Is Australia headed for another citizenship saga?

Appears not, despite the heade questionr:

Bill Shorten, Jacqui Lambie and Chris Bowen are among a list of more than two dozen politicians who may not be eligible to sit in the Australian parliament.

Legal academics in Western Australia have put the constitution under the microscope and concluded that 26 MPs and senators may fall foul of the nightmarish Section 44(i).

The section disqualifies anyone who holds allegiance to a foreign country from sitting in the federal parliament.

While much of the attention during the 2017-2018 political crisis that claimed 15 scalps centred on the section’s second criteria -which covers the issue of dual citizenship – the third criteria went largely unnoticed.

‘Right of abode’ in UK

This disqualifies anyone from sitting in parliament if they are entitled to the rights and privileges of citizens of a foreign power.

This means that Australians born before January 1, 1983, to a British parent, probably still hold a ‘right of abode’ in the United Kingdom – which confers almost all the rights and privileges of a full British citizen.

‘We seem to have only scratched the surface.’

“While many Australians perhaps hoped that multiple High Court decisions and resulting by-elections would mean that the country could put the parliamentary eligibility crisis behind it, instead we seem to have only scratched the surface,” says legal academic Lorraine Finlay.

Finlay is co-author of the paper But Wait…There’s More: The Ongoing Complexities of Section 44(I), published in the University of Western Australia Law Review.

At the very least, says Finlay, the third criteria is “significantly more ambiguous” than the second.

Allegiance

And she says it would be up to the High Court to determine if the rights conferred on an Australian holding a right of abode in the UK are significant enough to create an “imputed sense of allegiance”.

Any member of a Commonwealth nation, who holds the right of abode in the UK, is free to enter and exit the UK “without hindrance”, as well as to work, study, apply for welfare, vote and stand for public office in the country.

Finlay says it is interesting to note that the rights afforded to European Union citizens in the UK are “distinct” and lesser than those afforded to Commonwealth Citizens with the right of abode in the UK.

After examining the parliamentary citizenship register, Finlay concludes there are at least 26 current parliamentarians who potentially could have the right of abode in the UK, based on the information they have provided on their British family history.

Australian politicians dual citizenship list

LABOR (14)

  • Bill Shorten (Vic), Chris Bowen (NSW), Mark Butler (SA), Nick Champion (SA), Lisa Chesters (Vic), Pat Conroy (NSW), Alexander Gallacher (SA), Katy Gallagher (ACT), Andrew Giles (Vic), Madeleine King (WA), Susan Lines (WA), Brian Mitchell (Tas), Louise Pratt (WA) and Glenn Sterle (WA).

LIBERAL (5)

  • John Alexander (NSW), Angie Bell (Qld), Ben Morton (WA), Dean Smith (WA) and Alan Tudge (Vic).

NATIONAL (3)

  • George Christensen (Qld), Patrick Conaghan (NSW) and Perin Davey (NSW).

GREENS (2)

  • Adam Bandt (Vic) and Rachel Siewart (WA).

OTHER (2)

  • One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts (Qld) and independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie.

Challenge unlikely

For any of the above to be ruled ineligible, they would have to be challenged in the parliament and referred to the High Court.

With 14 under a cloud, it’s safe to assume Labor will let sleeping dogs lie.

And while a challenge could be to the coalition’s advantage, the Liberals and Nationals might feel the brunt of a backlash if it forces voters back to the polls for another slew of by-elections.

Finlay concludes that an examination of eligibility in light of the Commonwealth right of abode is therefore unlikely to go any further.

“(But) it demonstrates that there may still be a significant number of current Australian parliamentarians who are not actually eligible to sit in the parliament,” she says.

“Clarifying the scope and reach of section 44(i) is essential to maintain public confidence in the legitimacy of the current Australia Parliament, and also to avoid uncertainty with regards to future elections.”

Source: Is Australia headed for another citizenship saga?

Trump Is Right That “Much Can Be Learned” From Australia’s Immigration Policies.

Some valid points about the risks of normalizing xenophobic discourse, rather than having more neutral wording to describe issues:

Australia’s asylum policies—which see asylum-seekers languishing for years under inhumane conditions in offshore detention centers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru—are already a source of great shame for many Australians. Widely condemned by human rights groups and the United Nations, the policies contravene various human rights charters, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and even the Convention Against Torture. A U.N. report called on Australia to close the offshore centers, finding “inadequate mental health services, serious safety concerns and instances of assault, sexual abuse, self-harm and suspicious deaths; and about reports that harsh conditions compelled some asylum seekers to return to their country of origin despite the risks that they face there.” Just last week, a former detainee who spent six years on Manus Island begged the U.N. Human Rights Council to hold Australia to account, calling the centers—not just the circumstances they were fleeing—a humanitarian crisis.

But when Donald Trump—the U.S. president whose administration separates children from their families to deter asylum-seekers—says there is much to be learned from Australia’s immigration policies, it’s a fresh reminder of just how bad things have become.

