ICYMI: Australia lifts permanent immigration by 35,000 to 195,000

Of note:

The Australian government announced on Friday it will increase its permanent immigration intake by 35,000 to 195,000 in the current fiscal year as the nation grapples with skills and labor shortages.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil announced the increase for the year ending June 30, 2023, during a two-day summit of 140 representatives of governments, trade unions, businesses and industry to address skills shortages exacerbated by the pandemic.

O’Neill said Australian nurses have been working double and triple shifts for the past two years, flights were being canceled because of a lack of ground staff and fruit was being left to rot on trees because there was no one to pick it.

“Our focus is always Australian jobs first, and that’s why so much of the summit has focused on training and on the participation of women and other marginalized groups,” O’Neil said.

“But the impact of COVID has been so severe that even if we exhaust every other possibility, we will still be many thousands of workers short, at least in the short term,” she added.

O’Neil said many of the “best and brightest minds” were choosing to migrate to Canada, Germany and Britain instead of Australia.

She described Australia’s immigration program as “fiendishly complex” with more than 70 unique visa programs.

Australia would establish a panel to rebuild its immigration program in the national interest, she said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Thursday, the first day of the Jobs and Skills Summit, that 180,000 free places would be offed in vocational education schools next year at a cost of 1.1 billion Australian dollars ($748,000) to reduce the nation’s skills shortage.

Australia imposed some of the strictest international travel restrictions of an democratic country for 20 months early in the pandemic and gradually reopened to skilled workers from December last year.

Source: Australia lifts permanent immigration by 35,000 to 195,000

The Darkness Down Under: Australia Still Reckons With Racism [Indigenous focus]

Surprised Canada not used also as a comparison as parallels and differences more comparable:

Uluru—a monumental, cathedral-like rock that stands alone in the western deserts of Central Australia—may seem an unlikely place from which to reflect on the scourge of violence against Black Americans that stains the U.S. body-politic today. But understanding the consequences of one event that happened far away in 1934 is a powerful reminder that the struggle to make Black lives matter and counter white supremacist violence transcends national boundaries.

In June 1931, Constable Bill McKinnon arrived in Alice Springs to take up his appointment as a police officer in central Australia. He was barely thirty—lean, brash, and tough—a no-nonsense raconteur with a sharp tongue and unyielding determination.

In 1934, after chasing down six Aboriginal men for the killing of an Aboriginal man that had taken place under tribal law, he cornered one man in a cave and shot and killed him at Uluru, a place that has long been sacred for the Anangu, its traditional owners, and is now spiritually significant for the entire nation.

Source: The Darkness Down Under: Australia Still Reckons With Racism

New immigration detention bill could give Australia a fresh chance to comply with international law

Of interest:

Last week, independent MP Andrew Wilkie reintroduced to federal parliament the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2022. This bill gives Australia the chance to bring its immigration detention regime in line with basic international law requirements for the first time since 1992.Wilkie’s bill presents a timely opportunity for the new federal government to reform a regime that leading legal and human rights organisations have called “inhumane, unnecessary, and unlawful”.

Australia’s human rights commitment

Australia has committed to uphold human rights and protect refugees, including committing to not arbitrarily or indefinitely detain adults or children. Despite this, under Australia’s current mandatory detention regime, non-citizens without a valid visa must be detained as a first resort for potentially indefinite periods and without access to review by a court.Australia’s commitments under international law are not enforceable under Australian law unless they are implemented through legislation. This means that in the absence of legislation that fully protects the right to liberty, the Australian High Court has consistently held that indefinite immigration detention is lawful under Australian law.

International criticism

The UN has repeatedly condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees as contrary to Australia’s international obligations and “an affront to the protection of human rights”. This includes statements and decisions from:

  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in 2018
  • the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, in 2017
  • the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, in 2015 and 2017
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in 2017
  • The UN Human Rights Committee in 2013.

International criticisms have largely focused on Australia’s failure to respect the rights of individuals to not be detained arbitrarily or indefinitely; subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; or returned to a place where they will face a real risk of harm.Despite widespread condemnation of Australia’s system of mandatory and indefinite detention, over 1400 people remain in onshore immigration detention facilities today. A further 217 people remain on Nauru and Manus.In April 2022, the average period of time people were held in immigration detention facilities in Australia was 726 days. Of those in onshore detention, 136 have been detained for more than five years.

