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Citizenship: Let's Test Those Values

In a year which has begun after the foiling of a Christmas terrorist plot in Melbourne and with the horrifying news of an Islamic State-backed massacre in a nightclub in Istanbul, it is both right and responsible for Australia to question and discuss the objectives of its citizenship test.

As Immigration Minister Peter Dutton pointed out as 2017 got underway, we have entered a “new age” of terrorist attacks, and should be vigilant about weeding out the minority of people that might act to “harm us or seek to rip us off.”

Dutton is proposing that the Australian government should take a low-cost, sensible and precautionary step to help ensure that the people who are allowed to take up citizenship in our so-far safe, free and egalitarian nation genuinely share the values of the vast majority.

The minister has made the point that in many cases, particularly when people are coming from the Middle East, country of origin records are unreliable and we must rely on the word of the individual. That means we must be more careful about our questioning, and we certainly should demand a higher level of evidence to support people’s assertions about their behavior. That evidence should be sought, as much as possible, prior to arrival. There is no acceptable excuse for it not to be gathered in the period after applicants begin living in Australia.

As Dutton rightly queries, is asking whether or not a person knows Don Bradman's batting average a true test of whether he or she is likely to share the societal principles that make Australia so successful?

“My view is that we need to look in some more detail at some of the tangible examples of people's behaviour,” he told 2GB radio on January 3. “And I think people can demonstrate the sorts of things that we're talking about which make up their Australian values.”

Dutton is suggesting the more pertinent questions are along the lines of: will people allow their kids to be educated; are they undertaking English language lessons; are they working, if able-bodied?

His position is entirely reasonable and hardly likely to the raise eyebrows of Joe Public, and certainly not of the immigrants and their families who are prospering in a new life here.

The Australian government has a clear responsibility to do whatever is in its power to ensure that those who are granted citizenship are not past, present or likely future lawbreakers. And it has a moral obligation to those who already live here that new arrivals will not be a drain on the public purse.

Changing our citizenship test as Dutton suggests would threaten only those who it seeks to identify: people who want to come here with a view to damaging or exploiting Australia’s way of life.

It is not a measure that might, as suggested by Migration Council Australia chief executive Carla Wilshire to the Sydney Morning Herald, “demonise migrants.”

It is, just like the Abbott government’s prosecution of the highly successful Operation Sovereign Borders, simply a modern echo of former Prime Minister John Howard’s 2001 assertion that Australia has “a proud record of welcoming people from 140 different nations. But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come."

And in the new age, that’s the right approach and one which deserves strong bi-partisan support.

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  • Guest
    Michael Arch Wednesday, 11 January 2017

    It is a very lucky thing for me that there was no citizenship test when I applied and no questions about Don Bradman's batting average (or anything else relating to cricket, rugby or any other Australian sport or I would have flunked for sure and would have been kicked out!

  • Guest
    Wei Friday, 13 January 2017

    That is why the Australia Government introduced the test ensure the right people are accepted rather than someone got into the community because of a luck.:p

  • Guest
    Ben Scheelings Thursday, 12 January 2017

    No you wouldn't, as a permanent resident you have the right NOT to be kicked out. As a matter of fact, getting Australian citizenship is not what it is cracked up to be. You do not have the right NOT to vote, you could be drafted into the military services against your will, furthermore expecting consular help when in trouble overseas you can forget about it. Think of those poor buggers in jail in China. Now if they were USA citizens it would be a different story. Of course you could run the risk of being deported if found guilty of a serious offence but that would be a self-inflicted injury and good riddance

  • Guest
    Michael Morrisroe Thursday, 12 January 2017

    I agree with Michael Arch.
    Of course, there is the possibility that the department may make the exam retroactive to existing non-birthright citizens and force you to bone up on all that data and folklore. I for one am getting on to Wikipedia to nail down some of the finer points.

  • Guest
    Nimrod Thursday, 12 January 2017

    Ben
    http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Citi/Lear/Law-and-policy/revocation
    Even your citizenship in Australia can be revoked so there is no 'RIGHT' NOT to be kicked out as a mere Permanent Resident. There are plenty of ways permanent residents can be kicked out. Not meeting the RRV requirements is one of those. Plenty of others ways too.
    What do you mean people have a right not to be kicked out?
    Your views are interesting.

  • Guest
    Ben Scheelings Thursday, 12 January 2017

    Nimrod, disagree. As long one keeps his/her nose clean and remain within the rules there will be no Kick Out. You are scaremongering, typical lawyer. I obtained citizenship in the early sixties because the authorities, after granting me a scholarship, realised I was not an Aussie. A quick march to the office and the matter was settled with citizenship granted (but not asked for). My older brother remains a Dutch citizen and has never looked back nor been kicked out and enjoyed the benefit of being allowed to work in Europe for periods. By the way, his children have dual citizenship while my children don't. One could argue that my holding Australian Citizenship did ensure my employ on an Australian Diplomatic passport at various overseas embassies and High Commissions, however, the question remains, what are the real measureable benefits of holding an Australian passport. I presume you know that PR visa holders from a number of countries (e.g Indonesia) are compelled to sell their overseas properties if they become Australian citizens?

