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

Asylum seekers and commentary

Given the ongoing and continuing issue, this National Post basics article is helpful in understanding the trends although point 5 (government response) overstates the effectiveness of the government response even if there are no easy solutions:

The number of illegal border crossings is up significantly this year compared with the same period last year, so federal and law enforcement officials have been preparing for possibility of another spike as the weather warms up.

Departmental, RCMP and border officials provided a technical briefing this week on the plans they have developed as a result of lessons learned from pressures and concerns arising from last year’s spike in irregular migrants coming across the Canada-U.S. border.

Here’s what was learned:

1. The numbers are trending upward. Last year, RCMP intercepted a total of 20,493 people who crossed the border illegally. That means they did not present at an official port-of-entry and instead came across the border through unofficial paths to make a refugee claim in Canada. So far this year, 6,373 irregular migrants have arrived in Canada this way. That’s an increase of 128 per cent over the number who arrived in Canada between January and April 2017, which was 2,784.

2. Quebec is the hotspot. Of the 6,373 border crossers that have arrived so far in 2018, the majority — 5,609 — have done so in Quebec. However, about 40 per cent of say they are planning to settle elsewhere in Canada, mainly in Ontario. That’s why Quebec and the federal government are working on a plan to try to encourage asylum seekers away from highly saturated areas like Montreal and Toronto, in the hopes they might instead settle in outlying regions of the two provinces where labour shortages exist and migrants could find more employment opportunities.

3. Housing remains a question mark. Quebec has told the feds it will only open four temporary shelters for refugee claimants this year, with a total of 1,850 spaces. The province says it will not open Olympic Stadium or the nine other temporary shelters it operated last year for migrants because these were spaces not intended for accommodations, such as school gymnasiums. That’s why Ottawa is now working with Quebec and Ontario on processes that could be used to triage asylum seekers from the unofficial entry point in Lacolle to other shelters in those provinces.

4. Countries of origin are shifting. Last year, the majority of irregular migrants who arrived in Canada were Haitian, which is largely attributed to the Trump administration’s decision to lift the temporary protected status for immigrants from Haiti living the U.S. This year, the majority of illegal migrants in Canada are Nigerians with U.S. travel visas. Other countries of origin this year include: Columbia, the United States and Pakistan.

5. Lessons have been learned. After last summer’s unexpected influx caused some major headaches, a national strategic plan has been put in place to respond to any future spikes. It was described by a senior official as “collaborative, flexible, scalable and phased.” It allows for increased resources to be brought into an area quickly, as needed. It is designed to move asylum seekers through the system in a timely manner while also ensuring all of Canada’s rules for refugee claimants are properly followed. That being said, Ottawa continues to try to get the message out that entering Canada between ports of entry is “not a free ticket” into Canada.

Source: What you need to know about the ongoing influx of asylum seekers in Canada 

Good commentary by Ibbitson, highlighting that this is one of the three key political challenges facing the government (the other two being NAFTA and pipelines):

A third challenge is emerging, on the border. Last year, more than 20,000 people crossed from the United States into Canada by avoiding regular crossing points. Thanks to a legal loophole, by committing this illegal act, they stood a better chance of being accepted as refugees than if they showed up at a proper crossing. Mr. Trudeau may have worsened the situation when he tweeted in January, 2017: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” It seemed like an open invitation to those fleeing the deportation efforts of the Trump administration.

If the past three months are any indication, the number of illegal crossers could more than double this year, beyond 40,000, putting the entire immigration and refugee system at risk. We could have more people flooding across the border illegally than arrive legally each year from the Philippines, Canada’s largest source country of immigrants. If the Liberals can’t find a way to stem this flow, voters will punish them.

Source: Trudeau must win three fights, or he could lose to Stephen Harper 2.0  

Australia PM makes the point effectively:

“So we know what works and what doesn’t. Migration programs, a multicultural society, need to have a commitment, an understanding and the trust of the people, that the government, their government, is determining who comes to the country,” he said.

“So being in control of your borders is absolutely critical. I think that is a fundamental foundation of our success as a multicultural society, as a migration nation as people often describe us.

