Australia: ‘Be less of a white boys’ club’: How to address Parliament’s lack of diversity

Of note (Canadian Parliament and Senate are much more diverse than Australia):

“Stale, pale and male” has become a shorthand for the lack of diversity of all kinds across society’s institutions. Parliament has not escaped its accusations and even federal politicians have levelled the tag at it.

Labor frequently pats itself on the back for achieving near-gender parity in its caucus room but this week it has been beset by criticism it has not done enough to address other types of diversity.

The decision to parachute senator Kristina Keneally into the safe lower house seat of Fowler, in Sydney’s west, at the expense of local, young, Vietnamese lawyer Tu Le has led to calls for diversity quotas and divisions over “token” multiculturalism.

But it’s not only Labor’s politicians who are overwhelmingly white.

Out of the 226 men and women who make up Federal Parliament, 23 were born overseas but only five in non-European countries to parents who weren’t Australian. Another 52 have parents who were born overseas, overwhelmingly in the UK.

Contrast this with the general population. Just under half of all Australians were either born overseas or their parents were. Nearly three times more people in the wider Australian community were born overseas than their parliamentary representatives.

However, Parliament this week hit a milestone of proportionate representation of Indigenous people. There are now seven Indigenous members after the Greens’ newest senator Dorinda Cox, a Yamatji-Noongar woman, replaced Rachel Siewert.

Tim Soutphommasane, a professor at the University of Sydney and a former race discrimination commissioner, says Parliament “fails dismally” on cultural diversity.

“It doesn’t look remotely like today’s multicultural Australia. It might make some uncomfortable, but our political class looks like it’s stuck in the White Australia era,” he says.

“If you don’t have cultural diversity in our politics, you don’t have a politics that’s representative. That’s a pretty basic problem.”

Dr Blair Williams from the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at ANU says while an exact representation of the community isn’t possible, “it just needs to be a bit more focused on being less of a white boys’ club from a certain background”.

There has been a strong focus for some time now on increasing the number of women elected, but Williams says there also should have been thought put into improving cultural diversity. She’d also like to see more young people, people with disabilities and those from different class backgrounds.

The problem is self-perpetuating, says Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan. If people don’t see anyone like them in Parliament, they’re less likely to get involved in the political process.

“The lack of diverse and inclusive parliaments means certain groups are poorly represented and their interests are not well spoken for,” he says.

“Even aside from the importance of involving diverse voices in the legislative process, Parliament provides a tremendous platform for engaging in public debate. We have often seen that when politicians from diverse backgrounds enter Parliament, they achieve great outcomes by focusing attention on issues that might otherwise be overlooked.”

Soutphommasane points to the agitation in some quarters for abolishing section 18C of the Race Discrimination Act, which protects against hate speech, saying the lack of diversity can contribute to a distorted political debate.

“A monochrome political class will have some blind spots,” he says.

The question of how to fix the problem is not easy, nor will it happen quickly. Those who advocate a quota arrangement point to Labor’s gains in gender diversity.

It has taken the party more than 30 years from its first quota to reach equal representation. Former cabinet minister and deputy leader Jenny Macklin says quotas are still contested and there continues to be male resistance.

Emily’s List, an organisation that backs progressive women running for Parliament, published a paper in 2019 that recommended Labor introduce “tandem quotas” for women and cultural diversity with different targets for safe seats, marginal seats and the party executive.

Williams says these types of tandem quotas benefit culturally diverse women but are less good for “majority men and majority women”. An alternative could be a kind of reverse quota.

“So you only have a certain amount of white men in Parliament and when you hit that number, then you have to diversify,” Williams says.

“If you do look at other styles of quotas, like the tandem quotas … you do run the risk of having, say, 30 per cent of people preselected who are women and culturally diverse, that still means that the other 70 per cent can be white men.”

Labor MP Peter Khalil, whose parents migrated from Egypt to Australia in the 1970s, said this week MPs with diverse backgrounds “should not be token or just be making up the numbers”. Rather, parties had to show a real commitment.

His colleague Anne Aly, who was herself born in Egypt, also called on her party to do more than just pay lip service to multiculturalism.

Other MPs also called for action, with Ed Husic saying Labor had to do a stocktake of its membership and have a serious conversation about how to reflect the community, and senator Jenny McAllister saying it was time for “bold actions”.

