Under the White Australia policy, non-European immigration was restricted by a fifty-word dictation test almost impossible to pass. The proposed increased English language requirement for Australian citizenship outlined by Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton echoes this and is grossly unfair. It mandates a higher than university level of writing, reading, speaking and understanding, and is a much higher standard than requirements in the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. It will disproportionately affect refugees and effectively bar a substantial number of permanent residents from ever becoming citizens, meaning they won’t be able to vote, get a passport or stand for public office. Please sign the petition protesting this and share it with your networks.
Other problems with the Turnbull Government’s proposal to make citizenship harder to obtain include longer waiting periods and a crude emphasis on values in the citizenship test. As Melbourne University Professor Ghassan Hage told SBS, Turnbull claiming that values such as “freedom, equality of men and women, mutual respect, the rule of law, democracy, a fair go” are uniquely Australian, has a racist subtext which insinuates Australians have superior moral standards lacking in foreigners. This differentiation is accentuated by the inclusion of questions about domestic violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage, issues which are often mistakenly associated with Islam, despite them occurring across a range of religions.
Turnbull’s emphasis on values is not new. In 1923, Myra Willard, defending the White Australia Policy, wrote, “The union of a people depends on common loyalty to common ideals … to preserve the unity of their national life, a people can admit emigrants from alien races only if within a reasonable time they show a willingness and a capacity to amalgamate ideally as well as racially with them.”