Australia: Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge wants new English language test for migrants

Unclear exactly who this will apply to beyond economic immigrants who most likely largely meet this requirement already given their version of express entry (which Canada largely was inspired by). Dependents of economic immigrants? Refugees?

But a shift from international tests to testing for conversational English has merit. But as always, the devil is in the details:

MIGRANTS could face a primary school level conversational English test as a requirement to becoming permanent Australian residents and citizens.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said speaking English was the key to integrating in society and engaging with the economy and education.

“Everyone should recognise we all have a vested interest in being able to converse and engage in the national language,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Hobart on Thursday.

He said the initial goal of primary school-level English was reasonable, saying it was an obvious measure to help migrants achieve in Australia.

“It is plainly in everybody’s interest that everyone, ideally, should have English language skills,” Mr Turnbull said.

Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge said Australia could move to a locally designed test focusing on conversational English, rather than using international exams.

“If you have a lot of people not speaking the language then you start to get social fragmentation and we don’t want to see that happen,” Mr Tudge told Sky News.

He said the government was considering extending the test to make it a requirement for permanent residency.

“We’re looking at whether or not we can have a reasonable, basic conversational English language requirement at that stage,” Mr Tudge said.

“We want people to be able to interact with one another, work together, play together and continue to contribute to Australian society.”

Australia is approaching a million non-English speakers and the increase is concerning, Mr Tudge said.

He wants to avoid “parallel communities” developing, which he said were an issue in some European countries.

“The secret to our success is we’ve largely had integrated communities where people have blended together regardless of where they’ve come from,” he said.

It’s not the first time Mr Tudge has flagged the importance of English for migrants.

In March he suggested migrants must demonstrate they’ve made an effort to integrate before becoming citizens, steps which could include joining a Rotary Club or a soccer team.

Any changes would need to pass parliament, but that is by no means guaranteed.

Previous changes to citizenship laws were blocked in the Senate last year and fresh talks with cross bench senators would be needed.

Source: Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge wants new English language test for migrants

Australia: Citizenship discount for migrant pensioners, widows scrapped

Migrant pensioners, veterans and widows who receive Centrelink payments will soon have to pay full price when applying for Australian citizenship after Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton removed a regulation that offered them a discounted price.

Most people pay a $285 fee when they apply for citizenship, but disadvantaged pensioners and widows have long been granted a concession rate of $20 or $40.

Mr Dutton lodged a legislative instrument on Thursday last week that removes the concession, effective from July 1. The Greens have already promised to attempt to overturn the regulation when parliament sits next week.

The change mostly affects those who hold a pensioner concession card and receive certain welfare payments, including Newstart, the aged pension, the disability support pension or parenting payments.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities, which represents migrant groups in Australia, is calling for the change to be reversed.

“This is a needless imposition,” chair Mary Patetsos told SBS News.

“It puzzles me why you would want to create a hurdle that makes a resident who is entitled to claim for citizenship choose between paying their bills and applying for citizenship,” she said.

Veterans with pensioner cards who receive income support payments – including payments for aged service, invalidity service or partner service – will also lose their discount, as will some widows who hold health care cards.

The changes will also capture those applying for citizenship a second time, who will now have to pay the full fare with each application.

SBS News asked Mr Dutton to comment on the matter but was referred to the Department of Home Affairs.

A spokesperson for the department said only three per cent of people who applied for citizenship via the entrance test – as opposed to those who became citizens by descent or adoption – paid a concession fee in the past 12 months.

“Australia’s citizenship application fees remain internationally competitive and among the lowest in OECD nations,” the spokesperson wrote.

“The Department is committed to ensuring that application fees remain compliant with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines.”

Greens move to overturn changes

The changes were introduced via a legislative instrument that amends the Australian Citizenship Regulation, meaning they did not require legislation to pass the parliament.

But the Senate can still move to disallow the motion and overturn it. Last month, the government backflipped on controversial changes to parent visa sponsorship rules after it became clear a disallowance motion was about to pass.

Greens senator Nick McKim said he would move a disallowance motion when parliament sits again next week and called on Labor and the crossbench to support him.

“It’s an incredibly small-minded and vindictive move by this government,” Senator McKim told SBS News on the phone from Hobart.

The senator questioned why the government would close the concessions when only a small number of applicants applied for a discount.

“If it’s correct that this only applies to about three per cent of applicants in the recent past, it begs the obvious question as to why in fact the government is moving forward.”

Ms Patetsos said the change was inconsistent with Australia’s approach to encourage migrants to join the broader community and would impact the most vulnerable applicants.

“We’ve always encouraged new arrivals and migrants to apply for citizenship as soon as they’re eligible and that encouragement shouldn’t be dependent on a capacity to pay,” she said.

Source: Citizenship discount for migrant pensioners, widows scrapped

Changes to UK law may provide more dual citizenship drama – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The never-ending saga of dual citizenship and the Australian Constitution:

As the apocryphal Chinese idiom goes, we live in interesting times. We can give qualified agreement to Prime Minister Turnbull’s assertion that there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian constitutional law expert.

So far, 15 members and senators have resigned or been ruled ineligible by reason of section 44(i) of the Australian constitution. That section provides:

Any person who: “is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power; shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

All the disqualifications under s44(i) so far have related to the first part of the clause. These involved MPs who were “citizens” of a foreign power at the time they nominated for Parliament.

However, s44 does not only disqualify “citizens”. It also disqualifies anyone: “entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power.”

The High Court has not yet ruled definitively on how this provision works. However, in light of the decision in the Katy Gallagher case, it appears the dual citizenship saga may not yet have run its course.

Entitled to the rights or privileges

Citizenship is a little like herpes: you might not even know you have it. One can contract the “rights and privileges” of citizenship without showing any outward symptoms.

What are the symptoms of being “entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen”? In Nick Xenophon’s case, the High Court had to consider whether being a British overseas citizen disqualified a person under s44(i). It held it did not.

The then senator remained eligible to sit in Parliament because British overseas citizens were, essentially, only “second-class” citizens. The High Court found: “… a BOC [British Overseas Citizen] does not have the right of abode in the United Kingdom. The right of abode includes the right to enter and to reside in the country of nationality.”