But not everyone thinks quotas are the answer.

Osmond Chiu, an ALP member and research fellow at the Per Capita think tank, says the party needs to work out the extent of its problem with diversity before it can address it.

Any talk of quotas to improve cultural diversity or candidates “is putting the cart before the horse” when change throughout the whole party organisation is needed.

“A lot of the focus has been on Fowler because it’s symptomatic, it symbolises this wider systemic problem that exists, that Australia has become a much more diverse country … but our institutions, such as Parliament, haven’t really kept up,” he says.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma says there’s no doubt all parties including his own have to more actively recruit people with different backgrounds instead of continuing the “pretty laissez-faire attitude” they have now.

Since his election – replacing Labor’s Lisa Singh as the only person of Indian heritage in Parliament – he has often heard from people in the Indian Australian community asking how they can become involved in politics.

He doesn’t believe in quotas but points to the work of the Conservatives in the UK to transform from a “very stuffy, traditional party” to the more diverse outfit after the party machinery actively sought “people from outside the usual breeding grounds of politics”.

It is as much as smart politics as the right thing to do.

“People are much more inclined to vote and support for, empathise with or have a connection with people that have a similar life experience,” Sharma says.

“That doesn’t just mean ethnically, it can be religiously, it can be professionally, it can be if you’ve got a disability, all those sorts of things … help your political brand strength.”

Tan says this is why parties must look beyond candidate preselection and make sure there are people from diverse backgrounds welcomed and involved at grassroots and administrative levels too.

“Parties stand to gain from this by broadening their base, widening their gaze, and attracting the additional talents that exist within diverse communities,” he says.

“I think this would in turn lead to more diverse candidates being preselected.”

Changing the face of Parliament will require hard calls from political leaders, Soutphommasane says.

“You can’t conjure up more diversity in your parliamentary ranks simply by saying you like multiculturalism. Or by saying that it’ll come next election.”

Source: ‘Be less of a white boys’ club’: How to address Parliament’s lack of diversity

Is Australia’s India travel ban legal? A citizenship law expert explains and a critique of the ban

The lack of a charter with mobility rights compared to Canada:

There is a growing public and political outcry over the federal government’s sudden decision to ban Australians from coming home from India.

But as everyone from Indian community leaders to human rights leaders, famous cricketers and Coalition MPs calls on the government to rethink the policy, is it legal? Is a High Court challenge an option?

What is citizenship?

In terms of common law, citizenship is a relationship between an individual and their nation, where each owes fundamental obligations to the other. In broad terms, the citizen’s job is to be loyal to the nation. The nation’s job is to protect its citizens.

Last year, a record number of people pledged allegiance to Australia and became citizens. The largest group of new citizens were Indian migrants, with over 38,000 becoming Australians in 2019-20.

Now, under the Australian government’s tough new travel ban, 9,000 Australians remain stranded in India, which is currently battling a deadly COVID-19 second wave and oxygen and vaccine shortages.

Some were granted permission to travel to India to see dying relatives or attend funerals. Others travelled there pre-pandemicand have since been unable to return to Australia.

Despite having done nothing wrong, these Australians have been left unprotected by a government that has failed to hold up its end of the citizenship bargain.

How does the travel ban work?

The ban makes it unlawful for anyone, including Australian citizens, to enter Australia if they have been in India in the past 14 days. It was made under sweeping powers conferred on federal Health Minister Greg Hunt by the 2015 Biosecurity Act.

Section 477 of the act allows Hunt to issue “determinations” imposing any “requirement” that he deems necessary to control the entry or spread of COVID-19. These determinations cannot be disallowed by parliament. Thanks to a provision aptly known as a “Henry VIII clause”, they also override any other federal, state or territory law.

If a person breaches the travel ban, for instance by transiting through a third country, the Biosecurity Act states they may face criminal penalties of five years imprisonment, a $66,000 fine, or both (even if Prime Minister Scott Morrison says jail time is unlikely).

Hunt says the ban is a “temporary pause”. It will lapse on May 15. However, if he deems it necessary, he could use his broad powers to reintroduce it, or impose similar restrictions.

As political pressure builds to remove the ban early, the government says it is “constantly” reviewing it.

Is the ban legal?

Another basic principle of citizenship is citizens may freely return to their countries. Under common law, this stems from the Magna Carta. It is also an important principle of international law, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In March, two Australians stranded in the United States took their case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. They argued government policies blocking their return contravene international law.