“Detention without charge or guilt”

Wilkie’s bill proposes abolishing the existing system of mandatory detention. Under the bill, detention of non-citizens without valid visas could only be ordered where it is necessary and proportionate to the circumstances. This would require an individual assessment.Detention would be authorised in Australia only (not offshore) for certain purposes, and only as a measure of last resort after all alternatives have been considered. Adults could only be detained for a maximum of three months and children for seven days. While extensions may be necessary in certain circumstances, detention would be subject to independent oversight and judicial review by the courts.When introducing the bill, Wilkie argued this legislation was urgently needed as

we face the bizarre and outrageous situation in this country where someone, in some circumstances, can be detained indefinitely, without charge and without having been found guilty of anything.

He described this as a punitive arrangement that is immoral and shows “a terrible indifference and arrogance to international law”.In seconding the bill, independent MP Kylea Tink said“Australia’s immigration regime is unique in the world. It is uniquely cruel.” Tink also noted Wilkie’s point that the regime came with a vast financial and human toll, costing Australian taxpayers between $360,000 – $460,000 per year to hold a person in immigration detention in Australia.Independent MP Monique Ryan recognised that

Australia’s immigration detention regime causes severe and widespread mental and physical health impacts on people seeking refuge.

Australia’s negative human rights record also affects its ability to hold other countries to account for human rights violations. China accused Australia of human rights hypocrisy after it criticised China’s repression of the Uyghur ethnic minority. And China is certainly not alone in its criticisms.While legislation alone is not enough, it could provide a significant first step in bringing Australia’s immigration detention regime in line with its human rights obligations.Both major political parties in Australia have historically supported onshore and offshore mandatory detention of non-citizens.However, with the current make-up of the parliament and a new government committed to uniting Australians around “our shared values of fairness and opportunity” and “kindness to those in need”, this is an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate a renewed commitment to international law and the fundamental principles on which the UN system is based.

Source: New immigration detention bill could give Australia a fresh chance to comply with international law

Australia: Home Affairs told to allocate staff to clear visa backlog

Canada not the only country to have backlogs:

The government has directed the Department of Home Affairs to devote more staff to clearing the visa backlog, naming it an ‘urgent priority’.

Minister for immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs Andrew Giles cautioned the backlog would not be cleared overnight.

“People reallocated to dealing with the visa applications on hand need to be trained and skilled before they can go about this important work,” Giles said.

Since May 2022, 140 new department staff have been placed in visa processing roles.

The minister added the number of applications in June was 6.5% higher than in May, with a 10.6% increase in applications finalised. Since June 2022, 745,000 visa applications have been finalised.

Giles was also critical of the previous government, saying the backlog had risen to nearly one million under it.

Former immigration minister Dan Tehan — now shadow minister for immigration and citizenship — has said the visa backlog was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the commitments that we had when we were in government was obviously to make sure that we got rid of that backlog and we had put extra resources to ensure that would happen,” Tehan told SBS Hindi.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is currently assessing the Department of Home Affairs’ management of family reunion and partner-related visas, due to be tabled in November. The ANAO is currently taking contributions from the public on this matter.

On student visas, Department of Education secretary Michele Bruniges is working alongside Department of Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo to clear the backlog of student visas, as previously reported in The Mandarin.

Last week, education minister Jason Clare said Home Affairs had brought on more than 100 staff to deal with the backlog.

Source: Home Affairs told to allocate staff to clear visa backlog

ICYMI – Australia: Spike in racism compels national strategy

Of note:

Spikes in anti-Asian sentiment and discrimination against Indigenous, Jewish and Muslim groups since the COVID-19 outbreak have triggered moves for a new national framework to combat racism.

Incidents targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, amplified by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the rise of far-right extremism have also highlighted a need for change.

With no current coordinated national strategy to curb racism, the proposed framework – uniting governments, NGOs, businesses, educators, human rights agencies and civil society – sets out legislative improvements, and upgrades data collection and discrimination protections.

