Australia’s Citizenship and Multicultural Minister discusses values test for foreigners seeking permanent residence

by Ray Clancy on July 24, 2018

in Australia Immigration

People moving to live and work in Australia are almost always successful, often more so than those born in the country but the Government is still considering introducing some kind of ‘values’ test.

Australia already requires newcomers to sign a values statement but Citizenship and Multicultural Minister Alan Tudge says in a speech at the Australia/UK leadership forum in London that may not be enough.

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‘We place an emphasis on Australian values as the glue that holds the nation together. We do this through requiring people to sign a values statement before coming into Australia, satisfy a citizenship test and pledge allegiance before becoming a citizen. The weakness of this, however, is that we presently have few mechanisms to assess people against their signed statement.’

While Tudge said Australia values multiculturalism over assimilation, there are times where this can create conflicts. ‘In Australia, this is built into our multicultural policy and what has made our multiculturalism successful to date. Our model is integrated multiculturalism. It is not an assimilationist model, where people must leave their heritage behind. We don’t want or expect that, but of course where there are conflicts in cultural behaviours, Australian law and values must prevail.’

Tudge said that newcomers succeed on almost every level: in employment, education, business creation, and home ownership. On nearly every indicator, they are achieving at the same rate if not better than the home born.

New figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics back up his claim, indicating that skilled immigration is indeed boosting the economy with many new arrivals being professionals working in growth sectors in middle management roles.

The data on permanent migrants arriving in Australia between January 2000 and August 2016 reveals most of them are buying or own a home, more were born in India than anywhere else, and business, human resources or marketing professional was their most common job.

According to Mary Patetsos, chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, owning or buying a home shows their determination to be part of Australian society. ‘It’s an illustration of how migrants’ hard work and ambition delivers economic growth, nation-building and social cohesion to our country,’ she said.

But Tudge believes that for Australia to keep this level of standards some kind of test is needed for those considering permanent residency.

‘For decades now, Australia has welcomed people from around the world and we have largely maintained social harmony in the process. People mix reasonably well and most Australians enjoy the cultural richness that comes from a diverse population,’ Tudge said.

He explained that there are challenges relating to ethnic segregation and liberal values. Along with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, he backs the idea of a test to make sure permanent residents have the right mind set to integrate into Australian society and culture.

‘We are the most successful multicultural societies in the world. One of the reasons we are is because we put an enormous amount of effort, in Australia, into integration, into ensuring that our form of multiculturalism is one where we can all benefit from the diversity of cultural and religious and ethnic backgrounds that Australians have,’ Tudge pointed out.

‘This is a country where 28% of Australians were born outside of Australia, over half have a parent born outside of Australia and we live together in harmony because of the values we share and those Australian values, of democracy, freedom, the rule of law, respect for women, equality between men and women,’ he explained.

‘Addressing small challenges now with modest incremental policy is far preferable to having to introduce dramatic initiatives down the track. If we want Australia to continue its multicultural success, we must take active steps now to ensure that social cohesion remains strong,’ he added.

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