“You have to exert your sovereign right to control your own borders.” 

Source: Border control is key to successful multiculturalism: Malcolm Turnbull 

Australia: Immigration as a Security Threat – The New York Times

Waleed Ali on the increasing shift in Australia:

But the idea of a home affairs minister focused on national security makes sense only if we assume immigration is entirely a security problem. This points to the true ideological import of this newly formed department.

Australia began this century with a Department for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. Back then, the department’s slogan was “Enriching Australia through Migration.” Just over a decade ago it dropped the multiculturalism portfolio entirely, creating instead a Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Now it’s to be rolled into a national security department. Thus, we can chart Australia’s public conception of migration from being a celebrated aspect of its multicultural character to a civic idea whose highest ultimate expression is citizenship to a threat to be managed.

That certainly chimes with Australia’s established rhetoric on asylum seekers, which has dominated public expression of our immigration program. And it might suit the increasingly nationalist belligerence of our age. But it does not suit Mr. Turnbull, a man who until recently was fond of celebrating Australia as “the most successful multicultural society in the world”; a man who only a few weeks ago was declaring that his party was established to be liberal, in contradistinction to conservative.

When the story of the Turnbull government is written, he will have been the prime minister who finally debased immigration in the Australian political imagination. The image last week of the prime minister draped awkwardly in military power will surely accompany that chapter. And those gas masks won’t look much like liberalism. Most likely they won’t look much like success either.

New ‘Australian values’ test planned for citizenship and related commentary

Clearly responding to concerns of the right, and a reflection that immigrant voters play a less important role than in Canadian elections, with the result of fewer immigrant and visible minority MPs:

Australia plans to raise the bar for handing out citizenships by lengthening the waiting period, adding a new “Australian values” test and raising the standard for English language as part of a shake up of its immigration program.

The move comes in a week when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced axing a temporary work visa popular with foreigners and replacing it with a tougher program in a bid to put “Australia First”.

Australia has seen the rise of nationalist, anti-immigration politics with far-right wing parties such as One Nation garnering strong public support, while the popularity of Turnbull’s ruling center-right government has been languishing.

The new citizenship requirements are expected to be passed by parliament with the backing of right-wing Senators.

On Thursday, Turnbull said basic English would no longer be sufficient to become an Australian citizen under the new test.

Applicants need a minimum level 6.0 equivalent of the International English Language Testing System, and a person will only become eligible for citizenship after four years as a permanent resident, up from one year.

“What we are doing is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our values,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. “Australian citizenship should be honored, cherished. It’s a privilege.”

“I reckon if we went out today and said to Australians, “Do you think you could become an Australian citizen without being able to speak English?” They’d say, “You’re kidding. Surely you’d have to be able to speak English.”

Turnbull said the current immigration process was mainly “administrative” while the citizenship test largely a “civics test.”

The current citizenship multiple-choice questionnaire tests a person’s knowledge of Australian laws, national symbols and colors of the Aboriginal flag. But Turnbull said it was not adequate to judge whether a person would accept “Australian values.”

“If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence…is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part, a fundamental part, a very prominent part, of our process to be an Australian citizen? Why should the test simply be a checklist of civic questions?”

The new citizenship test will include questions about whether applicants have sent their kids to school, whether they go to work – if they are of working age – and whether becoming part of unruly gangs in cities were Australian values.

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

Source: New ‘Australian values’ test planned for citizenship | Reuters

And predictable expressions of concerns (valid) from groups who work with refugees and other vulnerable groups:

Refugees would be hit hardest by changes to Australia’s citizenship test, the refugee council says, with people deterred from applying for citizenship or potentially failing the test under new English language requirements.

The Refugee Council of Australia argues older refugees, and those who’ve arrived from conflict zones with disrupted educations, would find the strengthened English requirement hardest.

“While the overwhelming majority of refugee and humanitarian entrants are children and young people who typically learn English quickly, those brought to Australia as refugees include some older adults, torture survivors and people with disabilities who struggle to master English. These are the people who are most likely to miss out on citizenship under the changes being planned by the government,” the RCOA chief executive, Paul Power, said.