While the UK and the US have systems to collect data on racist incidents, Australia has no official statistics, instead adopting ad hoc indicators, all of which point to spikes in racism since the start of the pandemic.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan says there is limited understanding of anti-racism and racial equality measures and their impact across Australia, increasing the need for improved data collection, evaluation and sharing.

“A National Anti-Racism Framework will provide a central reference point for actions on anti-racism to be undertaken by all sections of Australian society,” Mr Chin told AAP.

“It will identify opportunities to address racism through coordinated strategies, set measurable anti-racism targets and provide tools and resources to address racism.

“It’s not enough to simply condemn racism. We need clear goals and the means to ensure accountability to commitments if we are to make progress on tackling racism.”

Over the past year, the commission has held more than 100 consultations for the framework with about 300 organisations nationwide and received 171 submissions.

During COVID-19 restrictions right-wing extremist groups tried to further embed anti-government sentiment by portraying administrations as overreaching and “globalisation, multiculturalism and democracy as flawed and failing”, according to ASIO.

At a 2021 parliamentary inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia, the national security agency confirmed investigations into ideologically-motivated violent extremism comprised about 40 per cent of its cases, compared to 10 to 15 per cent in 2016.

Jewish communities have been documenting racist incidents since a 1989 national inquiry into racist violence, spokesman Jeremy Jones from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council told AAP.

The inquiry was established by the then-Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

“Since then, every Jewish organisation and Jewish person in Australia who experiences or hears about an anti-Semitic incident sends it to a central database,” he said.

“So we have a long-term way of saying what sort of incidents are happening and where, is the situation getting better or worse in a particular year, and what is effective, or what isn’t.”

Racial incidents taken to court in three states under the federal Racial Hatred Act delivered positive outcomes with anti-Semitism decreasing in those geographic areas.

Mr Jones said telephone threats which led to abusers’ identities being divulged also reduced anti-Semitic incidences.

It’s difficult to compare exact numbers of verbal incidents originating overseas because many were online, but the global trend shows more people are getting away with hate crimes and harassment.

“Particularly during the COVID lockdown, there were horrific anti-Semitism conspiracy theories and propaganda than at any time during the post-war period,” Mr Jones said.

The Jewish community is also addressing the rise in incidents in various ways through the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews – which aims to foster respect and mutual understanding of other faiths – and by multicultural dialogue and Jewish-Indigenous relations.

Any national anti-racism framework must balance freedom of expression with state and federal laws that protect people from racism, Mr Jones said. It should also look at overseas experiences for examples of best practice.

“It’s far too early to say whether this will be a successful campaign or if it was one well-intentioned,” Mr Jones said.

Racist attacks against Asians and Asian Australians surged after the outbreak of COVID-19, as Wuhan in China was recognised as the source of the virus.

Since April 2020, the COVID-19 Coronavirus Racism Incident Report, partnering with several groups including the Asian Australian Alliance, collected more than 410 reports of virus-related Asian racism.

Most involved physical and verbal attacks.

Of those, 37 per cent were in NSW, followed by 32 per cent in Victoria and 13 per cent in Queensland, with most attacks occurring in the capital cities.

Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia CEO Mohammad Al-Khafaji said incidents of racism were generally under reported, “so the same goes for reporting of Islamophobia”.

Fears over anti-Muslim sentiment were exacerbated by the 2019 Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand and reflected in an Islamophobia Register Australia report.

In collaboration with Charles Stuart University Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, the latest 2018-19 report found offline cases increased four times and online cases rose 18 times two weeks after the Christchurch killings.

The report analysed 247 verified incidents from January 2018 to December 2019 and found 138 occurred in physical circumstances, while 109 occurred online.

The research aims to raise awareness of the increase and normalisation of Islamophobia and take action to counter it.

“What is disturbing … is that Islamophobia continues to occur and that many of the victims are women, distinctively wearing hijabs,” Mr Al-Khafaji said.

“What is appalling is that Islamophobia and racism, in general, seems to still be socially acceptable to some Australians.”

A revamped Human Rights Commission advertising campaign has been designed to increase awareness of racism and equip Australians the tools to respond.