  • Guest
    Nimrod Thursday, 12 January 2017

    Ben
    Well, yes, you are exactly the type of citizen Australia wants. You obviously keep your nose clean and remain within the rules. I think the article that Liana wrote about refers to people who are not like you or your family, and who come to Australia and disregard our laws and values and exploit our country in one way or another. There's always the criminals who end up getting removed and then even if they don't the Minister can still remove them using his discretion. Then there is the Crimes Act, the Terrorism Act and the Citizenship Act and how all three act in concert to remove certain persons from Australia and strip them of their citizenship. PR is much easier to remove than Citizenship if you are a 'baddy'.

  • Guest
    Sharon H Friday, 13 January 2017

    Ben
    You aren't a violent extremist. You are a white European no doubt, from a country which hasn't been bombed and at war. You also say you were a diplomat. Seriously you are not who the government are trying to prevent from being an Australian. Bit different I think.

  • Guest
    Ben Scheelings Friday, 13 January 2017

    Sharon, brush up on your history. The Netherlands did not fare well during the German invasion WWII. I clearly remember as a young boy seeing swarms of planes flying over, V1 and VIIs in flight and hoping they would continue on their way, going through the ruins of bombed houses looking for unspent shells (they make great toys if you manage to pull the top off and use the inside spaghetti-like stuff to burn - little did we know) while father was taken as a POW to Germany. Give me a break. But back to the issue, an Australian passport is useful for travel unhindered but otherwise there are minimal benefits.

  • Guest
    Nimrod Friday, 13 January 2017

    Ben
    The world has changed a LOT since the 1960s and The Netherlands has NEVER been a problem nation for Australia, nor have its citizens been deemed violent extremists or fought against the interests of Australia. Obviously your childhood was much the same as many others across Europe, including Germans, in particular those who lived in Cologne, and Dresden who's entire families were bombed and burned in flames. Like the air force bombers from England, Australia and Canada who got blown out of the sky in WWII. Lots of those families and their offspring are now Australian citizens. Some of them are even grandchildren of Australians who fought in world wars. Let's try and put this in a modern day context. In the year 2017, Australia's DFAT releases travel warning by country. You would be aware of those travel warnings. You will be aware that countries of the highest risk tend to be those which are currently engaged in war AGAINST the allied forces.

    Countries where security checks by ASIO are long and drawn out. Countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Sudan.

    The situation when you got your Australian citizenship and the world you lived in back then, is a vastly different geopolitical landscape than the world we live in today. The article that has been written by Liana is about today's citizenship test in the context of the world we live in right now. Old rules and old tests are long gone.

    The new citizenship test is suitable for today.

  • Christopher Levingston
    Christopher Levingston Sunday, 15 January 2017

    Here is the transcript of what Dutton says....

    http://www.minister.border.gov.au/peterdutton/Pages/interview-with-michael-mcLaren-radio-2GB-4BC-03012017.aspx

    I am of the view that Dutton is simply articulating an entirely unobjectionable proposition that Australian Citizens should be of good character.

    However, it is light on detail and my specific concern is that what is said in public ( transcript) ends up being expressed by DIBP in the Australian Citizenship instructions as something more rigorous which can lead to the default position of DIBP to refuse citizenship having regard, for example, to driving offences like speeding etc...

    I don't condone bad driving but is it indicative of a person's " enduring moral qualities" (Irvings case) of a gravity sufficient to enlivening a refusal of citizenship on "character" grounds.

    If the aim of Citizenship is to crystallise inclusion into the corpus of Australian society by promoting adherence to "Australian values", then we need a clear statement as to what those values are and discussion as to what the expectations are of the wider Australian Community.
    This can not be driven, in my opinion, by fear of terrorism. Assuming that each permanent resident has already been found to be of good character and absent a "substantial criminal record" then the presumption should be in favour of a grant of citizenship so that the act of acquiring citizenship drives the impulse towards inclusion.

    The wanton and capricious refusal of citizenship only drives a wedge between the individual and the wider Australian community and undermines confidence in the integrity of the whole migration program.

    There is simply no credible evidence that Australian values are being undermined by the grant of citizenship to persons who come from a different cultural background or have different expectations.

    It is about time we have a 'conversation' about what it means to be an Australian.

    I am of the opinion that a person who comes to Australia and is granted PR and who does not engage in criminal conduct leading to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or greater should be encouraged to become citizens.