As Mr Fransman observes, the right of abode is one of the main characteristics of a national under international law.

Someone without a right of abode will not be considered a citizen for the purposes of s44(i). Of course, this implies its opposite. Anyone who has a “right of abode” might fall foul of the second part of s44(i). Despite technically not being a citizen, they may be found to be “entitled to the rights and privileges of a subject or citizen”.

What is a right of abode?

Since 1983, the only way to obtain a right of abode in the UK has been to become a British citizen. People with a right of abode in the UK are exempt from customs control. They may work, live, own property and register to vote in the UK. In a deeply ironic twist, they may also stand for office.

One does not need to do anything to obtain the right of abode. The UK Home Office explains: “The right of abode is a statutory right which a person either has or does not have…”

And as we learned in the Canavan decision, when it comes to s44, ignorance is no excuse.

Contracting a right of abode

Prior to 1983, British citizenship was patrilineal; a fancy way of saying deeply sexist. Only your father could pass it on. It took a change to the law in the British Nationality Act, which came into force in 1983, for women to be able pass British citizenship to their children.

Section 44 casualties

This is where it gets complicated — and interesting. The operation of section 37 of the British Nationality Act and section 2 of the Immigration Act together mean that anyone born in a Commonwealth country before 1983 to a parent who is a UK citizen is granted a “right of abode” in the UK. Australia, of course, is a Commonwealth country.

If your father was a British citizen, or you were born after 1983, nothing changes. You would have been a British citizen by descent anyway, which means you already had a right of abode in the UK.

However, if your mother was a British citizen, and you were born prior to 1983, the British Nationality Act operates retrospectively to grant you a right of abode in the UK.

For many people, this newly discovered right will come as a welcome surprise. MPs born before 1983, who believed that they were not caught by s44(i) because only their mother was a British citizen, may find the surprise far less welcome.

Another round of section 44 cases?

One of the few things Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will agree on is that predicting how the High Court will rule is a mug’s game.

We will not know whether those who possess a “right of abode” in the UK will be excluded by operation of s44(i) until the High Court explicitly considers the matter. Even then, each case turns on its own facts.

However, in light of the High Court’s fairly blunt ruling in Katy Gallagher’s case, some MPs who may have inherited more than just an inexplicable love of Coronation Street from their mother might have good reason to be nervous.

via Changes to UK law may provide more dual citizenship drama – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Australia’s Immigration Solution: Small-Town Living

Similar to strategies to encourage rural immigration in Canada (e.g., Atlantic Canada, Francophone communities outside Quebec):

PYRAMID HILL, Australia — A lanky Filipina girl with long black hair stood at the wickets behind St. Patrick’s School, waiting for a bowl from a burly dad with a reddish beard.

The cricket ball came in slow. Her swing was quick as a bee’s wing, sending the ball skyward as a gaggle of kids — mostly Filipino, some white — cheered and elbowed to bat next.

The game, played on a recent afternoon, was a typical mixed gathering for Pyramid Hill, a one-pub town of around 500 people in central Victoria that has become a model of rural revival and multicultural integration.

“I’m still surprised they’re as open to us as they are,” said Abigail Umali, 39, a veterinarian from Manila who works at a local pig farm, and whose daughter, Maria, was the girl at bat.

“This school wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” said Kelvin Matthews, 36, the bowler, as he watched the children interact.

Towns of a few hundred people are fading like puddles in the sun

Filipinos now make up nearly a quarter of Pyramid Hill’s growing population. New homes are going up here for the first time in a generation — and both the newcomers and lifelong residents say they have found the answer to rising concerns about immigrants straining resources in Australian cities.

It’s called small-town living.

“People in the country mix, and need to mix,” said Tom Smith, a pig farmer who inadvertently started the town’s revival in 2008 when he sponsored visas for four workers from the Philippines. “It’s just different out here; it’s the only way to survive.”

Rural collapse is a familiar tale, seen across the American Midwest and in many areas of Europe, where small communities have been squeezed by globalization. It’s no different in Australia: an urbanizing country, as physically large as the United States, where towns of a few hundred people are fading like puddles in the sun.

But the success of Pyramid Hill — and many other small Australian towns — suggests that there are opportunities being missed and lessons to be learned. At a time when politicians in Australia, and around the world, are calling for restrictions on immigration, small towns in Australia are asking for more immigrants.

“There’s a real network of people who know how to make this work, who make it work in their community and can share it with others,” said Jack Archer, the chief executive of the Regional Australia Institute, a government research organization. “This is something we should really be thinking about scaling up.”

Landmarks of Despair

Pyramid Hill is a quiet drive of about 240 kilometers, or 150 miles, from Melbourne, finishing with a stretch of land that is mostly empty except for golden wheat fields and lint-gray sheep.

The community took its name in 1836 from a granite outcrop on the town’s edge. From its peak, I had little trouble seeing newer landmarks, which rose above the countryside and hinted at local despair: grain silos that are no longer used; a pet food factory that shut down in 2008.

Residents still talk about the era before the Filipinos came as one of quiet desperation. Streets without children. Homes decaying. The town’s population bottomed out at 419 in 2011, down from 699 in the 1960s.

“We were in dire straits,” said Cheryl McKinnon, the mayor of Loddon Shire, the municipality that includes Pyramid Hill. “We needed our population to grow.”

Economists often discuss immigration in terms of a multiplier effect. Newcomers don’t just fill jobs, they also create them, by bringing demand for new products and services.

This is especially true in Australia, where the minimum wage is 18.29 Australian dollars an hour ($13.70) and most migrants are skilled workers or students.

“Australia’s focus on skilled migration has demonstrated positive effects for economic growth,” a recently published government report on population growth found, “because our migrants on average lift potential G.D.P. and G.D.P. per capita.”

In many cities and suburbs, though, population growth has brought frustration. Melbourne added 125,000 people during the last fiscal year, its largest recorded increase, and Sydney added 102,000. In both cities, immigration was the primary cause, prompting complaints about housing, crowded schools and traffic.

The areas reviving most quickly tend to offer new arrivals not just jobs but a sense of community

The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has responded to such concerns by restricting immigration: maintaining harsh offshore detention centers for asylum seekers and limiting the number of skilled-worker visas.