Source: Spike in racism compels national strategy

Paving the way to Australian citizenship [for New Zealand]

Of note, a long-standing irritant being resolved:

By Anzac Day next year, New Zealanders living across the Tasman should get a better deal, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her new Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese announced long-awaited changes to their rights.

It will mean an easier route to citizenship, as well as voting rights, putting them on par with Australians living here – ending more than two decades of inequality.

Under the current rules, Australians get permanent residence the moment they land in New Zealand and they automatically have the right to become citizens after five years. All they need do is pass a character test and a basic English language test, and have lived in New Zealand for at least eight months of each of those five years.

Most Kiwis are in Australia on a special category visa, brought in by John Howard’s government in 2001. Their path to citizenship is not so easy – they have to apply on the same basis as any other migrant, it is costly, and it is not guaranteed.

Leanne Carlin, who moved to Australia with her husband Richard and two daughters eight years ago, describes it as a “very weird thing”.

“You can come over here, you can live here as long as you like, you can work here but you’re not automatically a permanent resident,” she tells The Detail.

Kiwis, of course, pay taxes. But they cannot access unemployment benefits, student loans or disability payments, they can’t join the Australian Defence Force, police or fire service, and they cannot vote.

Carlin says they knew what they were in for when they decided to leave Whakatāne and take a chance on a new life in Brisbane in 2014.

“We didn’t expect anything from Australia. When you go to live in a foreign country, I don’t think you should expect them to take special care of you.

“But New Zealand and Australia have this trans-Tasman travel arrangement, so if you’re going to have an arrangement then make it an equal arrangement.”

When the 2001 changes came into effect, New Zealanders already living in Australia were considered permanent residents and could apply for citizenship, and they could access basic social services like welfare payments in the meantime.

Those who arrived after 2001 have had no direct pathway to citizenship.

“The Howard government was of the view that people were using New Zealand as a backdoor to Australia,” says Stuff‘s political editor Luke Malpass.

Malpass was in Sydney last week when Ardern and Albanese announced they had agreed, in principle, to end the situation where people are effectively left permanent temporary residents.

There are promises of a more “harmonised, reciprocal” regime.

Malpass explains to The Detail how relations soured between Australia and New Zealand and reached a low point in 2014 when the so-called 501 deportations started.

“The Aussies got into a habit of not really giving New Zealand anything that didn’t have any political upside,” he says.

“Even if it was bad for the relationship – they basically took the relationship for granted – they said we’ll go ahead and do it anyway.”

Last week’s announcement was a turnaround in attitudes to New Zealanders, both in the treatment of 501s and the citizenship issue, says Malpass.

Ardern has been calling for greater acknowledgement of the contribution New Zealand expats are making to Australia. She’s also pointed to the low rate of New Zealanders who become citizens compared with other nationalities.

According to the 2021 census, about one third of the 530,000 people born in New Zealand and living in Australia are citizens there. This compares to three quarters of expat Fijians being Australian citizens and the same figure for Britons.

After eight years in Australia, Carlin and her family are now on the path to citizenship through her husband Richard, who met the criteria for the skilled independent visa and was able to apply for permanent residency.

Carlin says her family has a good life in Brisbane and she’s happy to become an Australian citizen.

“It’s a means to an end,” she says.

Source: Paving the way to Australian citizenship

Shmigel: Australia: Multiculturalism is in, and that’s a good thing

On the need in Australia for a conservative case for multiculturalism, learning from the Canadian experience:

According to the latest Census results, for the first time, more than half of Australians (51.2 per cent) are now either born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.

Ethnics and migrants, dear Speccie readers, now have the numbers. Multiculturalism – broadly defined – is in the majority.

If there’s one word or concept that gets many conservatives and many libertarians ‘highly focused’ that is definitely it: multiculturalism. In some ways, that’s understandable when we consider ‘progressive’ ills rightly or wrongly associated with it.

Given the demographic facts of Australia, it may be time for people on the centre-right of Australia’s political spectrum to think anew about what’s historically been positioned by some as a necessarily bad thing.

Perhaps it is time for the conservative case for multiculturalism.

But first, let’s step back. What’s been the critique of multiculturalism in the past? These points might summarise it:

  • Multiculturalism segregates Australians into different types – the ghetto argument.
  • Multiculturalism undermines mainstream Australian values – the cultural subversion argument.
  • Multiculturalism is social engineering – the ‘collectivism is bad’ argument.