    The key to all of this is tolerance, harmony and the rule of law. Nothing is more destructive of Australian values than intolerance, disunity and the marginalisation of whole communities based on a fear of their "values".

    If they are not breaking the law and they are holding down a job and meeting their obligations to pay taxes and otherwise contributing, what is the problem?

  • Guest
    LAWYER - DPP Monday, 16 January 2017

    Christopher
    I find your response minimises and seeks to trivialise a very real issue: TERRORISM
    I want to address your points one by one, as I think you see the individuals too much like 'victims' of the system, rather than who they can be, 'criminals, persons of unsound character, or terrorists'.

    1. I don't condone bad driving but is it indicative of a person's " enduring moral qualities" (Irvings case) of a gravity sufficient to enlivening a refusal of citizenship on "character" grounds.

    HOWEVER, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT A PERSON DOES NOT RACK UP A HOST OF DRIVING OFFENCES SO THAT THEY ARE NOT DEEMED OF GOOD CHARACTER. CONSISTENTLY BREAKING THE LAW AND SHOWING NO REGARD FOR AUSTRALIAN ROAD LAWS, DESPITE BEING CHARGED OVER AND OVER AGAIN, MEANS A PERSON IS OF BAD CHARACTER.

    2. This can not be driven, in my opinion, by fear of terrorism. Assuming that each permanent resident has already been found to be of good character and absent a "substantial criminal record" then the presumption should be in favour of a grant of citizenship so that the act of acquiring citizenship drives the impulse towards inclusion.

    IT CANNOT BE THE CASE THAT THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT KNOWS OF EACH TERRORIST OR PERSON LINKED TO A TERROR ORGANISATION THE MINUTE THEY ARRIVE HERE. PEOPLE COMMIT CRIMES AND BECOME FOREIGN FIGHTERS EVEN WHEN THEY HAVE BECOME CITIZENS. I AM NOT SURE IF YOU ARE ACROSS THE COUNTER-TERROR LAWS IN THIS COUNTRY, BUT IT SEEMS YOU ARE NOT. PEOPLE CAN BE PREVENTED FROM OBTAINING CITIZENSHIP IN 2017 FOR MORE THAN JUST STUFF UNDER THE CRIMES ACT. THERE'S THE MIGRATION ACT. THERE'S THE TERRORISM ACT NOW TOO. NONE OF IT CAN BE BREACHED. TO LIMIT IT TO JUST THE CRIMES ACT SUITS YOUR NARRATIVE BUT IS FACTUALLY INCORRECT, IN LAW.

    THERE IS NOTHING LAWFUL ABOUT PREVENTING CITIZENSHIP BECAUSE OF FEAR OF TERRORISM. IT HAS TO FIT WITHIN THE ACT. THE DEFINITION. HAVE YOU READ IT? I THOUGHT YOU WORKED AS A LECTURER FOR LTA. THEY HAVE A PAPER ON IT IN THEIR E-LEARNING SECTION. READ IT. THAT'S THE LAW.

    3. The wanton and capricious refusal of citizenship only drives a wedge between the individual and the wider Australian community and undermines confidence in the integrity of the whole migration program.

    THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A SINGLE CASE OF THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT WANTONLY AND CAPRICIOUSLY REFUSING CITIZENSHIP. YOUR WORDS LEND THE READER TO BELIEVE THAT THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENS. PEOPLE RELY ON YOUR WORDS BECAUSE OF YOUR POSITION AND EXPERIENCE, CHRISTOPHER. AUSTRALIANS NEED THE GOVERNMENT TO DRIVE A WEDGE BETWEEN CRIMINALS AND TERRORISTS. AUSTRALIANS EXPECT THE GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT THE WIDER COMMUNITY FROM THE HARMS THAT ONE INDIVIDUAL COULD BRING.

    4. There is simply no credible evidence that Australian values are being undermined by the grant of citizenship to persons who come from a different cultural background or have different expectations.

    THAT'S BECAUSE THOSE PERSONS FROM CERTAIN CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS, AND WHO HAVE CERTAIN BELIEF SYSTEMS, OR WHO HAVE FOUGHT AGAINST THE ALLIED FORCES ARE PREVENTED FROM BECOMING CITIZENS. THEY DON'T GET TO BECOME CITIZENS IN THE FIRST PLACE! THEY DON'T PASS THE SECURITY AND ASIO CHECKS. THIS IS NOT ABOUT PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES. THIS IS ABOUT CRIMINALS, TERRORISTS AND THOSE WITH LINKS TO TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS. AGAIN, YOU SEEK TO MINIMISE TO SUIT YOUR NARRATIVE.