Places like Pyramid Hill offer an alternative.

“There just has got to be some employment opportunity,” said Mr. Archer of the Regional Australia Institute. “There’s more of that than people think.”

Statistics from the institute suggest that many rural communities suffer not from a lack of employment, but a lack of employees.

Labor market participation in regional Australia — the areas outside major cities — is well above the national average. And since rural populations tend to be older, that means many people continue to work well after they might have wanted to retire.

Research from the Regional Australia Institute shows that the areas reviving most quickly tend to offer new arrivals not just well-paying jobs but a sense of community.

In the Shire of Dalwallinu, a town in Western Australia’s Wheat Belt that is coming back to life thanks to migrants from the Philippines and elsewhere, residents helped workers move their families from abroad.

In the small town of Nhill, in northwestern Victoria, locals have managed the arrival of ethnic Karen refugees from Myanmar since 2010, helping them find housing, learn English and engage in social activities.

Pyramid Hill’s evolution has been just as personal. Neighbors regularly meet to share food and learn about each other’s cultures.

“Every month there’s one Australian speaker and a Filipino speaker, and we cook for each other,” said Helen Garchitorena, 47, a leader of the exchange. “We explain the importance of the food, and we talk.”

Compared with those in many cities and suburbs, people in Pyramid Hill seem to have more time and interest in building bonds across ethnic boundaries. An annual Filipino “fiesta” was added to the town’s events calendar in 2015, and every week seems to include an opportunity to socialize.

Australia: Citizenship crisis: coalition resists referendum in favour of new rules for candidates

Understandable reluctance giving risks and divisiveness of referendums (and not clear whether winnable) with the unfortunate result that Australian parliaments will continue to be significantly under-representative:

Candidates will have to disclose the birthplace and citizenship of themselves, their parents and grandparents before the next federal election under changes announced by the government to try to put an end to Australia’s citizenship crisis without a referendum.

On Thursday an inquiry examining section 44 of the constitution warned that, without a referendum, elections could be subject to “manipulation” by challenges against candidates with dual citizenship or other disqualifications.

Despite the electoral matters committee’s bipartisan push for a referendum to reform or repeal section 44 of the constitution, the special minister of state, Mathias Cormann, confirmed that the government was “not inclined to pursue a referendum”.

Instead the government will pursue steps “to minimise the risk of a recurrence of the eligibility issues” that have plagued the 45th parliament, in which 14 parliamentarians have resigned or been ruled ineligible since mid-2017 owing to dual citizenship.

The government set up the inquiry into section 44 by the joint standing committee on electoral matters after the high court ruled five senators and MPs ineligible in October.

In a bipartisan report released on Thursday, the committee recommended the government prepare a referendum question to either repeal all the disqualifications for standing for parliament in section 44 or to give parliament the power to set the disqualifications itself.

But the committee acknowledged a referendum “will not be positively received by Australians and the outcome … is uncertain”.

It accepted the “preconditions for a successful referendum on this issue will take time” and cannot be achieved before the “Super Saturday” byelections triggered by the high court’s ruling against Katy Gallagher or before the next federal election.

The committee suggested a series of measures to “mitigate the impact of section 44” including:

  • a requirement that all candidates reveal their family citizenship history at the time of nomination and information relevant to other disqualifications;
  • an “online self-assessment tool” to be developed by the Australian Electoral Commission;
  • improved education for minor parties and independents; and
  • exploring expedited citizenship renunciation processes with foreign governments.

At a press conference in Brisbane Malcolm Turnbull said the government did not have time to deal with a referendum before the next election and the Australian people “expect us to deal with the constitution as it stands”.

Even in the longer term, the prime minister said he “very much doubted” whether Australians would support a change to the constitution.

Cormann said the government would instead “move to improve the existing candidate nomination process for elections”.

In November the government introduced a new citizenship register requiring current and future parliamentarians to reveal their birthplace, that of their parents and grandparents and to produce documents showing renunciation of foreign citizenship 21 days after their election.

Cormann announced those requirements would now be applied to “candidates for election to the Australian parliament” who will provide the information to the AEC “as well as information on other potential disqualifications under section 44 of the constitution”. This is likely to require disclosure of criminal convictions, bankruptcies and interests in contracts with the government.

The committee warned that section 44 opened the electoral system to “the risk of manipulation, where a successful candidate could have their election challenged on the basis of preference flows from an ineligible candidate”.

“This raises the possibility of deliberate manipulation of disqualification rules to overturn an otherwise valid election,” it said.

The committee noted that when all the disqualifications in section 44 are considered – including foreign citizenship, employment in the public service and an “indirect pecuniary interest in an agreement with the commonwealth” – more than 50% of the Australian population is ineligible to run for parliament.

The report argued that the ban on dual citizens caused numerous problems, including uncertainty for parliamentarians who were unsure of the citizenship of their parents or grandparents, and the possibility that foreign governments could manipulate eligibility by not processing renunciation in a timely manner.

“Challenges to sitting members will continue into future elections; disrupting electoral outcomes, causing uncertainty and confusion, and having the potential to undermine the authority of both federal parliament and the constitution itself.”

Despite those dire warnings the chair of the electoral committee, the Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, told Guardian Australia she was “not [so] pessimistic” to suggest it will take further disqualifications to convince Australians of the need for a referendum.

“We need to start a conversation about whether the rules are the right ones for today’s society,” she said.

Reynolds cited the fact that public servants have to give up their jobs to run for parliament, and the citizenship requirements favour “Australians with a long-term unbroken family history” and those who can afford legal advice to remove disqualifications.

via Citizenship crisis: coalition resists referendum in favour of new rules for candidates | Australia news | The Guardian

Further article: Will we actually vote on changing the constitution after the dual citizenship fiasco? – Politics – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Australia: Citizenship inquiry to recommend referendum, which Turnbull rejects

Although I believe that s. 44 of the Australian constitution is a historic anachronism, holding a referendum would be  high risk and divisive:

Malcolm Turnbull has given a strong indication that the government will oppose a referendum to fix the citizenship crisis, arguing they are hard to win and that aspiring politicians should “get their act together” and renounce foreign citizenship instead.

