My weekly Op Ed column for the Daily Advertiser: Has Turnbull forfeited what was left of his political integrity?
Last week saw some really worrying news as PM Turnbull & Co seemed to decide that if they couldn’t beat the likes of One Nation, Australia First and Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, they would join them by tightening up citizenship requirements and the 457 visa scheme. Indeed, one of the first reactions I saw was Pauline Hanson congratulating the PM for doing as she had told him to do!
Or was Mr Turnbull simply trying to head off the relentless sniping aimed at him by Tony Abbott?
Nick McKim, Greens Senator for Tasmania, whose portfolios include Immigration and Citizenship, appropriately commented that “Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull’s rolling citizenship announcements are a transparently desperate attempt to win back votes from Pauline Hanson and appease the far right of the Liberal Party”.
“We should be bringing people together, not dividing them through patronising citizenship tests and unnecessary waits for permanent residency and citizenship.
“The real problem here is that Peter Dutton’s values are not mainstream Australian values ” he said.
Journalist Michelle Grattan, writing in the Guardian Australia noted that “Malcolm Turnbull’s sudden elevation of “Australian values” raises questions about the Prime Minister’s own values. In particular, has he once again forfeited his political integrity?”
Given all the above, it’s worth looking a little more closely at last week’s targeting of foreign skilled workers and the new citizenship requirements, as they indicate a desperate effort to tap into community concerns and insecurities.
Many of the questions are at least superficially fair enough, though I can’t for the life of me figure out how they prevent problems such as ethnic crime gangs, or terrorism, two of the issues apparently they are designed to redress, as such crimes are perpetrated by native born Australians.
However, what I’d really like to address is what, by looking more closely at the proposed new citizenship test questions, seem designed to target one particular group of migrants. A demographic that incidentally Malcolm Turnbull until recently praised to the skies for their valuable contribution to Australian society. This process is known as ‘racial profiling’, which will no doubt delight the fans of Pauline Hanson, and so it goes by the name of ‘dog whistle’ politics.
The questions I am referring to are those that revealed the true intention of the government when it provided to the media four “sample” questions, though to be fair, it did say they were not necessarily the ones that would be in the test, and there will be some weeks of public consultation.
The “samples” were: “(1) Does Australia’s principle of freedom of religion mean that in some situations it is permissible to force children to marry? (2) In Australia’s multicultural society, under which circumstances is it permissible to cut female genitals? (3) While it is illegal to use violence in public under what circumstances can you strike your spouse in the privacy of your home? (4) Under what circumstances is it appropriate to prohibit girls from education?”
Are these questions not blatantly racist, and don’t they so obviously target migrants from Muslim countries?
Perhaps these questions are a more subtle way of weeding out immigrants the ‘white bread’ society objects to than are Donald Trump’s crude wholesale attempts to ban citizens from a select group of Muslim majority countries, but if so, only just.
Messrs Turnbull and Dutton also need reminding that many migrants to Australia are fleeing countries because such barbarities may be practiced there, and so have no intention of replicating them here.