On his way to a working dinner with newly reelected Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the G-20 summit in Japan last week, Trump tweeted out four Australian government flyers, noting that “much can be learned” from them:

It’s not the first time Trump has praised Australia’s hard-line policies: In 2017, then–Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was attempting to convince Trump to uphold a deal negotiated under the Obama administration for the U.S. to resettle detained asylum-seekers who had been attempting to reach Australia. When Turnbull explained Australia’s policy of not accepting those who seek asylum via boat, Trump reportedly told him, “We should do that too. You are worse than I am.”

Trump is reportedly a fan of Turnbull’s successor, Morrison, repeatedly comparing his recent surprise upset to his own (and, of course, declaring that he saw it coming). It’s not clear where Trump saw the Morrison posters, but they seem to represent a friendly little tip from one tough-on-borders leader to another, just as the image of a drowned Salvadoran migrant father and daughter made headlines around the globe.

The lesson Trump presumably wants to draw from these posters is how better to deter people from seeking asylum—something those people have every right to do under international law. As Trump said when he saw the viral image from the U.S. border, “A very very dangerous journey. And by the way many other things happened. Women being raped; women being raped in numbers nobody believed.” The Australian government often justifies its cruelty as a deterrent: to discourage refugees from making the “very very dangerous journey” by sea by making it clear that they will never be settled in Australia, and will suffer greatly if they try to be. It’s for their own good, the government says while simultaneously stoking fears of a flood of boats making their way to Australia if they weaken their system even slightly—punishment in the name of protection.

As Kon Karapanagiotidis—founder and CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and one of the most outspoken refugee advocates in Australia—laid out in a reply to Trump’s tweet, there is a swath of horrors to learn from Australia, if abject cruelty and maximum suffering are what you’re aiming for.

The most obvious thing for the U.S. to learn from Australia is not to go down this path. This should be obvious enough, from the list Karapanagiotidis shared, from the conditions these human beings live under with no end in sight.

But there is an especially acute lesson to take away from this about not allowing cruelty to become normalized. Just like in the United States, this has been an incremental slide for Australia. Many of the asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia attempt to come by boat via Southeast Asia. Mandatory detention of these migrants for the assessment of “unlawful arrivals,” implemented in the early ’90s by a Labor government with a 273-day limit, soon became offshore detention. The 2000s conservative coalition government implemented the “Pacific Solution,” interning asylum-seekers on nearby island nations instead. Temporary detention soon became seemingly permanent, with a later coalition government declaring that no asylum-seeker who arrives by boat will ever be allowed to live in Australia, regardless of the legitimacy of her claim. (The only options for detainees are to return to their home countries, something they are often pressured to do, or wait for a resettlement deal to be negotiated.) The system has become increasingly secretive, with the media unable to access the camps, and those working within them facing jail time if they leak information.

It’s not too late for the U.S. to avoid this path. As Jason Wilson wrote in the Guardian just a few days before Trump drew the comparison, “Australia’s camps are now baked into its national politics. … The longer that they are in place in the US, Italy and elsewhere, the more likely it is that in those countries, too, they will become permanent features of the political landscape.”

At first, the U.S. left seemed to be doing a good job at this—something Australia could learn from. The left rallied fiercely against the Trump administration family separation policy when it first came out that children were being kept in detention facilities, forcing Trump to sign a June 2018 executive order putting an end to the practice. At the time, the hearteningly effective use of protest made me sad about Australia’s own failure to mobilize effectively or early enough against its now-ingrained inhumane policies.

However, after Trump signed the executive order, returning many traumatized children to their families, that outrage seemed to simmer out—despite hundreds of children remaining in detention. Recent weeks have seen the issue reenter the public consciousness, with the discovery that many more children were separated than first thought, and an inspection of a Clint, Texas, detainment center revealing appalling conditions. There has been a renewed push, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to again label these kinds of camps “concentration camps,” which, accurate or not, has reenergized opposition to them and turned the facilities into a central issue for 2020 Democratic candidates. But outrage fatigue is real, and the second rarely matches the first. Australia may be beyond the capacity to feel outrage at this point, with reports of a mental health crisis—dozens of detainee suicide attempts and acts of self-harm since the unexpected reelection of Australia’s conservative government in May—barely moving the needle.

There are also lessons for the U.S. media to be taken from Australia. It is essential that journalists keep reporting on and scrutinizing the horrific conditions in these detention facilities and keep finding ways to get the message across. But perhaps most importantly, they need to fight any efforts to impose laws or policies banning access to the centers for journalists and advocates, as the Australian government did in 2015, passing the draconian Australian Border Force Act, which made it a criminal offense for whistleblowers to reveal anything that happens in the detention centers to the media. Journalists have little access themselves, with the Pacific nations that house Australia’s detention centers refusing almost all journalist visa requests—something that Australia is believed to have had a hand in. For the most part, all the Australian public now gets from inside these camps are rare leaked recordings and the Twitter feeds of prominent detainees. Australian journalists and advocates fought this law, and I don’t mean to demean or question their efforts here. But it’s important for the U.S. media to take heed. Images and reports have proved incredibly potent in swaying public opinion, and so, from Trump’s perspective, a lesson here might be to implement something similar.