While familiar, do these arguments actually stand up against factuality? Not so much.

In the first respect, after many decades of diversity and of pro-multicultural policies, the reality is that the vast majority of everyday interactions between Australians of up to 200 different ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds are entirely civil and respectful. Inter-ethnic relations are in most respects completely normal and unremarkable. They’re in fact dead-set boring 99 per cent or more of the time.

Migrant groups have always tended to both geographically and culturally assimilate more than they tend to segregate. The trend, as driven by migrants themselves, isn’t toward any ghettos or enclaves, but toward the new outer suburban and multi-ethnic residential developments that dominate our major cities’ real estate sales. (Home ownership is greatly valued by our largest and fastest growing ethnic group – Indians – in particular.)

The truth is that, regardless of settlement status or ethnic background, much more binds us than drives us apart. The number of formal complaints to various human rights bodies or government agencies, no less criminal charges via the legal system, based on internecine hatred or ethnic violence between Australians is tiny. In 2020, in a culturally diverse society of some 23 million, there were some 100 complaints about racial hatred to the Human Rights Commission of which 20 per cent were between neighbours and 30 per cent were workplace-related.

Truth be told, migrants tend to readily settle and integrate, and their non-migrant neighbours and workmates tend to readily accept them. Think of the Vietnamese migration of the 70s and the once-prevalent mythology around Cabramatta and other ‘enclaves’ that accompanied that wave. Many in that era were convinced that was the end of our culture as we know it. Those are now but distant memories. We don’t even think twice about our Vietnamese origin neighbours or our child’s schoolmate. If we do, it’s likely to consider ourselves lucky to have such respectful and hard-working neighbours and their smart kids.

In the second respect, unlike many European countries, we actually have very little disagreement – beyond some squeaky media grabs from time to time – about our beliefs. English is uncontested as our language; in fact, it’s the legislated language in some states. We generally abide by the same norms; our settlement and citizenship system, unlike those of France or Germany for example, encourages that. People may well practice their home cultures in their homes, houses of worship, and community centres, but, if we’re honest, there’s little evidence of a substantive impact on our home-grown and common one.

In the third respect, it’s hard to deny the individual aspiration of the majority of people from migrant and ethnic backgrounds. In fact, they tend to own more small businesses than ‘non-ethnics’; they tend to succeed in higher education to a greater extent than ‘non-ethnics’, as any quick look at the annual HSC or VCE results shows.

Those on the centre-right need to consider this evidence that many people from migrant and ethnic backgrounds are about taking responsibility, working hard, and getting ahead at the individual and family levels – rather than counting on some hand-out mentality targeted at ‘groups’ or ‘victims’. Their presence, and indeed now predominance, in Australian society, is reinforcing social goods that our side values.

While there are vast differences between ethnic backgrounds – say Indian people and Chinese people – and vast differences within any given ethnic group itself, a generalisation is possible: people from migrant and ethnic backgrounds exemplify the characteristics that many of us on the centre-right see as positive and constructive. Multiculturalism is working in favour of our model of society.

For some more depth, consider the pro-business behaviours of our migrants and ethnics. In recent years, small businesses have contributed around $400 billion to Australia’s GDP (or about a third of the total economy) and employed some 40 per cent of the business workforce. Less known is that a third of small businesses are run by first or second-generation migrants, some 80 per cent of whom didn’t own a business before coming to Australia. Migrant business owners employed 1.4 million people across Australia and had an annual revenue that was 53 per cent higher than for non-migrant businesses.

If we more broadly consider ethnic connection, the numbers are even bigger: the clear majority of small businesses in Australia are owned by Australians with a non-Anglo surname.

That is a fine level of entrepreneurialism that the centre-right should embrace and admire. And, in purely political marketing terms, migrant and ethnic small business is a significant constituency to respect and work with (read: not pander to).

And, both major parties do in fact ‘get it’ in part. It’s standard practice for there to be specific election campaigning on both sides with regard to ethnic communities and the way that they communicate. Both parties are also smart enough to realise that there isn’t an ‘ethnic vote’ per se and that people, regardless of background, vote on similar issues such as the economy and social services. You can, though, certainly lose large swathes of voters if you don’t show you are respectful of people’s origins or treat them as second-class citizens.

