia not recognized in the country’s constitution?
Recognise
 
Why is English the only recognized language of Australia when there are more than 120 indigenous Australian languages still spoken of the more than 250 that were here at the time of European settlement? Why aren’t these languages part of our national identity, properly valued and protected and taught at school?
Indigenous Australian Languages


Perhaps this government should look at its own values and ask itself what it is doing to ensure we live in a truly egalitarian society that celebrates all Australians and their cultures?



And for the record

·      No, it is not ok to beat your spouse under any circumstances

·      No, it is not ok to support or take part in terrorist activities

·      No, it is not ok to mutilate female genitals under any circumstances

·      No, it is not ok to force a minor into marriage



There are laws to enforce these things and all Australians have to obey the law – immigrant or not.



But



·      Yes, it is ok to stand up to bigotry, misogyny and racism

·      Yes, it is ok to show compassion to refugees and those who are under threat of violence or discrimination of any kind

·      Yes, it is ok to clamp down on tax avoidance, both by individuals and large multi-national corporations and ensure we all pay our fair share

·      Yes, it is ok to show proper respect to the original peoples of Australia as well as to the myriad of cultural groups that make up our modern country.



So, Prime Minister – stop your popularist grandstanding and do something more constructive instead.  Perhaps start by funding better education for all Australians about the real issues.



Mark O’Neil

Proud Australian citizen since 2013




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