Dear Minister Dutton, I write to you today as an Australian who came to this country over forty-two years ago. I came here as part of a family migration process. My father was a school teacher at a few state schools in Perth finally retiring (due to ill health) from Mirrabooka Senior High School (a school at that time having a lower than the average socio economic status indicator). My mother continues to be active in the community and is a massive contributor in many ways. My siblings are all very well qualified and in many different ways social justice advocates as well as highly credentialed in their respective professions. And all our partners (where applicable) are people who contribute extensively in so many ways to Australian society.
Yet if we had applied for citizenship today, (if you had managed to get the Australian Citizenship changes in place through the senate) we would have been subject to the following:
· A four year wait for citizenship qualification
· A citizenship test
· Signing of a commitment to “Australian” values
· An IELTS (English comprehension) test that required us to have levels of English that you require for higher education places in our Universities.
Let me go to the last requirement above. Our family was coming here from Brunei and India. And we are of Indian origin. Were we from the UK, the USA, or New Zealand and spoke English as a first language we would not have to sit the IELTS test. In other words, if we were White, Anglo Celtic and citizens of those places listed above; there would be no requirement for us to pass an IELTS test.
I am unsure of whether you are aware of how the White Australia policy was implemented in this country. I am doing you the courtesy of not calling you a racist. I will however call your actions in this respect, entirely racist. This requirement in respect of the IELTS test is blatantly and clearly a regression to the White Australia policy days of your forebears. It is simply changing our migration patterns that have evolved recently to one that goes back to the days of the invasion of Aboriginal Australia. It is simply and clearly an attempt by you and your party to ensure that White Australia will become again an aspiration for you.
The other aspects of these changes to the Citizenship policies are equally repugnant. The four year wait does not seem to have any basis in reality. The decisions to allow a person to enter the country and be subjected to character tests have been already been undertaken. If you argue that this is a security measure then that is a laughable proposition. Surely this security assessment should have been undertaken four years before when you assessed that persons’ migration application. Why do we now subject these same people to a waiting period of four years? During this period these people on waiting lists will not be able to vote, something I would have thought would be an important consideration, giving the parlous state of the polls in so far as your party is concerned!
Your desire to subject these migrants to commit to “Australian” values was something that one of your predecessors, Andrew Robb, discussed with me in a private conversation. The “Australian” values that he advocated to me were as follows:
· Respect for Australian law
· Respect for the equality of the status of women
· Respect for democracy
I responded to him as follows:
· Why are you assuming that someone wanting to be a citizen (after having lived here for four years) does not have any respect for Australian law?
· I agree that the status of women is problematic in many places. And I certainly do not believe that we, in Australia, have any reason to be proud of our standing in so many measures of this issue. We have a very high level of domestic and family violence, we have an inordinately low level of representation of women in many areas of government, business, education and society generally. So how have we become the moral police for this?
· Some of us come from democracies that are long standing, successful and in some cases the originators of the concept. So again, why are you being so arrogant as to assume that we, in Australia are somehow the standard bearers for the policies of democracy?
I finally take this opportunity to congratulate all of those people in parliament who opposed your bill. (http://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/hindi/en/article/2017/10/18/migrants-rejoice-citizenship-bill-struck-down) I urge you to now bury the bill and leave the Australian Citizenship Act as it was. I will forward this letter to all the other parliamentarians on your side to urge them to do the same.