There are lessons, too, for Democrats to learn from Australia’s major left party, the Labor Party, not to bow to public pressure to be “strong” and “tough” on border control. Despite recent efforts to provide some relief, in the form of a bill allowing for the temporary transfer of detainees to Australia for medical or psychiatric treatment passed in Parliament with the support of Labor and a number of independents, Labor has proved spineless on the issue, with mandatory offshore detention now more or less a bipartisan policy.

Many in the party may oppose the practice, but overall, Labor is afraid to differentiate itself from the right, lest it be labeled weak on national security—something the coalition has attempted to do in the wake of Labor showing the smallest ounce of compassion in helping pass the medical transfer bill. Democrats need to decide how they intend to fight this system, rather than just try to alleviate some of the suffering it creates. Some argue that billions in emergency funding for the southern border only props up the system, advancing a fundamentally inhumane set of policies.

Trump’s desire to “learn” from a horrific policy that has been repeatedly slammed by the U.N. Human Rights Council is hardly surprising. But for once, he’s right—in a sense. There are many lessons to be learned from Australia. The most important? Take note of them before a system becomes seemingly too ingrained to do much about it.

Source: Trump Is Right That “Much Can Be Learned” From Australia’s Immigration Policies.

Australia needs more ethnic blood donors to reflect our multicultural society – Hack – triple j

Similar issues arise in Canada:

As the Australian population continues to grow, the Red Cross estimates the need for blood and blood products will rise 100 per cent over the next 10 years.

One in three people need blood, but only one in 30 donate each year. And in a multicultural society, the need for blood donors from different ethnic backgrounds is growing too.

Roughly one-third of our population were born overseas, but they account for just one in five blood donors.

Which means for people with rare blood types who need blood transfusions, the blood pool is pretty small.

Although I don’t need blood transfusions, I do have a rare blood type. And I don’t know whether I might need specially matched blood in the future because of that.

Where’s your blood from?

Just like you have your mother’s eyes or your father’s hair, your blood type is inherited from your parents.

In Australia, the most common blood types are O positive and A positive. The least common are AB positive and AB negative.

There are eight main blood types, organised through two combined systems. These systems are ABO (blood types A, B, AB or O) and Rh type or group (the group that gives you the “positive” or “negative” in your blood).

Your blood type is a combination of these two systems. On top of that, there are about 300 other variants that act as markers in red blood cells, known as antigens. If you’re confused (and it’s definitely easy to be), have a read of this explainer and then jump back in.

A table listing all different blood types

This table shows which blood types can be received by others.

Because I have a rare blood type, my blood isn’t needed as much as O and A positive, for example. So instead, my plasma is used to create a bunch of other blood products.

I also have an inherited blood disorder because of my Middle-Eastern background, only making my blood even more different to the majority.

These differences are exactly why the Red Cross want more donors of different ethnic backgrounds.

Associate Professor Tanya Davison is the Red Cross Blood Service’s National Donor Research Manager.

She told Hack the blood donor pool needs to reflect the changing face of Australia.

“Australia is an incredibly diverse country with so many people of mixed ethnicities that may have uncommon combinations of blood types.”

Why do blood types matter?

For someone who needs blood transfusions, having a blood donor that closely matches their own blood is really important, Professor Davison explains.

The more diverse the patient’s blood is, the more need for a diverse pool of donors.

“This is because there are some cases where it’s important to have a close match between donors and patients, otherwise patients risk reacting against their transfusion. When this happens, their immune system attacks their transfused cells, which can be dangerous for the patient,” she said.

“Because there are over 300 different blood group variants, that differ depending on where people come from, it’s important that we have donors who match the patients in need.”

Zainab’s case

In January, an Australian blood donor was found for a three-year-old girl in Florida with a rare blood type.

Little Zainab needs regular blood transfusions as part of her cancer treatment. Her blood is extremely rare as it’s missing a common antigen most people have in their red blood cells, called “Indian B”.

After an international call-out for a match, over 200 Australian donors were screened and a match was found in Sydney.

The blood service is seeking people to be donors for Zainab as she continues her treatment, and are researching ways for ethnic communities to become regular blood donors in Australia.

Professor Davison says they don’t yet know why ethnic communities don’t make up a significant number of donors, but there could be a few reasons.

“Research from other countries suggests there are many reasons that could be important, like cultural and religious differences, language barriers, or even frequent travel to countries that may result in a donor being temporarily deferred,” she said.

“Many countries don’t have a history of volunteering blood to save the lives of strangers, and people from these countries may not be aware of how important it is to donate blood in Australia.

“We would encourage people from all ethnic backgrounds to donate blood. Our researchers are currently learning how we can ensure that we meet the needs of all our donors.”

Source: Australia needs more ethnic blood donors to reflect our multicultural society – Hack – triple j

Australia: Labor should let hope prevail on refugees, shadow minister Andrew Giles says

Post-election positioning. Even the government seems to have turned down its pre-election rhetoric as seen in its apparent abandoning some of its citizenship proposals (Whatever happened to the ‘Australian values’ citizenship bill?):

Public sentiment on asylum seekers has shifted, and Labor must use the looming parliamentary term to “give Australia’s hopeful side a fair chance to prevail over the politics of fear, and division” according to the shadow minister for multicultural affairs, Andrew Giles.