The committee has not reached a decision, but in April it asked Australia to ensure their prompt return, noting they faced “irreparable harm”.

What about our domestic law?

Whether the ban is legal under Australian domestic law is a different question. Although the Department of Home Affairs says Australian citizens can “apply for an Australian passport and re-enter Australia freely”, there is no codified right of return under Australian law. This sets us apart from many countries that have a bill of rights, and include this right.

A High Court challenge is an option, but there is no clear path to success.

The High Court has said little on the subject. A 1908 case suggests citizens may have a common law right to return to Australia, provided this has not been taken away by parliamentary law. The Biosecurity Act of course thoroughly displaces any such right.

Due to the deep links between citizenship and the right of return, it has been suggested citizens may have an implied constitutional right to enter Australia. There is no case law on this yet — just a single, vaguely worded sentence in a 1988 High Court case — and there are good reasons why it might be a difficult case to argue in Australia.

Implied rights must be derived from the text and structure of Australia’s Constitution, which says nothing about Australian citizenship, and little about the relationship between the government and the people, besides providing for democratic elections.

Does it breach the Biosecurity Act?

Another argument might be the travel ban is unlawful on the grounds Hunt failed to comply with the conditions for making a determination under section 477 of the Biosecurity Act.

These conditions require him to be satisfied, before imposing the ban, that it was “likely to be effective” in stopping the spread of COVID-19, “appropriate and adapted” to this purpose, and “no more restrictive or intrusive” than the circumstances required.

Importantly, it is Hunt personally who must be satisfied of these conditions. This means if he reached that conclusion on reasonable grounds, he has not broken the law, even if a different approach might have been available.

Yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly’s advice to Hunt in advance of the travel ban was released. Kelly’s advice emphasises the significant risk quarantine leakage poses to the Australian community and says a travel ban on arrivals from India until 15 May would be effective, proportionate and limited to what is necessary.

In light of this, it seems likely that a court would see the determination as a reasonable exercise of Hunt’s power.

Beyond the law, what about moral arguments?

But, legality aside, let’s return to the idea that Australia has a fundamental responsibility to protect its citizens. In February 2020, Hunt acknowledged this, pointing to two related national priorities: to contain the virus and protect citizens at home, and protect and support Australians abroad.

There may be circumstances in which these priorities conflict with each other. But it is hard to see the conflict in this situation. Quarantine and effective contact tracing have seen those within Australia substantially protected against COVID-19. We have not needed blanket bans on returns from the US, the United Kingdom or other countries that have experienced virus surges.

Kelly’s advice points to potential strain on quarantine, and Morrison has said the ban ensures that “our quarantine system can remain strong”. But the federal government could protect more people in Australia and abroad (not to mention ease pressure on countries experiencing COVID-19 strain), if it worked to bring citizens home while devoting more resources towards strengthening the quarantine system.

Yet the government has resisted this, despite a clear constitutional power over quarantine, the recommendations of public health experts and a national review.

Meanwhile, 9,000 Australians in India are anxiously waiting for a change to the law, which would at least legally permit them to try and return home.

Source: Is Australia’s India travel ban legal? A citizenship law expert explains

Strong commentary by Tim Soutphommasane, former Australian race discrimination commissioner, arguing against the ban:

It has come to this: a government pulling up the drawbridge on its own citizens trying to make it home. Last week’s announcement of a ban on return flights from India marks a drastic escalation of “fortress Australia”.

Yes, it isn’t the first time during the pandemic that Australia’s borders have been closed to people arriving from certain countries deemed high risk. This happened, for example, with China in February 2020.

But this new measure goes beyond a temporary closure of borders. It also involves harsh criminal penalties imposed on people seeking to return from India, including fines and even imprisonment.

There’s something seriously wrong about this. Citizenship is meant to guarantee its bearers certain rights and liberties. The right to vote. The right to expression. The right to live without interference. The right to enter one’s country.

Clearly, we can’t take our basic rights and liberties for granted. It’s no exaggeration to say that this policy undermines the very status of citizenship. The principles of democratic liberalism are under assault.

After all, citizenship means little if you can’t exercise your right to return to Australia in a time of need. Liberal democracy is diminished when your government doesn’t protect you when you’re in present or impending danger.

