Proposed citizenship test simply a pathway to a new White Australia policy : 24/04/2017

Proposed citizenship test simply a pathway to a new White Australia policy – Ramesh Fernandez

The announcement of a new citizenship test by the Australian Government clearly discriminates against people coming from non-English speaking backgrounds. It is also a direct attack on refugee community groups. With this announcement, the government is saying “if you can’t speak English, go back to where you came from”.

This move also pushes people from vulnerable communities into deeper trouble, and leaves them in a state of limbo.

The existing citizenship test is already pointless, tricky and a big mess: it has made many refugees’ lives more traumatic and has decreased their mobility and safety. This is a strategy by the government to add more barriers to these people becoming citizens, clearly targeting people of colour with Hanson-style rhetoric.

When we talk about “Australian values”, have we forgotten that we live on occupied territory, and that refugees are permanently discriminated against? When the PM uses the phrase “Australian values”, he is unofficially re-introducing the White Australia policy, and continuing to undermine Indigenous sovereignty. There have been a number of refugees waiting on their citizenship test for over four years, as well as some who passed the test but were simply never invited for their citizenship ceremony.

Learning a new language is not something that happens overnight – especially for those from older generations who seek protection in Australia. This sort of anti-migrant rhetoric will add more layers to the trauma of refugees and asylum seekers who already come from persecuted backgrounds.

Saying you must speak English in order to become a citizen makes clear who you are prioritising as being worthy of becoming Australian citizens: white people and people privileged enough to have learned English. This violates one of the universal declarations of human rights that prohibits discrimination against people based on the language they speak.

Turnbull clearly takes cues from Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson – this is a direct attack on people of colour. We should not forget that the current government is trying to introduce a life-time ban on refugees coming by boat. This type of anti-migrant strategy no doubt will soon become a ban on Muslims coming and refugees settling here, similar to the US.

After British colonisation, migrants were brought to so-called Australia as indentured labour and like the Indigenous peoples of the land, many of them could not speak English or any other European language. It suited the white colonial strategy of that time. The same people, or others alike, now living in this society have suddenly become a problem for them.

Who is working in your restaurants? Who is doing the labour on your farms? Who runs your cafés? Who are your second generation migrant children working in your hospitals and law firms that were brought up by non–English speaking parents? Will you refuse their labour on the basis that they don’t speak English? Is it acceptable to exclude these people from society?

Furthermore, the Prime minister’s statement that the citizenship test would include questions on domestic violence trivialises a deep rooted problem that pervades through all communities in this country. You cannot eradicate domestic violence with multiple choice questions on a test. This area needs systemic change and funding. Conflation of the issue of domestic violence with a citizenship process that causes further exclusion of people of colour, is racist and completely deflects from the government’s own failure in eradicating domestic violence. According to our PM Malcolm Turnbull, domestic violence is an introduced species.

Australia wants to breed a white-only society under the guise of so called “multiculturalism” and it is clear that the strategy of our government is to limit and restrict people of colour in settling in Australia.