Giles will use a speech to Australian Fabians on Wednesday to argue the recent community debate around the medical evacuations bill, and the tone of the federal election, suggests Australians are over the toxic politics of border protection, and are fatigued by the “false binaries and unnecessary aggression” from the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton.

The Victorian leftwinger will say it was notable that border protection, and the “demonisation of asylum seekers” did not feature front and centre in the 2019 federal election, which is unusual compared with previous federal contests. “I’m not sure if we can quite characterise this as something to celebrate, but it is a significant development – something to build upon.”

Giles says the “noise” of the hyper-partisan conflict over border protection policy that has raged in Australia since the Tampa standoff “has crowded out both a reasoned and reasonable exchange of ideas, and the voices of those whose lives are directly affected by the policy choices we make”.

Source: Labor should let hope prevail on refugees, shadow minister Andrew Giles says

Whatever happened to the ‘Australian values’ citizenship bill?

Spoiler – Identity politics and the election:

Nothing seemed as urgent as the protection of Australian values when journalists were called to the Prime Minister’s courtyard two years ago to hear of new laws that would make it harder for migrants to gain citizenship.

Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton stood side by side in Parliament House to announce a bill that would require newcomers to pass stricter English tests and sign a “values statement” before they could become Australians.

This sounded absolutely imperative. The law would be put to Parliament “as soon as possible” to not only apply the new tests but also require permanent residents to wait at least four years, rather than just one, before they could apply for citizenship.

There would even be a change to the preamble in the citizenship law so that new citizens would accept the obligation to “pledge their allegiance” to Australia and its people.

But an election victory changes everything. The new law is no longer as urgent as it seemed in April 2017. The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 has been dropped into a filing cabinet and may never be seen again.

The quiet demise of this proposal is a curious shift from years of government warnings about the need for citizens to speak better English and respect Australian laws.

“We want them to demonstrate that they’re adhering to Australian values and that is why it’s incredibly important on all of those levels to get this change through the Parliament,” Dutton told Ray Hadley on 2GB in the middle of 2017.

The proposal was the product of its time. Turnbull stood alongside Dutton at a point when Tony Abbott was mounting a conservative offensive from the backbench. One year into his tenure as Prime Minister, Turnbull was at risk of looking too “progressive” for his own side.

And the political objective of the bill was never in doubt.

“We’re standing up for Australian values and the Parliament should do so too,” said Turnbull in the courtyard.

“So if Labor doesn’t sign up they don’t respect Australian values?” asked a journalist. Turnbull did not have to answer the question directly for the implication to be obvious.

Bill Shorten and his shadow ministers, including citizenship spokesman Tony Burke, resisted the pressure to wave the bill through. Burke said the language test was “ridiculous” because it required university-level standards.

The uproar ran for months. The current citizenship test, put in place by the Howard government, is described as a de facto English test because it asks 20 questions about Australian history and culture. The new test would have required “competent” English to Level 6 of the general training stream of the International English Language Testing System.

Of course new citizens should be encouraged to speak English, but this was not the principle at stake in the government plan. At issue were the scale of the change and the difficulty of the test. The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia called the proposed standard “punitive” and unnecessary.

The result, a political stand-off, raised the usual question when politicians thunder about values. What did they want more: an outcome or a fight? It was easy to see the bill as an example of conservative virtue signalling.

Eager to hear the roar of the “values” debate, the government revved the engine so hard the parts glowed red and the radiator ran dry. Was it worth it? Turnbull certainly did not prosper from his appeal to the right. The bill was hardly front-and-centre in the election campaign. It is a footnote on the long list of reasons for Shorten’s defeat.

The Immigration Minister, David Coleman, now has carriage of the citizenship bill and some of the pressing issues around the settlement of new migrants, not least the way Australia looks after new refugees. One item on his agenda is a review of settlement services.

Coleman has no history of starting culture wars. He knows multicultural Australia better than many politicians, given his seat of Banks in southern Sydney is considered one of the country’s most diverse. His focus appears to be on the practical.

The final status of the plan is uncertain. The bill will not come back to Parliament but none of the proposals has been formally rejected – not the English standard, the four-year wait, the values statement, the “pledge of allegiance” or anything else.

Some sections of the bill gave the immigration minister more discretion to reject citizenship applications, a feature that troubled experts but did not gain as much attention as the language test. There may be a natural tendency in any government to bring these sorts of changes back to Parliament.

Yet the fact remains that the government chooses to let the bill fall by the wayside even when the new Parliament seems to give it a stronger chance of getting its way. The Coalition would only need the support of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the Australian Conservatives’ Cory Bernardi and Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie to pass the bill.

A spokeswoman for Coleman says the government “continues to monitor” the citizenship requirements and the broader citizenship program.