The prime minister’s opposition to a referendum puts him at odds with the Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, who has spearheaded a six-month inquiry into section 44 of the constitution. She believes there are “no easy options” to fix the crisis and a referendum is needed to reform or repeal the “profoundly undemocratic” section.

Guardian Australia understands that the joint standing committee on electoral matters will meet to finalise its report on Friday and will lay out a series of options – all of which involve a referendum.

These include options to remove section 44 entirely, to replace the ban on foreign citizens with a requirement for parliamentarians to swear an oath of allegiance, or to allow parliament to set the disqualifications in legislation, not the constitution. The overwhelming weight of evidence to the committee supported constitutional change.

It is understood that the government is keen to make only administrative changes – such as improved disclosure or new Australian Electoral Commission powers to check compliance – but these options are not supported by the electoral committee.

On Thursday the Labor leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, reiterated that a section 44 referendum was not a priority for Labor, citing the need to make other constitutional changes first.

The high court decided to disqualify the Labor senator Katy Gallagher on Wednesday, triggering the resignation of four MPs – including three Labor MPs – over dual-citizenship issues.

Turnbull told ABC’s AM that the high court’s decision meant “you have got to get your act together before you nominate”. He noted that most of the cases had been dual citizens with UK citizenship, which he said was “very straightforward” and “not complex” to renounce.

Pressed on whether Australia should have a referendum on section 44, Turnbull said the government had put forward its preferred interpretation of the disqualification of dual citizens in the “citizenship seven” case last year but the high court had not accepted it.

In that case, the commonwealth argued that parliamentarians who were unaware of their dual citizenship could not have allegiance to a foreign power but the court held that the section barred all foreign citizens.

Turnbull said changing the constitution “is very hard and [it’s] very hard to get support for [a referendum]”.

“So I think the best advice, given that the election will be next year, is for everyone to get their act together and make sure they are not a citizen of anywhere else before they nominate.”

Turnbull played down expectations that the Coalition could win seats in byelections to be held in Fremantle (Western Australia), Braddon (Tasmania), Mayo (South Australia) and Longman (Queensland), arguing that “byelections are always tough for the government”.

He said it would be up to state divisions to decide whether to run candidates in those seats but the Liberal party believed in fighting for government.

Turnbull said the byelections were “a test for Bill Shorten” who had failed to take responsibility for the Labor MPs’ refusal to resign after the Matt Canavan decisionset the test for dual citizens in October.

On Wednesday Shorten refused to apologise for allowing his MPs to sit in parliament while ineligible, citing the fact they had relied in “good faith” on legal advice.

On Thursday the manager of opposition business, Tony Burke, offered that Labor was “sorry it has turned out this way” while Wong told ABC Radio National: “We regret voters are put to the inconvenience and cost of byelections.”

In reference to warnings from academics that, after the Canavan decision, “reasonable steps” to renounce were not sufficient, Wong said “lawyers say a lot of things” and Labor had acted on its advice.

She said the test for dual citizens was strict but Labor would rather have referendums on Indigenous recognition in the constitution and other “more important issues”.

“Parties just now have to apply the high court decision to their processes,” she said.

Before the Gallagher decision, Linda Reynolds, the chair of the joint standing committee on electoral matters, said her view was “the evidence to the committee is the only way these problems will stop is via a referendum”.

The deputy chair of the joint standing committee on electoral matters, the Labor MP Andrew Giles, said the uncertainty about eligibility “can’t continue” as it was “compounding frustrations with the state of politics today”.

“It’s a collective responsibility to resolve this uncertainty, and also to make sure that all Australians can have their say in what restrictions should apply to running for election to our national parliament.”

Source: Citizenship inquiry to recommend referendum, which Turnbull rejects

Australia’s Dual-Citizenship Contagion Claims 5 More Politicians

The latest numbers. Unfortunately, a constitutional change is unlikely given the high barrier (a referendum) needed:

Four Australian members of Parliament resigned Wednesday after revealing they held dual citizenship, bringing the number of lawmakers forced to vacate their seats because of split national loyalties to 15 in less than a year.

The resignations came hours after the High Court ruled on Wednesday that another politician, Senator Katy Gallagher, a member of the Labor Party, was ineligible to remain in Parliament because she had not renounced her British citizenship before her election.

That decision prompted three other Labor members of Parliament — Justine Keay, Josh Wilson and Susan Lamb — and a member of the Centre Alliance, Rebekha Sharkie, to resign.

Section 44 of Australia’s Constitution bars anyone holding dual citizenship from running for office. Despite the clarity of the law, more than a dozen lawmakers, including a former deputy prime minister, have been found to hold dual citizenship in the past year, prompting their resignations.

The discoveries of lawmakers — sometimes unknowingly — holding dual citizenship has been likened to a virus spreading through Parliament, picking off members month after month. The contagion has affected politicians across the political spectrum, including two deputy Green party leaders and Barnaby Joyce, the former deputy prime minister and National Party leader. (Mr. Joyce would win back his seat only to later resign his post after a sex scandal.)

Senator Gallagher had argued that she should remain in Parliament because she took steps to renounce her British citizenship before the election but was delayed because of paperwork. The court rejected that argument.

The four politicians who resigned said they would contest their seats in by-elections that are expected to be held next month. The court ordered a special recount to fill Ms. Gallagher’s seat.

Among the previous resignations were dual citizens of Italy, Canada and New Zealand. Most of the politicians laid low by the scandal were dual citizens of Britain.

In the wake of the latest resignations, Larissa Waters, former Greens deputy leader and one of the first ousted in the crisis, took to Twitter.

“Go home section 44, you’re drunk,” she wrote.

ICYMI: Australia: Chair of Section 44 inquiry says dual-citizenship rules should change

Given the risks of holding a referendum on this issue, unlikely that this requirement will be changed or narrowed:

The Liberal chair of a cross-party committee on electoral reform has revealed her personal view that Section 44 of the Constitution, which forbids dual citizens being elected to parliament, should be changed in a referendum.

Liberal senator Linda Reynolds chairs the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which launched an inquiry into Section 44 last year under instructions from the prime minister.

The 10-member committee’s final report was expected last month and is now overdue.

But Senator Reynolds has now revealed her own views in comments to Fairfax Media.