Participation, rather than communications, will be the key going forward. Canada, for example, with a similar multicultural dynamic has for a few generations now had Ministers of significant ethnic background (putting aside Francophone politicians) from both sides of politics. While there were further changes at the last election, Australia’s parliament is yet to significantly look like its suburbs.

To get to that point, and the centre-right would be purely electorally dumb not to aspire to it, we need to drop some of our misconceptions. That starts with avoiding semantic slippage and not so automatically labelling specific policy concerns as somehow solely products of ‘multiculturalism’. That kind of generalisation has hints of a deeper institutional racism and, therefore, the centre-right would want nothing to do with it.

It might be better to think of multiculturalism not as policy or policy objective, but rather as what my old boss, Barry O’Farrell, thought of it. He said: ‘Multiculturalism is simply a way of life.’

If its strong features are pro-opportunity and pro-family, the centre-right should be welcoming that way of life.

As I was writing this piece, I walked past a theatre in western Sydney where a citizenship ceremony was taking place. There were dozens of people and family units who were clearly not ‘Anglo’ for a lack of a better term. All were impeccably dressed; all held Australian flags; all were intensely proud of this the day they became Australians. They are winners and the centre-right should back them.

Source: Multiculturalism is in, and that’s a good thing

Census 2021 data shows Australians are less religious and more culturally diverse than ever

Canadian diversity data will be released this October. Religion will be included (10 year cycle in contrast to the standard 5 year cycle).

Some of the same trends occurring in Canada:

Australians are increasingly unlikely to worship a god and more likely to come from immigrant families.

The 2021 census has revealed a growing nation — more than 25 million people — that is more diverse than ever.

It also depicts a country undergoing significant cultural changes.

For the first time, fewer than half of Australians identified as Christian, though Christianity remained the nation’s most common religion (declared by 43.9 per cent of the population).

Meanwhile, the number of Australians who said they had no religion rose to 38.9 per cent (from 30.1 per cent in 2016).

The data also shows almost half of Australians had a parent born overseas, and more than a quarter were themselves born overseas.

The census — a national household questionnaire carried out every five years — took place in August last year amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

The nation’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, were in lockdown and residents of regional New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT were about to join them.

Yet Australian Statistician David Gruen said the census was a success despite this challenge, with the household response rate rising to 96.1 per cent from 95.1 per cent five years earlier.

About four in five households submitted their answers online.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will begin publishing census results today and release more data in coming months.

The information helps governments improve their services, and helps researchers and businesses better understand the community.

Beliefs and family traditions are changing

Christianity was the stated religion of about 90 per cent of Australians until 1966, when its dominance began to wane.

The ABS says migration has affected the trends since, though much of the change is due to the growth of atheist and secular beliefs.

The fastest-growing religions, according to the latest census, are Hinduism (2.7 per cent of the population) and Islam (3.2 per cent), though these worshippers remain small minorities.

The 2021 census was also the first to collect data since same-sex marriages were allowed in Australia.

Almost 24,000 of these marriages were officially recorded.

However, marriage itself is becoming less prevalent.

A generation ago (in 1991), 56.1 per cent of Australians aged over 15 were in a registered marriage. That has now dropped to 46.5 per cent.

New Australians are increasingly from India

Australia has long been one of the world’s great immigration nations, accepting more people than most other countries.

Last year, almost half of the population (48.2 per cent) were first or second-generation migrants, having at least one parent born overseas. That compares with 41.1 per cent 30 years ago.

Of the 27.6 per cent of Australians who were themselves born overseas, the most common country of birth was England.

However, India has become the second-most-common source country, overtaking China and New Zealand.

The census also asked Australians to report their “ancestry”, as opposed to their country of birth or ethnicity.

The top responses were English (33 per cent), Australian (29.9 per cent), Irish (9.5 per cent) or Scottish (8.6 per cent), with another 5.5 per cent saying Chinese.