Morrison has extraordinary authority from his election victory. How he uses his power remains to be seen. Perhaps his approach to the citizenship bill is a sign that he feels no obligation to pander to the right.

On population and migration, Morrison set out his goals in March in a 44-page statement that made no mention of citizenship tests and spoke about urban congestion far more than values.

In any case, the government would prefer to fight on the refugee medical transfer bill. All its firepower in this portfolio will be focused on the medevac debate when the new Parliament meets.

This means the citizenship bill has served its purpose. The government was able to flex its muscle, pick a fight with Labor and appeal to a group of conservative voters it feared losing during the Turnbull years.

The argument was entirely shaped by the weaknesses of the government, riven as it was by the divisions between left and right, and the result was years of hot air. No law was changed. No wonder Australians are so cynical about the empty posturing in Canberra.

Like an old car with a burnt-out engine, the “Australian values” bill may now be left to rust in a field.

Source: Whatever happened to the ‘Australian values’ citizenship bill?

Australia: ‘You don’t belong here’: A Muslim MP on racism in politics

Of note:

It’s true what they say. Some Australians would rather have our prime minister than theirs. They looked across the Tasman after the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch and saw what Australian politician Mehreen Faruqi​ calls “authentic, compassionate leadership”.

Faruqi is a Green Party senator for New South Wales. In 2013, she became the first Muslim woman ever elected to an Australian parliament. When March 15 happened, shock and devastation were followed by mourning, because it all seemed very close to home. It could so easily have happened there. Faruqi remembers her first speech in the senate was about the normalisation and legitimisation of hate, and the people it was hurting.

“I felt it very close to my heart when Jacinda Ardern said, ‘You belong here’,” Faruqi says. “That’s what we were waiting to hear from many people. What we’ve always heard is, ‘You don’t belong here, get out of my country’.”

Born in Pakistan, Faruqi moved to Australia 27 years ago. It is home for her, she stresses. It is where she studied, where her children grew up. But she has seen the mood worsen since the early 1990s. Muslims became an obvious target after 2001, and Muslim women seem to bear a disproportionate amount of the abuse. It is a “toxic mix of sexism and racism” that manifests for Faruqi as online bullying and harassment, hate mail and abusive phone calls.

“I’ve had my face photoshopped onto Isis flags,” she wrote in the Guardian in February. “I’m now used to the tabloid media amplifying lies about me and other Muslims for clickbait.”

“It doesn’t matter what I say or do,” she says. “It could be something I’ve said in support of public education, women’s rights or animal welfare, but it always ends up being about my race or where I come from or what I look like. It seems that for some I’ll never be Australian enough.”

​Faruqi came to Christchurch to pay respects and show solidarity with those affected by the mosque attacks before heading to Auckland for a conference on racism on Friday, organised by Shakti Community Council. Other participants include Green MP Golriz Ghahraman​, whose experience of being targeted by online trolls “is very similar to mine and other women of colour in public life”.

Faruqi is looking forward to comparing notes with Ghahraman. As far as overcoming racism goes, she agrees that there is more Australia can learn from New Zealand than the reverse. A lack of diversity is a major problem in Australian politics.

“Our parliaments don’t actually look like our streets or suburbs. Politicians often highlight that we are one of the most multicultural countries in the world but our representation should be reflective of that multiculturalism.”

Another problem she notices is a lack of understanding of the diversity of Muslim communities. There is a lazy assumption that Islam is not compatible with the freedoms of liberal democracy. It is the clash of civilisations theory – see all the Right-wing agitators warning about Sharia law.

“As a Muslim, I grew up with strong values of social justice, kindness, compassion and equality for all,” she says. “Those values brought me into politics and a party like the Greens. I’ve never been shy as a Muslim of talking about rights for LGBTQI people. I brought the first bill in the history of New South Wales to decriminalise abortion.

“There is a very negative stereotype of what Muslims are and what they look like. Often we are presented as ‘the Muslim community’, like a monolith. We are as wild and wonderful as any other community.”

Source: ‘You don’t belong here’: A Muslim MP on racism in politics

Bob Hawke: Why Chinese Australians are mourning a ‘tender-hearted’ PM

Moment in history, important to remember in the current context of China’s behaviour domestically and internationally and how politicians choose to act. If any reader has a Canadian angle to share, that would be welcome as I didn’t recall seeing a comparable piece during the coverage of the Tienanmen “anniversary”:

On Friday, Australians will honour beloved former leader Bob Hawke in a memorial service at the Sydney Opera House. Among them will be many Chinese Australians – including my parents – whose lives changed forever when Mr Hawke offered them asylum after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

In June 1989, Chinese troops used guns and tanks to suppress protesters calling for democracy in Beijing, killing an unknown number of people.

Half a world away in Australia, my father Cong Hui Mao watched in horror as the crackdown unfolded on his television set.

He had recently moved from China to Sydney, aged 30, on a one-year student visa. In Australia he found a vast nation with the kind of political freedoms that protesters in China had been calling for. The Tiananmen demonstrations had given him hope, and for weeks he closely followed the “promising flickers” of a new China.