“While I will not pre-empt the findings of the committee, it is my personal belief that the cleanest way to resolve this problem is to remove sections of 44,” she said.

“Section 44 has unintentionally created two classes of Australian citizenship.

“The only way to do that would be through a referendum. Ultimately the issue of dual citizenship for MPs must be one for Australians to decide, not a parliamentary committee.”

Section 44 of the Constitution contains a number of smaller sections that disqualify certain people from being elected, including those who are bankrupt or who hold an “office of profit under the Crown”.

But the best-known is Section 44(i), the dual-citizenship rule, which sensationally ended the political careers of eight senators in the last 12 months.

It also triggered by-elections that threatened the Turnbull Government’s one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, after the High Court ruled former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Liberal MP John Alexander were invalidly elected. Both men won their seats back.

Senator Reynolds, herself a veteran, reportedly told Fairfax Media it was inconsistent that dual citizens could serve in the Army but not sit in the parliament.

“Not only is this out of step with other areas of contemporary Australian life, it’s also out of step with most western democracies which allow dual citizens to serve in Parliament, including the UK, US and Canada.”

In August last year, a Guardian Essential poll found only 41 percent of Australians supported allowing dual citizens to sit, compared with 40 percent saying “no” and 18 percent saying they did not know.

Other Coalition MPs like Craig Laundy have publically suggested a referendum.

But prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously said a referendum would likely fail.

“I think it’s questionable whether Australians would welcome dual citizens sitting in their Parliament,” Mr Turnbull said last year.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the dual-citizenship rule should not have been included in the Constitution “in the first place”, speaking with reporters in Sydney.

But he said it was a more urgent priority to hold a referendum on replacing the British monarch as Australia’s head of state or on Indigenous recognition in the Constitution.

via Chair of Section 44 inquiry says dual-citizenship rules should change

International stories that caught my attention

One of the advantages of having a break from blogging (not tweeting) is that one can gather the various news items and commentary together to have a more complete picture. Here is what caught my eye over the past few weeks.


An interesting looking back at Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, how elements remain today (An Anti-Immigration Speech Divided Britain 50 Years Ago. It Still Echoes Today) and how these perhaps help explain the inexplicable treatment of long-term immigrants and others as exemplified by Windrush immigrants (post World War II immigrants from former British Caribbean colonies).

There was considerable and justifiable on the callousness of UK immigration and citizenship policies, including both news articles and commentary, highlighting some of what I would consider ethical lapses in developing and implementing policy (British Citizen One Day, Illegal Immigrant the Next, UK removed legal protection for Windrush immigrants in 2014, Immigration scandal expected to spread beyond Windrush group,  Woman told she is not British by the Home Office despite living in UK all her life), ‘Not British enough’: ex-high commissioner’s baby denied UK passport in 2011Damian Green ‘dismissed Windrush citizenship pleas’.

Nesrine Malek’s It’s not just Windrush. Theresa May has created hostility to all immigrants makes perhaps the harshest critique:

If you are angry about the treatment of the Windrush generation it is important to understand that this anger cannot be selective, if there are to be no more violations. There is no cross-party, cross-media support for a different type of immigration policy victim than the Windrush scandal has managed to muster. Not for those who are illegally detained, those on hunger strike in protest against poor conditions. Not for those whose illnesses were treated as lies and to which they later succumbed. Not for the sexually exploitedand not for the children separated from their parents. Not even for those British subjects separated from their families by unreasonably high income visa requirements.

During my own long battle with the Home Office to secure residency, I spent many hours in Croydon. I went on one occasion to withdraw my passport, which had languished unprocessed for months, to travel to see my sick mother. Driven wild with fear that I would not be able to see her if the unthinkable happened, I was ready to risk not being allowed back in the country. The waiting room was a holding pen of quiet individual tragedies, full of people whose personal and professional lives had been thrown into turmoil by loss of documents, technical glitches and glacial incompetence. The cruelty we all experienced was not a bug, it was a feature.

The scandal of the Windrush generation is the kind of thing that happens when this rot sets in so deep that the infrastructure of a civilised society begins to fall apart. The rise in the number of the persecuted is analogous to the doubling in deaths of homeless people. There is only so much austerity an economy can take before the human toll rises. And there is only so much ideological fixation on “sending people home” before we are deporting grandmothers who arrived in this country when they were children.

And make no mistake, it is ideological. The Conservative party has been consistent in its aggressive immigration policy since 2010, when David Cameron decided that a tough stance on immigration was a flagship party offering to its base supporters. No ifs, no buts, he said. Detention, deportation and NHS treatment refusal is the culmination of the party’s most lucid positions. It is not incompetence, it is not even malice. It is an enthusiastic strategy that over the past decade has become a cornerstone, a defining element of Conservative governments. An immigration policy, very much like austerity, unafraid to be brutal if the deserving, whether they are the “indigenous population” of the country or hardworking taxpayers, are to be protected from those who are after a “free ride”.

There has been no bureaucratic snafu. The only miscalculation was that everyone got a little bit cocky, and who can blame them. The error was that the dragnet picked up some people who fall into a popular sympathy sweet spot. The elderly ones who came here from the Commonwealth to rebuild Britain and who even the Daily Mail can look kindly upon. They appeal to a patrician nostalgia and have a humanising narrative that others who come to this country in different circumstances do not enjoy. An apology and exceptions made for Windrush cases alone is not enough. If we are to be content with only this, then the government’s furtive shimmy away from the crime scene will be successful, and the Home Office’s daily violations of human rights will continue. If we are to prevent the assaults against those we can relate to, we must also be angry for those we cannot.

The UK government was forced to reverse its policy given the public backlash.

And a few articles on UK perceptions of multiculturalism: Multiculturalism has failed, believe substantial minority of Britons‘Multiculturalism is defunct’: British Government signals U-turn on 70 years of social policy – Dr. Jenny Taylor.


Yet another article on the effect of Trump administration policies on the tech sector (Silicon Valley is fighting a brain-drain war with Trump that it may lose) but with one study suggesting the Valley is not as dependent on immigration as may appear (Shocker: San Francisco Tech Companies Not So Reliant On Immigrants):

A surprising survey by Envoy Global suggests that while San Francisco is not giving up on the H-1B, companies there need it less than they have professed to need it.  Call it an adjustment to the immigration policies of the new President. But despite a historical reliance on highly skilled foreign-born talent, most San Francisco employers say they do not consider sourcing foreign national workers as a top talent acquisition priority.