    5. I am of the opinion that a person who comes to Australia and is granted PR and who does not engage in criminal conduct leading to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or greater should be encouraged to become citizens.

    NOT IF THEY ARE TERRORISTS OR HAVE LINKS WITH TERROR ORGANISATIONS, OR INCITE HATRED.

    6. The key to all of this is tolerance, harmony and the rule of law. Nothing is more destructive of Australian values than intolerance, disunity and the marginalisation of whole communities based on a fear of their "values".

    AUSTRALIANS DO NOT NEED TO BE TOLERANT OF CRIMINALS AND TERRORISTS. THE RULE OF LAW APPLIES TO CRIMES ACT AND TERRORISM ACT. NOTHING IS MORE DESTRUCTIVE OF AUSTRALIAN VALUES THAN PEOPLE LIKE MAN MONIS WHO WE WERE 'TOLERANT' WITH AND WHO WE SOUGHT NOT TO MARGINALISE. NOW, WE SEEK TO HAVE THESE TYPES TRIED UNDER LAW AND PROSECUTED FOR BREACHING OUR LAWS. THE AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY HAS A RIGHT TO BE PROTECTED. THIS IS NOT ABOUT VALUE SYSTEMS OR BELIEFS, UNLESS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT SHARIA LAW, WHICH IS BANNED. THIS IS ABOUT BREAKING OUR LAWS. FOR YOU TO MAKE IT SEEM LIKE THIS IS ABOUT VALUES MAKES ME THINK THAT YOU ARE ARGUING ABOUT SENTIMENT V ARGUING ABOUT FACT OF LAW.

    7. If they are not breaking the law and they are holding down a job and meeting their obligations to pay taxes and otherwise contributing, what is the problem?

    NOTHING!

  • Guest
    Logan Harvey Monday, 16 January 2017

    If you were really a lawyer from the DPP you sound like an angry middle aged white man who is really trying to say, " Muslims should not apply for citizenship" - your a moron

  • Christopher Levingston
    Christopher Levingston Tuesday, 17 January 2017

    Dear "DPP",

    It is good to know that someone purporting to speak on behalf of the DPP ( State or Federal) is able to articulate the view that TERRORISM is at the heart of the comments of the Minister.

    If you would care to read carefully what I said I did not minimise the impact of terrorism as it follows, by reference to the criminal law of Australia, ( this includes specific anti terrorism legislation) that persons who engage in the relevant conduct will fall foul of the law and be exposed to the visa cancellation regime. Similarly an individual who has concealed their affiliation with various proscribed organisations will face the cancellation regime under section 107/109.

    The law has every base covered which begs the question as to why we need more laws to cover off on this. The character provisions under the Citizenship Act are so wide as to capture almost anything and certainly capture an adverse intelligence assessment by ASIO and other organisations.

    This begs the question as to what the Minister was talking about. Was he foreshadowing even more laws to deal with "terror"? Perhaps so.

    Was he foreshadowing a regime where second generation no hopers who involve themselves in foreign wars will have their citizenship cancelled...I don't know.

    Can he tell us all what the phrase " Australia values" mean?

    As far as I am concerned this interview was far from a call to arms, it was the usual wishy washy drivel that we have come to expect from all sides of Australian politics.

    We are the ones who allow our politicians to show a lack of vision and to be lazy and foolish. There is simply no leadership shown by either side of politics and the fact that both parties are beholden to factional interests who claim to speak for " the silent majority" can, in my view only result in an unholy alliance between the forces on the far right from the usual states who bang on about the halalification of Australia, foreigners taking our jobs etc...

    It is about time that politicians were called to account and the factional warlords put in their place. We have as much to fear from the "Christian Taliban" of the rat bag right of the Liberal party who dumb down the debate as we do from the criminal gangs that dominate some unions and all of the other rat bags combined.

    This conversation about "Australian values" is a distraction calculated to have all look in the wrong direction from a Minister and a Government who are so scared of the rise of the parties who claim to represent the "silent majority", they will do anything to appease them
    (the parties).

    How about a bit of real leadership; stand up for something, stand up for anything for all of our sakes.

    By the way, Mr DPP is the evil dwarf revenant. The strident tone and expression is unmistakable. He is one of the Christian Taliban.

    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

  • Migration Alliance
    Migration Alliance Tuesday, 17 January 2017

    Here's the latest scoop. Last paragraph of the article:
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/stopping-terror-at-the-border/news-story/25b115359c1381bbb4e2f5ef2f6e9ecb
    That basically tells us all where things are at.

  • Guest
    Agent 101 Tuesday, 17 January 2017

    http://migrationalliance.com.au/immigration-daily-news/entry/2017-01-another-case-shows-how-hard-it-is-to-fight.html Michael Arch has just released this blog which shows how easy it is to lose your right to remain.

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