“The sad irony is that people who have come to Australia as refugees value the freedom and security associated with Australian citizenship more highly than any other group in the nation.”

Power said the proposed changes to the citizenship test would not achieve what the government has said it is aiming to do.

“No extremist or terrorist is going to be unearthed by a few questions about values. But the person who will struggle will be the 45-year-old Sudanese mother, who has come to Australia as a refugee, who has had a disrupted, if any, formal education, and is struggling in adulthood to learn a fourth language.”

Department of Immigration and Border Protection statistics reveal refugees apply for citizenship at a higher rate than any other migrant group. But they also fail the test at a far higher rate – refugees have a failure rate of about 8.8% , six times the rate of 1.4% for other categories of migrants. On average, a refugee needs to attempt the citizenship test 2.4 times, double the average for all migrants of 1.2 times.

…Citizenship already has a “basic” English test requirement, that will be strengthened to a “competent” level assessed by an independent, accredited organisation.

Henry Sherrell, researcher at the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, said the proposed new English language requirement would be a serious barrier to citizenship, particularly for refugees and people in Australia on family visas or the spouses of skilled migrants.

He said the proposed new English level, the equivalent English proficiency of some university entrance requirements, was too high.

“Migrants want to learn English. They want to work. However, not every single newcomer to Australia is in the position to achieve this level of English. This represents a fundamental change to citizenship in Australia with enormous consequences.”

In 2008, one of Australia’s most senior diplomats, Richard Woolcott, reviewed the citizenship test, which had only been introduced the year before. He found it was “flawed, intimidating to some, and discriminatory” and needed significant reform.

“Alternative and improved education pathways to acquire citizenship need to be established for different categories of people seeking citizenship.

“The special situations of refugee and humanitarian entrants and other disadvantaged and vulnerable people seeking citizenship must be addressed.”

The test underwent minor changes in 2009. The citizenship test currently has exemptions for people aged over 60 or with significant disabilities. A government discussion paper on the proposed citizenship test changes, released on Thursday, mentions these exemptions and indicates that they will continue.

Refugees already in the country face substantial – in some cases illegal – barriers to becoming citizens.

More than 10,000 potential citizens who have completed all the requirements for citizenship, including passing the test, and are awaiting only a ceremony to confer citizenship.

The government revealed in court there were 10,231 people who had qualified for citizenship who were living in limbo unsure, when, if ever they would be granted citizenship. Some had been invited to ceremonies only to be told by text message the night before that they would not be made citizens.

Source: Refugees will be hardest hit by changes to Australia’s citizenship test, experts say

And from those from English speaking countries (valid, but more than a touch of superiority):

Ian Sinkins, a British electrical engineer in Australia on a temporary skilled class 457 visa, has a serious beef with Australia’s proposed new citizenship requirements.

The changes, announced by the Turnbull government on Thursday, would require aspiring citizens to sit an English-language test, prove a commitment to Australian values and live in the country for four years as a permanent resident, instead of one.

“We’re being tarred with the same brush … [the plan] doesn’t differentiate where people have come from,” Sinkins told Guardian Australia. “We’re from a Christian background, we speak English, and there’s the shared heritage between Australia and England. And yet we have to take an English-language test, to prove certain things that are kind of obvious. It’s unsettling.”

On ABC’s 7.30 on Thursday, Malcolm Turnbull explained that the longer residency requirement “means there is more time to integrate, to be part of the Australian community”.

Turnbull said it was “in [migrants’] interests” to learn English, adding “they can maybe take longer before they make their application to be an Australian citizen”.

On Friday the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said speaking English was desirable “because it makes it easier for people to find work … to speak to their neighbours, to turn up to the local footy club or be involved in their church or mosque or whatever”.

But Sinkins, his wife Lisa and two children, who arrived in Australia two and a half years ago, have experienced no such difficulty. He said they have easily settled into their new life, love Australia’s culture, its work ethic and people.