The San Francisco Insights on Immigration Report, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Envoy, aggregated the responses of 171 San Francisco-based HR professionals and hiring managers regarding global hiring practices. Key takeaways from the survey showed that local companies view hiring foreign talent is still very much a business norm, but today only 8% of San Francisco tech companies say they proactively seek out foreign employees compared with 24% of tech companies in other tech hubs who say they are looking abroad for talent. Some 54% of San Francisco tech companies said sourcing foreign national employees is not very important to their company’s talent acquisition strategy at the moment.

The de-emphasis on immigrant workers this year is the fact that the H-1B application process has become more cumbersome under Trump.  Trump has promised to make it harder for tech firms to hire foreign workers, though the companies all still insist they need them.

In response to changes in immigration regulations, 33% of San Francisco employers say they are hiring fewer foreign nationals compared to 26% of employers nationwide.

A further tightening of citizenship rules for children born abroad and out of wedlock to US parents USCIS tightens rules on US citizenship for children born outside America is being implemented.


A series of articles based upon the Australian race commissioner’s report on the appalling lack of diversity among Australian leadership (In a Proudly Diverse Australia, White People Still Run Almost Everything‘Dismal’ diversity among Australian business and civic leadersWhy we should look at targets to get more non-Europeans into top jobs: Tim Soutphommasane):

Based on the 2016 Census data on ancestry, we estimate about 58 per cent of Australians have an Anglo-Celtic background, 18 per cent have a European background, 21 per cent have a non-European background, and 3 per cent have an Indigenous background.

However, our examination of almost 2500 senior leaders in business, politics, government and higher education shows only very limited cultural diversity. Almost 95 per cent of senior leaders at the chief executive or “c-suite” levels have an Anglo-Celtic or European background. Of the 372 chief executives and equivalents we identified, 97 per cent have an Anglo-Celtic or European background.

Here’s a breakdown. Within the ASX 200 companies, there appears only to be eight chief executives who have a non-European background – enough to squeeze into a Tarago. Of the 30 members of the federal ministry, there is no one who has a non-European background, and one who has an Indigenous background. It is similarly bleak within the public service, where 99 per cent of the heads of federal and state government departments have an Anglo-Celtic or European background (that’s one of 103). Universities don’t fare much better: just one of the 39 vice-chancellors of Australian universities has a non-European background.

All up there are 11 of the 372 chief executives and equivalents who have a non-European or Indigenous background. A mere cricket team’s worth of diversity.

These are dismal statistics for a society that prides itself on its multiculturalism. They challenge our egalitarian self-image. And they challenge our future prosperity as a nation. If we aren’t making the most of our multicultural talents, we may be squandering opportunities.

I often hear from people that it will only be a matter of time before cultural diversity is better represented. We should be encouraged, for example, that there doesn’t appear to be any lack of European backgrounds among senior leaders. Just as it took time before we saw Australian chief executives from Italian or Greek backgrounds, we may have to wait a little longer before we see more from Asian, Middle-Eastern, or African backgrounds.

Time alone may not resolve the problem. Economists at the University of Sydney, in a recent study involving resumes, found those with an Anglo name are three times more likely to be invited for interview, compared to candidates with a Chinese name. (The study also found that those with Chinese names who had an Anglicised first name doubled their chances of receiving a job interview.)

If we are serious about shifting numbers, it may be necessary to consider targets for cultural diversity – if not quotas. Such measures don’t stand in opposition to a principle of merit. After all, meritocracy presumes a level playing field. Yet do we seriously believe that a perfectly level playing field exists, when there is such dramatic under-representation of cultural diversity within leadership positions?

Multiculturalism can be as superficial as food and festivals. But if we’re serious about our diversity, we must be prepared to hold up a mirror to ourselves – and ask if what we see looks right for an egalitarian and multicultural Australia.


Lastly, relevant and disturbing commentary on the recent Hungarian election and the country’s descent into autocracy (Hungary Is Winning Its War on Muslim Immigrants: Leonid BershidskyA Democracy Disappears: Andrew Sullivan), with Sullivan noting the parallels with the US under Trump:

The recipe is a familiar one by now. In a society where social mores, especially in the big cities, appear to be changing very fast, there is a classic reaction. More traditional voters in the heartland begin to feel left behind, and their long-held values spurned. At the same time, a wave of unlawful migrants, fleeing terror and deprivation, appear to threaten the demographic and cultural balance still further, and seem to be encouraged by international post-national entities such as the European Union. A leftist ruling party in disarray gives a right-wing demagogue an opening, and he seizes it. And so in 2010, Orbán was able to exploit a political crisis triggered by an imploding and scandal-ridden Socialist government, and, alongside coalition partners, win a supermajority for the right in parliament.

Once in power, that supermajority allowed Orbán to amend the constitution in 2011, reducing the number of seats in the parliament from 386 to 199, gerrymandering them brutally to shore up his party’s standing in future elections, barring gay marriage in perpetuity, and mandating that in election campaigns, state media would take precedence over independent sources. He also forced a wave of early retirements in the judiciary in order to pack the courts with loyalists.

As Mounk notes, Orbán also tapped into deep grievances rooted in Hungary’s loss of territory in the 20th century, by giving the vote to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring Romania and removing it from more culturally progressive expats. But it was in response to the migration crisis in 2015, that Orbán truly galvanized public opinion behind him. Hungary, as Paul Lendvai noted in The Atlantic, had been deluged with asylum claims: 174,000 in 2015 alone, the highest per capita in the EU. Orbán responded by spreading fears of an influx of terrorists and criminals, of a poisoning of Hungarian culture, and expressing visceral nationalist hostility to the diktats of the European Union. Added to all that, of course, was a generous salting of classic central European anti-Semitism. Voters especially in rural areas flocked to him.