“It was an exciting time – we felt that we were at a crossroads where we could bring up new ideas,” he says.

“So when Tiananmen happened, it was like a great fire had been quashed.”

In the days following, he joined crowds of Chinese students in Sydney who poured on to the streets to march for their peers at home. “We were grieving but also angry,” he says. “So angry at our government who had attacked its own people.”

The images from Beijing horrified the world, including then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke. At a national vigil in Canberra, he cried openly while reading out graphic details from a diplomatic cable: “When all those who had not managed to get away were either dead or wounded, foot soldiers went through the square, bayonetting or shooting anybody who was still alive.

“Tanks then ran backwards and forwards over the bodies of the slain, until they were reduced to pulp.”

Immediately afterwards, Mr Hawke granted visa extensions to all Chinese students in Australia.

Mr Hawke later confirmed that he did not consult his cabinet before announcing the decision. He told The Guardian in 2015: “I have a deep love for the Chinese people… when I walked off the dais I was told: ‘You cannot do that, prime minister.’ I said to them: ‘I just did. It is done.'”

‘Everyone felt grateful’

Ultimately, about 42,000 Chinese people took up the offer and forged new lives in Australia. They were given working rights and social support, and later their temporary visas were made permanent.

“Everyone felt so grateful to Hawke for his decision to allow us to stay,” says my father, who met Mr Hawke on numerous occasions at Chinese community functions held in the politician’s honour. “If he hadn’t said that, many of us would have returned to China where we feared it was unsafe, and where we feared China would go backwards.”

My mother, Ying Zhu Wang, flew to Australia in 1990 on a student visa. In Sydney, my parents met and married, set up a home and had their first two children. They didn’t return to visit China until five years after the massacre.

When Mr Hawke died on 15 May, my parents – like many Chinese Australians – contacted their friends and reminisced. Many will join other Australians at Friday’s state memorial service.

There is also much gratitude towards Mr Hawke for his attitude towards China after the Tiananmen Square protests. “He had good relations with China and its development. He understood us,” my mother says.

Jia Lu, a Chinese interpreter and researcher at the University of New South Wales, agrees: “Of course, we are thankful to him for his action after Tiananmen and the visas that allowed us to bring our families over. But people forget too that he was an Australian politician – a rare politician who kept a positive view of China’s development.”

She estimates that he attended more than 100 events held by community groups over the years.

“He was a real friend to the Chinese. For me and so many of my friends, we will really miss him.”

Transforming Australia

Mr Hawke felt the disappointment of Tiananmen deeply because he had been engaging directly with a newly West-looking China, says historian Prof Frank Bongiorno of the Australian National University.

“It’s almost beyond inconceivable today for a prime minister to make a unilateral and radical decision like Hawke did,” he says. “And he wanted to show Australia as a generous and compassionate society.”

The decision drew resistance from some officials and ministers who feared it could overwhelm Australia’s migration programme, or lead to resentment among other communities.

But it ended up “transforming the face of Australian multiculturalism”, says Dr Christina Ho, a migration expert at the University of Technology.

“They were a particular group – young, students who then went on to be educated, professional people who have made a huge contribution to Australian society.”

Not that it was an easy integration. During the 1980s and 1990s, there was ongoing political debate about the rate of Asian immigration and social cohesion. Many migrants were highly educated but had a poor grasp of English and struggled to find well-paying jobs, says Prof Ho.

“A lot of de-skilling happened in that generation,” she says. “But still, they worked hard, integrated into Australian society and raised their own families. Now they’re part of the vibrant multicultural society that is Australia today.”

This diaspora also became a cultural asset as Australia expanded its trade relationship with China in the 1990s, says Prof Bongiorno.

“You had a significant group of Chinese Australians who were a real resource,” he says. “They had the linguistic skills and native sense of the cultural dynamism of Chinese society.”

He cites the post-Tiananmen Square intake and Vietnamese migration in the 1970s as two critical points in steering Australia more towards Asia as a society.

Those Chinese students provided support for the next stream of Chinese migrants – largely middle class and from the mainland – who have moved to Australia in the past decade. Asia now accounts for more than half of Australia’s migration intake.

“Back in 1989, after Tiananmen, we were all scared – China was a closed door,” says my father.

“Bob Hawke – he showed kindness to us students. He gave us opportunity. Although he’s died, we still think of him in our hearts and remember him.”

Source: Bob Hawke: Why Chinese Australians are mourning a ‘tender-hearted’ PM

Australia: The Section 44 soap opera: why more MPs could be in danger of being forced out

Good overview on the issues and likely one of the factors in relatively poor representation of visible minorities and immigrants in Australia:

One thing we learned from the recent election campaign is that the political crisis over Section 44 of the Constitution has not gone away.

Many candidates in the election had their eligibility to stand for parliament questioned and some were even forced to withdraw from their races.

Despite all the attention given to this matter over the last couple of years, and the various procedures introduced to address it, Section 44 will only continue to be a problem until the parliament steps in to address it.

To do that, we first need to address seven myths about Section 44.