Lisa Sinkins’ uncle and aunt came to Australia more than 50 years ago as “10 pound Poms” and she has first and second generation Australian cousins. “There is no recognition of such background history in the existing or planned changes to the visa and citizenship regulations,” she said.

Lisa is a head practice nurse in a Melbourne clinic, while Ian works at a German renewable company specialising in energy storage and has set up a local company which is growing to the point it will soon employ local engineers.

But with the planned changes, the family face an uncertain future as it will now take a total of eight years – four on the temporary work visa and a further four as permanent residents – to become citizens.

“We question the wisdom of extending the time on permanent residency from one to four years … for citizens from countries such as the UK that clearly have shared values,” he said.

And Sinkins and his family aren’t alone. Of the 95,758 people in Australia on a 457 visa, 19.5% are from the UK, behind India on 24.6%, to mention just one visa class among many that provide a pathway to citizenship.

Sinkins said Australia could be missing out on skilled and motivated people and families, who may rethink their current aspiration to become Australians and make the nation stronger.

“We are now wondering if we are really welcome in Australia with so many obstacles and changing goalposts … we are even now considering whether we should return to the UK,” he said.

Source: ‘Obviously we speak English’: Brits complain about Australia’s new citizenship crackdown

Turnbull rebukes Labor over citizenship questions, saying ‘get on Australia’s team’ | The Guardian

Never a good idea to make this kind of accusation, reflects poorly on the accuser:

Malcolm Turnbull has attempted to shut down questions from Labor about the validity of the government’s citizenship revocation laws by borrowing a locution from the Abbott era and advising the shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus to “get on Australia’s team”.

In question time on Monday Labor referenced a media report saying a “notorious terrorist” was set to have their citizenship revoked in the first case to be taken under the government’s citizenship revocation laws.

The report suggested the government was anticipating the move would be tested in the high court.

Dreyfus asked the prime minister whether the case referenced in the Daily Telegraph report would proceed under the same legislation where the attorney general had “incorrectly represented advice from the solicitor-general?”

The solicitor general, Justin Gleeson – courtesy of a bitter public dispute with the attorney general, George Brandis – has said very clearly he did not sign off on the final citizenship bill passed by the parliament, an account which cuts across a suggestion made by Brandis at the time that Gleeson had advised the government its citizenship revocation package had a good prospect of clearing the high court.

“What the shadow attorney general is now doing is taking his feud with the attorney general into an area where he is putting our national security at risk,” Turnbull told parliament on Monday.

The prime minister said Dreyfus needed to “get over these petty personal animosities and get on our team, get on Australia’s team, to ensure that we have the right legislation”.

Source: Turnbull rebukes Labor over citizenship questions, saying ‘get on Australia’s team’ | Australia news | The Guardian

Malcolm Turnbull: multiculturalism and tolerance will combat terrorism| The Guardian

Welcome change in language from his predecessor and strong message regarding the contribution that multiculturalism and inclusion can make to reducing the risks and extent of radicalization:

Malcolm Turnbull has nominated Australia’s cultural tolerance and multicultural society as reasons the country is well-placed to deal with terrorist threats.

In sharp contrast to the rhetorical tone of his predecessor, Tony Abbott, who repeatedly warned Australians that the “Daesh death cult” was “coming after us”, Turnbull said while no government could “guarantee the absolute absence of terrorism” Australia was “better placed than many of our European counterparts” in dealing with the threat “because of the strength of our intelligence and security agencies, our secure borders and our successful multicultural society; one that manages to be both secure and free”.

“Terrorism is designed to make us turn on each other,” Turnbull said in a lecture to the Lowy Institute on Wednesday evening. “That is why my government works hard to promote inclusion and mutual respect, ensuring that all communities and all faiths feel part of ours, the most successful multicultural society in the world.”

“Strong borders, vigilant security agencies governed by the rule of law, and a steadfast commitment to the shared values of freedom and mutual respect – these are the ingredients of multicultural success,” he said.

He said “early signs” indicated the Brussels attacks had been inspired or planned by Islamic State in Syria and this underscored the importance of Australia’s military contribution in Syria and Iraq.