He further shifted the public discourse by creating and advancing new media outlets that amplified his propaganda, while attacking, harassing, and undermining all the others. He erected a huge fence to keep Muslim immigrants out, and refused to accept any of the 50,000 refugees the EU wanted to settle in his country. His political allies began to get very rich, as crony capitalism spread. By last year, Orbán had turned George Soros into a version of 1984’s Emmanuel Goldstein — an “enemy of the state” — with billboards and endless speeches, demonizing the Jewish billionaire and philanthropist, and vowing to protect the nation from external, malignant forces.

It was a potent formula, especially when backed up by the rigging of the parliamentary seats. Last week, in a surge of voter turnout, Orban won almost 50 percent of the vote, but two-thirds of the seats, giving him another supermajority (this time without coalition partners) in parliament, with further chances to amend the constitution in his favor. His voters in the heartland swamped a majority for the opposition in Budapest. One of two remaining opposition newspapers, Magyar Nemzet, shut down on Wednesday after 80 years in print. Orbán had withdrawn all government advertising in it. Some wonder whether there will ever be a free election again.

If you find many of these themes familiar, you’ve been paying attention. In the middle of a reaction against massive social change and a wave of illegal immigration, a right-wing party decides to huff some populism. A charismatic figure emerges, defined by hostility to immigration, becomes an iconic figure, and even though he doesn’t win a majority of votes, comes to office. His party is further shored up by gerrymandering, giving it a structural advantage in gaining and keeping power, including a seven percentage-point head start in the House of Representatives. That party does what it can to further suppress the vote of its opponents, especially ethnic minorities, and focuses on packing the courts, even rupturing long-standing precedents to deny a president of the opposing party his right to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat.

Openly propagandist media companies emerge, fake news surges, while the president uses the powers of his office to attack, delegitimize, and discredit other media sources, even to the point of threatening a company like Amazon. A mighty wall is proposed against immigrants on the border, alongside fears of a mass “invasion” from the South. Social conservatives are embraced tightly. The census is altered to ensure one party’s advantage in future district-drawing. Courts are disparaged and the justice system derided as rigged by political opponents.

The difference, of course, is that Orbán is an experienced politician, and knows exactly what he’s doing. Trump is a fool, an incompetent, and incapable of forming any kind of strategy, or sticking to one. The forces arrayed against the populist right, moreover, are much stronger in the U.S. than in Hungary; our institutions more robust; our culture much more diverse. Our democracy is far, far older.

And yet almost every single trend in Hungary is apparent here as well. The party of the left has deep divisions, and no unifying leader, while the ruling party is a loyalist leader-cult. The president’s party is a machine that refuses to share power, and seeks total control of all branches of government. It is propelled by powerful currents of reaction, seems indifferent to constitutional norms, and dedicated to incendiary but extremely potent populist rhetoric. The president’s supporters now support a purge in the Department of Justice and the FBI, to protect the president from being investigated.

The president himself has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for liberal norms; and despite a chaotic first year and a half, is still supported by a solid and slightly growing 42 percent of the public. Meanwhile, the immigration issue continues to press down, the culture wars are intensifying again, and the broad reasons for Trump’s election in the first place remain in place: soaring social and economic inequality, cultural insecurity, intensifying globalization, and a racially fraught period when white Americans will, for the first time, not form a majority of citizens.

History is not over; and real, profound political choices are here again. My hope is that the descent into illiberalism across the West might shake up the rest of us in defending core liberal democratic principles, wherever they are threatened, bringing us to the ballot box in huge numbers this fall, and abandoning the complacency so many have lapsed into.

Geddes tries to explain former PM Harper’s congratulations to Orban (Why Stephen Harper congratulating Viktor Orbán matters: John Geddes):

Tone matters. If this were only a pro forma note, Harper is more than capable, as anyone who followed him in Canadian politics can attest, of draining any message of liveliness or affect. And, by his own stated standard, he would have had grounds for keeping any hint of enthusiasm out of this one. After all, Harper has said that his aim as IDU chair is partly “ensuring that we address the concerns of frustrated conservatives and that they do not drift to extreme options.”

If we’re talking extreme options, Orban looks like a prime example these days. Numerous credible critics charge that he has coopted Hungary’s courts and schools, skewed its electoral system to his advantage, all while voicing admiration for Turkey and China, and criticizing Western European tolerance for Muslim immigration. Still, political science professor Achim Hurrelmann, director of Carleton University’s Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, says Orban’s core message—beyond his destructive domestic tactics—is being heard by conservatives outside Hungary. “[Fidesz] has primarily been anti-migration, emphasizing the Christian roots of Europe, and being very much against diversity,” Hurrelmann told me in an interview. “In that position, they find common ground with some other mainstream conservative parties.”

I can’t guess if Harper’s calculation in issuing that tweet took into account an awareness that Orban, dangerous as he may be, isn’t irrelevant beyond Hungary. Whatever Harper’s reasoning, he has undoubtedly damaged his reputation among many who view Orban with justifiable distaste and alarm. I’m reminded again of the steep learning curve Harper had to climb after barely travelling outside Canada, and concentrating almost entirely on domestic issues, rather than foreign policy, before his 2006 election win. “Since coming to office,” he told Maclean’s in 2011, “the thing that’s probably struck me the most in terms of my previous expectations—I don’t even know what my expectations were—is not just how important foreign affairs/foreign relations is, but, in fact, that it’s become almost everything.”

It’s worth noting that Andrew Scheer seems to be on his own version of that learning curve now. In this recent interview with my colleague Paul Wells, the Conservative leader surprised me by going on at some length about his reasons for supporting Brexit. Scheer spoke about how staying in the EU impinged on British sovereignty and embroiled Britain in the Brussels bureaucracy. He scoffed at “this notion that somehow they would lose access to the European market.” He repeated the debunked canard that EU rules required a certain curvature on bananas.

To my ear, all this pro-Brexit blather was by far the least convincing part of Scheer’s performance in that interesting conversation. Conservatism’s most treacherous currents are global, especially in the age of Donald Trump. In Harper’s congratulatory message to Orban, and Scheer’s laudatory position on Brexit, the difficulty finding a solidly respectable place to stand in that international discourse becomes glaringly obvious. These issues might not seem central to Canadian voters in any federal election, but, as Harper reminded us, they soon are to whoever wins one.


ICYMI: The changing shape of Australia’s immigration policy | The Guardian

Good overview of the data and some of the issues and debates:

How many and whom? Australia is – again – seized by a debate about migration to this country, its size, shape and character.