1. Everyone knows their citizenship, they just need to do their paperwork

Section 44 is about more than just citizenship – it covers a variety of restrictions on who can serve in parliament.

For instance, a GP who bulk-bills a patient could be considered to have a “pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth.” And a postman or a nurse in a public hospital could be deemed to hold “an office of profit under the Crown.”

On citizenship, the section doesn’t just disqualify dual citizens, it also bars those “entitled” to citizenship elsewhere (even if they haven’t applied for it) and those “entitled to the rights and privileges” of citizenship (basically, the “right of abode”, or being entitled to enter a country and live there).

Such entitlements are not easy to discover and almost impossible to remove, because they’re embedded in foreign legislation.

2. It doesn’t affect many people

On the contrary, the parliamentary committee investigating the matterestimated half the adult Australian population, or more, could be disqualified by law or impeded in practice from standing for parliament.

In the recent election, we saw one potential candidate withdraw because she was an Australia Post employee and another because she was entitled under Indian law to some privileges of Indian citizenship.

As a result, the Australian parliament becomes even less representative of the Australian people.

3. The constitution framers knew what they were doing

The original text agreed to at the constitutional convention in 1898 simply said anyone who had acquired foreign citizenship by their own actwas disqualified from standing for parliament.

The text that eventually became Section 44 was inserted surreptitiously by one of the key architects of the constitution (and Australia’s first prime minister), Edmund Barton, as a drafting amendment. He introduced 400 amendments on the second-to-last day of the convention, but made no mention of this change, and expressly denied there had been any changes to Section 44 apart from a minor one to another subsection.

4. The High Court has sorted it out

Far from it. Very few cases challenging Section 44 have made it that far, partly because the court has done everything possible to fend them off, including trashing the constitutional provision giving citizens the right to challenge the eligibility of parliamentarians. Politicians have also refused to refer cases to the court unless it’s advantageous to their party.

And when the court has heard a case, it has construed its task so narrowlyas to give little guidance to future action on the section. In particular, it has said nothing about the disqualification of those MPs “entitled to the rights and privileges of citizenship” in other countries.

In fact, when Senator Matthew Canavan’s eligibility was challenged because Italian laws had changed to permit citizenship to descendents of native Italians, the High Court noted that the law was fairly generous, but one had to apply. Canavan hadn’t applied, therefore couldn’t be an Italian citizen.

But if he had applied and then received Italian citizenship because he was eligible (as his brother had done), he would have been disqualified by Section 44.

This was all too much for the court to sort out. As a result, it offered no clarity on the large number of MPs whose eligibility hangs on what sorts of “entitlement” would disqualify them.

5. But there are administrative checks now, too

Well, yes, but nobody does anything about them. In 2017, all MPs were asked to fill out a form documenting their ancestry and citizenship, and the responses were then logged in a citizenship register. This showed some 15-20 MPs were entitled to foreign citizenship and a total of 59 had the “right of abode” in the UK, which the High Court has decided is the key to the “right and privilege” of citizenship.

But no action was taken on any of these cases. The register appears as a matter of record only.

Similarly, although the Australian Electoral Commission is now requiring candidates to complete a similar form, it does not take action against those who refuse to submit it, or leave sections blank. One candidate was referred to the police, but this was clearly a pointless face-saving exercise.

6. We want our MPs to be unequivocally Australian

Having foreign ancestry does not make you un-Australian. Section 44 does nothing to establish the strength of identity or loyalty – it simply prevents an undefined, but potentially very large, slice of the population from standing for parliament.

One case illustrates the ludicrous reach of the present wording.

After Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, it passed a citizenship law that gave people born outside the country to Lithuanian parents the right to citizenship. In 2016, this provision was expanded to cover those with Lithuanian grandparents. As a result, Senator Doug Cameron, whose Scottish burr we are used to hearing on news broadcasts, became eligible for Lithuanian citizenship.

While Cameron could (and did) renounce his British citizenship to qualify for election to the Australian parliament, he cannot renounce his entitlement to Lithuanian citizenship. And while some people have very strong views about Cameron, I have never heard it suggested he was working to a Lithuanian agenda rather than an Australian one.

7. It’s too hard to change the Constitution

The same thing was said about amending the Marriage Act to permit same-sex couples to marry. The public recognises there’s a problem with Section 44 and it expects the politicians to fix it.

The best shot came with the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which recommended adding the words “until the parliament otherwise provides” to Section 44. This would not change the law, just where the law is made.

Instead of disqualifications being defined by the laws in foreign countries, as the High Court has interpreted Section 44, they could be determined by the Australian parliament. This is how qualifications of senators and members are currently decided. It’s also how women got the vote in 1902.

If this proposal was strongly supported by all the parties and clearly explained to the electorate, it would likely pass in the next election.

So where does this leave us?

It all comes down to leadership. Up to now, both the Coalition and Labor have been primarily motivated by partisan advantage: how can we use Section 44 to score a political point?

The Joint Standing Committee showed that with a willingness to collaborate, there is a path forward to solving the problem. The best we can hope for is that after the trauma of the last few years, and the evidence of the continuing decline in support for the main parties, political leaders will see that acting constructively on Section 44 might actually be in the best interests of both parties.