Source: Malcolm Turnbull: multiculturalism and tolerance will combat terrorism | Australia news | The Guardian

Obama to Turnbull on Indonesia, Islam and the Saudis: ‘It’s complicated’

Always interesting to have a more inside account of these discussions, highlighting awareness in this case:

A revealing series of interviews with US President Barack Obama has given insight into a private discussion he had with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The 20,000-word feature published in The Atlantic magazine also relies on interviews with Mr Obama’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her successor John Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, other world leaders and key White House insiders.

It details part of a meeting between Mr Obama and Mr Turnbull during November’s APEC summit in Manila.

The president, according to The Atlantic, described to Mr Turnbull how he had watched Indonesia gradually move from a relaxed, multi-faceted Islam to a more fundamentalist, unforgiving interpretation with large numbers of Indonesian women adopting the hijab Muslim head covering.

“Why, Turnbull asked, was this happening?” the author of the feature, Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote.

Mr Obama told the prime minister the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs have funnelled money and large numbers of imams and teachers into Indonesia and in the 1990s the Saudis heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam favoured by the Saudi ruling family, according to The Atlantic.

Mr Obama also told Mr Turnbull Islam in Indonesia was much more Arab in orientation than it was when he lived there.

“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Mr Turnbull reportedly asked Mr Obama.

Mr Obama smiled and said: “It’s complicated”.

Source: Obama to Turnbull on Indonesia, Islam and the Saudis: ‘It’s complicated’

OIC Head Madani advocates multiculturalism to counter intolerance

Rather ironic that the head of the OIC is speaking of the importance of multiculturalism and tolerance when so many of its members practice the opposite.

My news feeds haven’t picked up any Australian media coverage which might have a different take on the meeting from this Pakistan media clip:

The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani stressed in his meetings with officials in Australia on the importance of multiculturalism in countering violence and intolerant discourse.

In the capital Canberra Mr. Madani met Wednesday with the Prime Minister, Mr. Malcolm Turnbull, who stated that Australia is absolutely committed to maintaining multiculturalism and it has proven its success in that.

The Secretary General underlined the importance of Australia to OIC, considered it a good example of implementing multiculturalism and looked forward to working with it on capacity building, humanitarian aid and addressing regional issues of mutual concern.

The Secretary general also met the Minister of Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister of Counter Terrorism, Michael Keenan MP, at Parliament House. They exchanged views on ways to counter extremism and such terrorist groups as Daesh.

Mr. Madani stressed that security and military measures are not enough; instead there is a need to look at economic, social and cultural aspects and to put effort in building institutions, giving hope to the youth and create development.

The Secretary General reiterated these points in his meeting with the Attorney General of Australia, Hon George Brandis QC, who underlined the need for understanding Islam, its true tenants and diversity in order challenge extremists on both sides.

The Secretary General also met with Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who explained the basis for Australian multiculturalism of mutual respect and pride in ones culture, which has been nurtured through various measures.

Source: Madani advocates multiculturalism to counter intolerance

Multiculturalism and defence: PM Malcolm Turnbull on Australia’s Second Chance

Quite a shift in tone from former PM Abbott:

Malcolm Turnbull today hailed the Aussie lack of “dangerous” deference as he strengthened his support for multiculturalism.

The Prime Minister said ethnic diversity and our egalitarian culture were treasured assets.

Our greatest economic power didn’t come from “the rocks under the ground but the people who walk on top of them”, said Mr Turnbull.

He was defying right-wing elements of the Liberal Party who have attacked multiculturalism following terrorism strikes overseas, and the decision to take in 12,000 Syrian refugees.

“Deference is very dangerous,” Mr Turnbull said launching the book Australia’s Second Chance by George Megalogenis.

“We should always be courteous, but deference overdone can mean death.

“What it means is you are not prepared to say to the boss, ‘Hey, the way we are doing things doesn’t work anymore. We’ve got to change.’ We’ve always got to be open to new ideas.”

Mr Turnbull said “openness to the world” was a theme of the book, which plots Australia’s economic performance and finds Australia boomed when migration was encouraged, and struggled when the welcome was withdrawn.