Source: Census 2021 data shows Australians are less religious and more culturally diverse than ever

Australia: Multicultural groups welcome federal government’s move to collect ethnicity data

Another long overdue step:

The federal government has announced it will begin collecting ethnicity data as part of measuring diversity in Australia, a move long called for by experts and multicultural community groups.

Key points:

  • Comparable countries like the US, Canada and New Zealand collect data about ethnicity to measure diversity
  • Experts say failure to understand the make up of multicultural Australia hindered COVID-19 responses
  • The federal government aims to collect ethnicity data at the next census

Country of birth and language spoken at home have historically been the main diversity indicators used by Australian government agencies.

But experts say this does not adequately capture the diversity of the community — not least because many Australians from diverse backgrounds are born in Australia and speak English.

“Australia does not effectively measure our diversity,” Andrew Giles, the new Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, told a conference in Melbourne.

He said Australia’s failure to collect data on ethnicity or race — unlike the US, Canada and New Zealand — was a “fundamental barrier to understanding the issues that face multicultural Australians”.

“I looked at the sort of countries that we often compare ourselves to … and we weren’t compiling data that enables us to understand the representation of different population groups,” Mr Giles told the ABC at the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA) conference.

“This became a much bigger issue, of course, during the pandemic, where we saw really uneven health impacts, particularly in the vaccination rollout.”

Last year, the ABC reported that while the federal government had committed to sourcing ethnicity data during COVID-19 testing and vaccination, Victoria was the only state collecting data on ethnicity.

This was despite indications that culturally and linguistically diverse communities were being harder-hit by coronavirus outbreaks, such as those in Western Sydney and public housing towers in Melbourne.

“The pandemic showed us some pretty hard truths about our society,” Mr Giles said.

“The truth someone born in the Middle East was 10 times as likely to have died during the pandemic, than someone born in Australia, is unacceptable.”

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data to January 2021 showed that Australian residents born in the Middle East and North Africa were over 10  times more likely to die of coronavirus than people born in Australia.

Those born in South-East Asia and southern and central Asia, meanwhile, were around twice as likely to die of COVID.

“That is the most extreme example of many about our failures to ensure that everyone was counted, and everyone was supported, through a difficult time. I don’t want that to happen again,” Mr Giles said.

A culturally and linguistically diverse data collection working group with representatives from peak multicultural bodies, along with data collection and demography experts, would be established to develop national standards for diversity data collection, Mr Giles said.

The pandemic showed there was a “gaping hole” in the data collected about the Australian population, according to FECCA chief executive Mohammad al-Khafaji.

“COVID has provided that opportunity for us to actually look seriously at the systemic barriers for us to address this issue,” he said.

Mr al-Khafaji welcomed Mr Giles’s announcement, saying he was pleased the new government recognised it as a priority.

“We’ve been calling for this for the past few years, and we’re glad that that call has been answered,” he said.

“If you’re not counted, you don’t know that you exist, and the programs and the policies won’t reflect the diversity of Australia today.”

Ahead of the 2021 census, people from Asian and Pacific Islands ethnic minority backgrounds told the ABC the Australian Bureau of Statistics was not accurately capturing their ancestry.

Mr Giles said he wanted the changes to inform the next census in 2026.

“The data set we have about this is imprecise, because place of birth doesn’t really tell us the full story about who someone is, how they identify, and that’s why we do need to get better data,” he said.

Race Commissioner wants more data on racism

Australia’s Racial Discrimination Commissioner, Chin Tan, also welcomed Mr Giles’s announcement of the shift towards collecting more detailed data on diversity, calling it a “positive move”.

“We are now looking at focusing on an area that we should have taken care of a long time ago,” Mr Tan said.

“For me it’s a positive move to get more information that will support multicultural communities and support Australia in advancing multiculturalism.”

He told the ABC the Australian Human Rights Commission wanted to see greater data collection on race issues and racism.

“While we applaud and will support initiatives toward multicultural data collection, we are also looking at data collection that will capture race and race issues in this country as well,” Mr Tan said.

He said Australia was still “lagging far behind” other countries in terms of multicultural policies and programs.

“Our multicultural future needs to be enhanced, and needs to be strengthened, and reinforced,” Mr Tan said.

“We need to have policies and programs, and funding obviously, to support that.”

