‘Aussie val­ues’ to en­sure sta­bil­ity

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - JOE KELLY

The Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs has warned the sta­bil­ity of lib­eral democ­ra­cies is un­der threat from new chal­lenges to so­cial cohesion, grow­ing for­eign in­ter­fer­ence and de­clin­ing public trust in in­sti­tu­tions.

It has made the case for a ro­bust re­sponse to pre­vent com­mu­nity dis­rup­tion and the rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion of vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als, ar­gu­ing that con­fi­dence in govern­ment is un­der­pinned by strong bor­ders, an or­derly mi­gra­tion pro­gram and a ro­bust model of cit­i­zen­ship.

A 27-page Home Af­fairs sub­mis­sion to a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry on na­tion­hood, na­tional iden­tity and democ­racy says mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism will be strength­ened if new ar­rivals adopt Aus­tralian val­ues, which in­clude learn­ing to speak­ing English, ob­tain­ing work, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the “so­cial and eco­nomic life of the na­tion” and achiev­ing com­pa­ra­ble liv­ing stan­dards, in ad­di­tion to main­tain­ing tra­di­tional cul­tural prac­tices.

The depart­ment, led by one of the na­tion’s most pow­er­ful bu­reau­crats, Mike Pez­zullo, has strongly pro­moted cit­i­zen­ship and shared val­ues as key el­e­ments in Aus­tralia’s suc­cess.

The sub­mis­sion, in­clud­ing sev­eral at­tach­ments, high­lights the Christchur­ch mas­sacre as an ex­am­ple of what hap­pens when so­cial cohesion breaks down and in­di­vid­u­als are rad­i­calised, and ar­gues it is a chal­lenge Aus­tralia must pre­pare for and re­spond to.

For­eign in­ter­fer­ence and ter­ror­ism are iden­ti­fied as ma­jor threats to Aus­tralia, and the depart­ment sounds the alarm on some states that are “as­sert­ing au­thor­i­tar­ian mod­els in op­po­si­tion to open, demo­cratic gov­er­nance”.

The depart­ment — which

‘Our na­tion is stronger when we have in­formed ci­ti­zens who un­der­stand their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties’

views one of its key mis­sions as up­hold­ing so­cial cohesion — says Aus­tralia takes an “in­te­grated ap­proach to mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism”.

“All mi­grants are strongly en­cour­aged to be­come fully in­te­grated mem­bers of our so­ci­ety, while also be­ing able to cel­e­brate, prac­tice and main­tain their cul­tural tra­di­tions within the law, free from dis­crim­i­na­tion,” it says.

“English lan­guage pro­fi­ciency is a key con­trib­u­tor to bet­ter em­ploy­ment and ed­u­ca­tional out­comes, so­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion levels, and helps pro­vide an over­all sense of be­long­ing to the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity.”

As of June 2016, over­seas-born peo­ple ac­counted for 28.5 per cent (6.9 mil­lion) of the pop­u­la­tion, and almost half the pop­u­la­tion were born over­seas or had at least one par­ent born over­seas. The depart­ment says there was no con­cept of a unique na­tional iden­tity at Fed­er­a­tion and it was “in­formed” by the cre­ation of Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship on Jan­uary 26, 1949, with the Na­tion­al­ity and Cit­i­zen­ship Act 1948.

“Our cit­i­zen­ship model has been cen­tral to Aus­tralia’s suc­cess in build­ing an open, pros­per­ous and united na­tion,” it says. “It rep­re­sents full and for­mal mem­ber­ship of the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity and par­tic­i­pa­tion in demo­cratic pro­cesses. It builds mu­tual obli­ga­tions be­tween govern­ment, the com­mu­nity and the in­di­vid­ual, and strength­ens our re­silience and sense of be­long­ing.”

It notes Aus­tralia has one of the OECD’s high­est rates of cit­i­zen­ship ac­qui­si­tion at more than 80 per cent. In 2018-19, 127,674 peo­ple from at least 200 dif­fer­ent coun­tries be­came Aus­tralian ci­ti­zens by con­fer­ral.

“The Aus­tralian com­mu­nity ex­pects that as­pir­ing ci­ti­zens demon­strate their al­le­giance to Aus­tralia, their com­mit­ment to live in ac­cor­dance with Aus­tralian val­ues, and their will­ing­ness and abil­ity to in­te­grate into and be­come con­tribut­ing mem­bers of the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity,” the sub­mis­sion says. “Our na­tion is stronger when we have in­formed ci­ti­zens who un­der­stand their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

The sub­mis­sion sounds the alarm on a range of new threats in­clud­ing the use of dig­i­tal plat­forms by ter­ror­ists to rad­i­calise the vul­ner­a­ble, the re­turn of for­eign fight­ers and grow­ing at­tempts by for­eign gov­ern­ments to in­flu­ence Aus­tralia’s sov­er­eign in­sti­tu­tions.

It warns that the con­nect­ed­ness em­pow­er­ing Aus­tralians also brings chal­lenges that “threaten to un­der­mine our so­cial cohesion.”

“Around the world, the sta­bil­ity of lib­eral democ­ra­cies is be­ing chal­lenged by groups who seek to in­ter­fere with demo­cratic pro­cesses, threaten so­cial cohesion and ex­ploit pros­per­ity, and by de­clin­ing public trust in demo­cratic pro­cesses,” it says. “Aus­tralia is not ex­empt from these global trends.

“Re­cent global events, such as the 2019 Christchur­ch ter­ror­ist at­tacks, have height­ened the need for Aus­tralia and in­ter­na­tional part­ners to be proac­tive in an­tic­i­pat­ing and re­spond­ing to emerg­ing chal­lenges.”

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