He praised Liberal Party founder Sir Robert Menzies and the party itself for sticking to “a commitment to a multicultural Australia” at the 1961 election when Labor was promising to cut the immigration flow.

“That openness and multiculturalism, based on mutual respect, is what has defined most of the most successful societies in the world,” said the Prime Minister.

“And this multicultural Australia is a remarkable achievement we should treasure and hold dear.”

Source: Multiculturalism and defence: Malcolm Turnbull on Australia’s Second Chance | Book launch

Malcolm Turnbull Defends Multicultural Australia As Anti-Islam Protests Gear Up with very inclusive language

Significant change in tone:

It’s not just in NSW where tensions are high. In Bendigo, where a proposed mosque has been the focal point of domestic and international anti-Islam groups for several years now, far-right groups and counter-protesters intent on opposing them are set to rally on the weekend.

Smelling opportunity, perennial fringe candidate Pauline Hanson has resurfaced on morning TV and online, calling for mosques to be shut down and halal food to be outlawed. Last night on Channel Nine’s new talk show The Verdict, former Labor leader Mark Latham claimed western Sydney has “a Muslim problem”.

But there is hope for cautious optimism in a growing boldness on the part of our political leadership to challenge and refute these ways of thinking. In an address this afternoon, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had harsh words for extremists of all kinds, giving a forceful defence of Australian multiculturalism and questioning the kind of narrow-mindedness that blames all Muslims over the actions of a few.

“Australia is the most successful and most harmonious multicultural society in the world. These is no comparable country with its citizens and residents born from outside its shores with such a diverse cultural mix of peoples,” Turnbull said.

“None of us, no one of us, can look in the mirror and say: ‘All Australians look like me’. Australians look like every race, like every culture, like every ethnic group in the world.

“How have we been able to be so successful? It is because of a fundamental Australian value, and that is mutual respect. I want to say to you that mutual respect is the glue that binds this very diverse country together. It is what enables us to be so successful. Mutual respect is fundamental to our harmony as a multicultural society, and it is fundamental to our success. It is fundamental to our future prosperity, it’s fundamental to our national security.

“Now, the key to that mutual respect is that it is a two-way street. Every religion, every faith, every moral doctrine, understands the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So if we want to be respected, if we want our faith, our cultural background to be respected, we have to respect others. That is a fundamental part of the Australian project.

“And it means, therefore, that every single one of us who wants Australia to be successful, who wants our great nation to prosper further in the future — and I have no doubt that almost every single Australian does — than we have to ask ourselves … are we teaching our young people, both by word and by deed, the values of mutual respect? Because if we are not, than we are not doing enough for Australia.”

Turnbull summed up his sentiments in a Facebook post earlier this afternoon, saying: “We have to call out the language, the examples of disrespect, the language of hatred wherever it is practised.”

Turnbull has been unapologetic in his defence of Australian multiculturalism and Islam before. In a Q&A appearance in 2011, Turnbull eloquently outlined the ways Islam has contributed to Western society, as well as the importance of values like tolerance and a willingness to embrace difference over the ostensibly “Australian” values of racial and sectarian division spruiked by anti-Islam groups.

“For heaven’s sake, much of our learning and culture came to us from the Muslims. Our whole system of numbers, and much of the learning of the ancient Greeks only survived because of the Arab and Islamic scholars. The idea that Islam is antithetical to learning or culture is absurd,” Turnbull said at the time.

“It is important for us that we promote and encourage Islamic traditions which are moderate; which support freedom; which support democracy; and support Australian values. Not in the sense of ‘Aussie values’, but in the sense of democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, freedom. They are universal values.”

Most importantly, though, Turnbull’s approach to the situation stands in marked contrast to that of his predecessor, Tony Abbott, who had a history of using divisive, militaristic language when referring to Australia’s Muslim communities. At one of his trademark excessively-flagged national security announcements, Abbott infamously said: “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a religion of peace. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.”

Source: Malcolm Turnbull Defends Multicultural Australia As Anti-Islam Protests Gear Up | Junkee