Source: The Section 44 soap opera: why more MPs could be in danger of being forced out

Australian Football League (AFL) games now broadcast nationally in eight ethnic languages — Italianmedia

More than hockey in Canada:

The National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council (NEMBC) has teamed up with the Australian Football League (AFL) to broadcast footy games live in eight languages throughout the season, by groups of ethnic broadcasters.

The Multicultural AFL Football TV & Radio Show is produced by multicultural community broadcasters, with live commentaries made throughout the season in Arabic, Dinka, Hindi, Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish and English.

The commentaries are distributed nationally across TV broadcasts and 60 community radio stations, as well as via AFL news podcasts and to community television audiences in Victoria and South Australia, and nationally on Foxtel – Aurora.

“The Multicultural AFL Weekly Football TV & Radio Show is a production of the NEMBC and is the most diverse football show in Australia,” NEMBC CEO, Russell Anderson, said.

“The background to these people and their love for the game is unique and diverse.”

This is the first time that ethnic community broadcasting has reached such a large audience across multiple platforms.

On Sunday, June 2, the NEMBC AFL project continued with the live broadcast of the game between Essendon and Carlton in Italian, coinciding with Italian Republic Day.

Broadcasters Angela Khan and Mathew Giacomantonio did the live call live from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) where Essendon defeated Carlton.

The success of the multilingual initiative was covered last week on ABC Radio, with Hindi commentator Harbir Singh Kang telling Amanda Smith that calling in multicultural languages “creates a strong bond, especially if you’re migrated from a country”.

“The whole family … as soon as they hear their own language, they feel a connection to it,” he said.

Kang calls AFL footy games in Hindi after starting out in his mother-tongue, Punjabi.

Families can now watch the matches on TV and follow with the ethnic commentary.

It’s an initiative which also draws the generations closer.

NEMBC football programs producer, Fiv Antoniou, said that AFL is supporting the NEMBC to put this on air as “we are the only organisation that can do this nationally”.

“It was something that just developed, after a trial period of six months; it was on because it was gathering momentum,” Antoniou, who is of Greek-Cypriot background, said.

“Even second- or third-generation Greeks and Italians who do speak English want to tune into the language footy program, to enjoy Aussie culture in their blood-tongue.”

Antoniou emphasised that it’s the dream of the organisation “to push all this into the mainstream, like they do with Hispanic callers in California and the west coast of America”.

NEMBC ethnic commentators described a challenge in translating AFL lingo into culturally specific terms, such as the much-celebrated “speckie” (when a player makes a spectacular mark by jumping up on the back of another player).

The commentators concluded by saying that community listeners can call up and suggest suitable cultural terms: “We are learning with you.”

Source: AFL games now broadcast nationally in eight ethnic languages — Italianmedia

Australian citizenship: Waiting time drops by ten per cent

I always had looked up to Australia when working on citizenship given their service standard, if I remember correctly, that 80 percent of applications would be assessed within six months. Since then, the various policy changes and likely funding constraints have resulted in a significant backlog, even if the situation appears to be improving:

The number of migrants granted Australian citizenship has doubled compared to last year and the waiting time has dropped according to the Department of Home Affairs.

The latest figures released by the department reveal the waiting time for Australian citizenship has dropped by ten per cent.

The time period from lodgement to citizenship ceremony (by conferral) has dropped for 75 per cent of applications from 20 months to 18 months.

For 90 per cent of applications, though, it remains unchanged at 23 months.

Australian Citizenship May 2019

The Department attributed the reduction in waiting time to a range of reforms implemented to streamline the process.

“There is no greater privilege than Australian Citizenship and the Department takes its responsibility to efficiently and effectively process applications within the law very seriously.

“The number of people approved as Australian Citizens between 1 July 2018 and 30 April 2019 is around double the number approved in the same period last year.

“This follows from the implementation of a range of reforms that seek to streamline Departmental processes as much as possible without compromising on national security or program integrity,” a spokesperson of the Department told SBS Hindi.

“Long queue will continue to reduce”

Despite the drop in the waiting time and an increase in the number of approvals, the long queue of people awaiting the outcome of their citizenship application is still well above 200,000.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, there were 221,859 applications in the queue as of May 26th 2019.

The department, however, states the number of applications in the queue has significantly reduced compared to over 250,000 last year.

Indian population in Australia increases 30 per cent in less than two years; now the third largest migrant group in Australia
After England and China, India ranks third on the list of residents born overseas according to the latest figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

A spokesperson for the Department said with a high level of focus on the Australian Citizenship program, the number of applications waiting for an outcome is expected to continue to reduce.

“The Department is placing a high level of focus on the Australian Citizenship program.

“As a consequence of these measures, the number of Citizenship by conferral applications on-hand with the Department is reducing and is expected to continue to reduce.

“The improvement has occurred against a backdrop of a record number of applications and an increase in complex cases in recent years,” it said.

Source: Australian citizenship: Waiting time drops by ten per cent