Source: Multicultural groups welcome federal government’s move to collect ethnicity data

Australia: Man suspected of joining Islamic State wins High Court challenge against government decision to strip him of his citizenship

Of note, significant curb on Ministerial discretion:

A key plank of the federal government’s foreign fighter laws has been struck down by the High Court, with the nation’s top judges ruling that suspected terrorists cannot be stripped of their citizenship by the Home Affairs Minister.

The case before the court involved Delil Alexander, who was jailed in Syria after allegedly joining Islamic State.

He claimed he could not be released from jail because he had nowhere to go, after the Australian government stripped him of his citizenship in July 2021.

Mr Alexander left Australia for Turkey, where he also holds citizenship, in 2013.

He told his family he was going to arrange a marriage and would return, but travelled to Syria where he is thought to have joined Islamic State.

The High Court noted an assessment by intelligence agency ASIO at the time found he was reported to have travelled to Syria with a group being helped by a known Australian Islamic State member.

In November 2017, Mr Alexander was arrested by a Kurdish militia and in 2019 was jailed for 15 years by a Syrian court.

He has since been pardoned by the Syrian government but has remained in jail because he cannot go back to Turkey, and Australia cancelled his citizenship.

No one, including Mr Alexander’s family and his lawyers, has heard from him since July last year.

Only judges can decide to strip citizenship if person hasn’t faced trial in Australia, court rules

The main issue in the case was whether the law allowing the Home Affairs Minister to strip him of his citizenship was valid under the Constitution.

“That sanction by the parliament may be imposed only upon satisfaction of the minister that Mr Alexander engaged in conduct that is so reprehensible as to be deserving of the dire consequence of deprivation of citizenship and the rights, privileges, immunities and duties associated with it,” the lead judgement in the decision said.

“The power to determine the facts which enliven the power to impose such a punishment is one which, in accordance with [Chapter 3] of the Constitution, is exercisable exclusively by a court that is a part of the federal judicature.”

Effectively the High Court ruled that while the government of the day could pass laws relating to citizenship, the consequence of stripping someone’s legislation without them facing trial on Australian soil was so serious it should only be handled by a judge.

Six of the seven justices agreed, with only Justice Simon Steward dissenting.

The new federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said they were still assessing the impact of the ruling.

But the pair played down the significance it may have for other foreign fighters who may pose a risk to Australia if they returned, arguing other measures, including Temporary Exclusion Orders, could prohibit people from returning to Australia for up to two years.

Government sources have told the ABC there are only two people who have had their Australian citizenship cancelled under the specific part of the Citizenship Act, which has now been struck down.

Mr Alexander, and the other individual, are both in jail.

It does not affect people such as Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who had his citizenship cancelled after being convicted of terrorism offences by an Australian court.

Mr Alexander’s lawyer disputes he had been involved with Islamic State

Mr Alexander’s lawyer, Osman Samin, said his client should never have had his citizenship stripped by the government and disputed the assessment by intelligence agencies that Mr Alexander had been involved with Islamic State.

He argued the evidence Syrian authorities relied upon to initially convict him was deeply flawed.

“We potentially have a person who was arrested in a part of Syria, which is not a declared area,” he told the ABC.

“Other than these purported admissions made by Mr Alexander under extreme torture, there is no other evidence that suggests he in any way participated in any terrorism-type conduct.

Mr Samin said there could have been far-reaching consequences if the legislation had not been struck out by the High Court.

“The concept in the legislation was that citizenship may be repudiated by disloyal conduct,” he said.

“Now, importantly, what constitutes disloyal conduct amounting to repudiation can be defined by parliament — so, therefore, while the laws were initially limited predominantly to terrorism-type conduct, if the law was deemed valid there is really no limitation on what the government in future could define as ‘disloyal conduct’.

Mr Samin said Mr Alexander’s sister, who was running the case on his behalf, was “extraordinarily relieved” but “equally anxious” about the circumstances her brother found himself in, languishing in a jail in Damascus.

“There are so many stories of foreign prisoners being killed in this particular prison that, of course, the family at the moment are only concerned with his welfare, and simply want to know whether he’s still alive essentially.”

Source: Man suspected of joining Islamic State wins High Court challenge against government decision to strip him of his citizenship