“Immigration is a defining feature of Australia’s economic and social life,” the productivity commission argued in a 2016 report that found, on current projections, the country’s population would reach 40 million by the middle of the century.

From the post-war creation of an immigration department and the public catch-cry of “populate or perish”, successive waves of migrants, from different parts of the world, have shaped the country’s character, and influenced its development.

But Australia’s broader migration program has been revolutionised over a generation, and with little consultative public debate.

Australia does not have an explicit population policy or minister – it did briefly between 2010 and 2013 but the annual migration intake is set by government as part of the budget.

“Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy,” the productivity commission says.

Since the prime ministership of John Howard, immigration experts argue, successive governments of both stripes have altered, almost beyond recognition from its post-war origins, the size, emphases, and nature of Australia’s migration program.

In Guardian analysis of migration data from the beginning of Howard’s premiership in 1996, several key trends emerge:

  • A massive increase in Australia’s annual permanent migration intake – from 85,000 in 1996 to 208,000 last year.
  • The emergence of India and China as the largest sources – by far – of migrants.
  • The movement away from family migration to skilled migration targeting national workforce needs. In 1996, family migration was about two-thirds of the program, and skilled one-third. Those ratios are now reversed.
  • A huge increase in temporary migration to Australia – through short-term work visas (the soon-to-be-replaced 457) and international students.
  • The rise of “two-step migration”, where those on short-term visas (usually 457 or student visas) gain permanent residency.
  • The emergence of migration, rather than natural increase (i.e. births) as the primary driver of population increase.

Publicly, the debate about migration rarely remains within the narrow confines of the number or origin of new people seeking to come to Australia to live.

Rather it spills, with increasing vituperativeness, into all areas of public debate: to arguments about road congestion and house prices, to the availability of resources such as land and water, to social debates about integration, religion, and English as Australia’s primary spoken language.

Migration is not just about those who arrive, but runs to national character: who is an Australian and who will become one.

The migration of the past 20 years has shaped the nature of today’s Australia. And today’s migration will create the Australia of the next generation.

The number of humanitarian migrants (mainly refugees being resettled) has remained fairly static since 1996, with a jump in 2012 and a trend upwards since 2015.

Over two decades, India and China have emerged as, by far, the largest countries of origin for permanent migrants. The number from India has grown from 3000 migrants in 1996 to more than 40,000 by 2013. Three countries, India, China, and the United Kingdom, provide the majority of migrants to Australia.

Since 1996, the balance of permanent migration has moved from family towards skilled. This has come as successive Australian governments sought to tie migration more closely to the needs of the labour market.

Temporary migration to Australia has risen sharply over the past two decades, largely through two channels – international students and temporary work visas (457). The number of international students has more than trebled since 1996, from about 113,000 a year, to more than 340,000.

Natural increase – babies being born – is no longer the primary driver for Australia’s population increase. Twenty years ago, the split was broadly 60% babies, 40% arriving migrants in increasing Australia’s population. Today, the inverse is true. The number of babies being born has increased, roughly in line with the rise in population, but against a hugely higher level of migration, its proportion has shrunk.

The University of Technology Sydney professor Jock Collins has studied Australia’s migration trends for four decades. He told the Guardian that while Australia was indisputably a country of migration – 28% of Australia’s population was born overseas; of OECD nations only Luxembourg and Switzerland have higher proportions – migration has always been a matter of fierce public debate.

“There has always been an immigration debate, it’s been a major feature of our nation – it’s always been controversial.”

The profound changes to the size and shape of Australia’s migration program, began under the Howard government as he ramped up migration – permanent and temporary – in part as a response to the mining boom and a thriving economy. The trend has continued, both a result of and a factor in, Australia’s continuing economic prosperity.

Previously, Collins argues, debates about migration have been closely linked to economic downturns. Recessions in the early 80s, and then again in the start of the 90s, sparked widespread questioning of the size and nature of Australia’s immigration program.

“Now, economically, we are in this long-running boom, the argument is more about the social and environmental impact, instead of ‘they’re taking our jobs’, it’s about congestion and overcrowding, infrastructure and housing prices,” he says.

Temporary migration has changed the nature of Australia’s migration program, with an increasing number of migrants now coming to Australia on a temporary visa and, via “two-steps” or more, moving towards permanent residency.

“That is the big story of the last two decades of Australian immigration, the massive increase in temporary migration,” Collins says.

“From 1947, the emphasis was settler-migration, bringing in new people to build the nation. But now, temporary migration far outweighs permanent: 700,000 or so temporary visas compared to 200,000 on permanent visas. And this has occurred without much debate or concern, it’s only been with the Fair Work commission investigation into the exploitation of international students and working holiday visa holders, or the problems with 457 visas, that we are having this debate around temporary migrants.”

Debate, not demonisation

Collins believes a debate about Australia’s migration program – how large it is, which migrants are prioritised and why – is a legitimate public policy discussion.

“But I think the thing about the current debate, it becomes disturbing when you attack a particular ethnic group – ‘Chinese immigrants are destroying the housing market’, or talk about so-called ‘African gangs’.

“I think you can have a reasoned debate about population size and accompanying issues, if you don’t attach that to a particular group. If it’s about ‘the Chinese’ or ‘African gangs’, then it becomes emotive and not evidence-based and develops a momentum of itself.”

He says the debate Australia hasn’t yet had is around where immigrants move to. Australia is one of the most urbanised countries on earth, and the vast majority of immigrants settle in cities, overwhelming Melbourne and Sydney.

“But one thing I’ve found that’s interesting: there is a massive appetite in the bush for refugees and also for migration more broadly.

“I studied attitudes towards new immigrants to rural and regional, expecting to see some evidence of, to put it crudely, ‘redneck Australia’. But I found the opposite, the warmth of the welcome was overwhelming, towards both permanent migrants and humanitarian entrants.

“I think this can be a ‘win-win’ situation if it is well managed. Australia can maintain its large migration levels, even increase its humanitarian program, but you can diffuse the urban congestion and address the house price issue, as well as addressing population decline and economic stagnation in rural and regional areas.”

via The changing shape of Australia’s immigration policy | Australia news | The Guardian