On every Australian passport, there is a page that bears a request of other governments and people that they “allow the bearer, an Australian Citizen, to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need”. Those words now ring hollow. How can we expect people abroad to do that, if our own government won’t do the same to its citizens?

Equal citizenship

Closer to home, this move inserts some doubts as to whether all citizens can presume they enjoy equal citizenship.

It hasn’t escaped many of us that there have been different standards of treatment given to citizens and residents returning to Australia during this pandemic. Last year, when Covid was rampaging through the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe, the government took no step to close our borders to those places, let alone impose criminal penalties on those arriving from there.

The government says it has introduced this policy based on medical advice. Yet, according to the commonwealth chief medical health officer, Paul Kelly, “no advice was given” in relation to the imposition of fines or jail terms for those seeking to circumvent the India travel ban. Moreover, numerous leading public health experts have questioned why a ban has been introduced.

It wouldn’t be the first time an Australian government has engaged in cynical racial dog whistling. As the Australian Human Rights Commission has stated, the government “must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health”. Because right now they do look discriminatory. And they are far from the only way to deal with any public health threat.

Here’s how we should be dealing with things. There remain about 35,000 Australians stranded overseas, including about9,000in India. We – and by we I mean the government that acts in our name – must act urgently to bring these Australians home, wherever they are. The way to do that is obvious: charter flights to bring them back, and create dedicated quarantine facilities across the country to make sure it happens safely.

How breathtaking it is that this hasn’t yet happened. We are more than one year into the pandemic. There has been plenty of time to think this through, make plans and deliver.

A choice between two Australias

Then again, you can understand why government hasn’t done this. This pandemic has confronted us with a choice between two Australias: between being an open, confident, internationalist country and being a closed, fearful, parochial nation. Increasingly, it seems as though people are choosing the latter.

There has been a strange acceptance of, maybe even enthusiasm for, a retreat into a hermit nation. Our politicians know all too well that closing borders and imposing lockdowns seem to bring some solid electoral payoffs: just ask Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan.

For too many people, including those who may like to consider themselves progressive, border closures have become a fetish. It was weird enough that the pandemic was generating a competition among some premiers to close borders to other states. Now we’ve got to the point where we’re happy to have our national borders closed off to our own people and fellow citizens. At least some of them, anyway.

Covid has confirmed some timeless political truths. Amid threat, fear is a formidable beast to counter. And in tough times, minorities very rarely fare well. Covid has generated a significant rise in anti-Asian racism. Consider too, the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on migrants and international students.

But now the government is taking things into dangerous territory. Citizenship has been the bedrock of Australia’s multiculturalism: whatever background you’re from, you can be assured formal membership of the community. This latest move signals that, in the eyes of government, some of us are more Australian than others.

Tim Soutphommasane is a political theorist and professor at the University of Sydney. He was Australia’s race discrimination commissioner from 2013 to 2018

Source: Criminalising citizens returning from India signals some are more Australian than others

Why Australia lags rest of world in political diversity

Australia also compares poorly to Canada. Of course, the USA under Trump was completely different, being overwhelmingly male and white:

Since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first 100 days of a US presidency carry a certain mystique. The period is meant to provide a window into a new president’s political soul.

In nearly every respect, as we’ve seen already, Joe Biden’s presidency will seek to be the opposite of Donald Trump’s. Last week’s inauguration tried to soothe and restore confidence in American democracy. His first executive orders reversed Trump’s trademark policies, including the immigration ban on Muslim countries, the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organisation, and the building of a wall along the Mexican border.

Then there’s his cabinet. Having promised to govern with a team that “looks like America”, Biden is proposing a cabinet with more people of colour and women than any other before it.

Assuming confirmations by the Senate, the majority of Biden’s 25-strong cabinet will be non-white and just under half will be female. It’ll be the most diverse US cabinet. Given the resurgence of white supremacy implicated with the Trump presidency, the make-up of the Biden cabinet feels like an institutional rebuke of the past four years.

There are several firsts. Kamala Harris is not only the first female vice-president but also the first African-American and south-Asian woman elected to the position. Lloyd Austin is the first African-American man to be secretary of defence, Deb Haaland could be the first Native American to be secretary of the interior and Pete Buttigieg (nominated to be secretary of transportation) the first gay member of cabinet.

It’s hard not to think about how Australia shapes up in comparison, and what it may say about our two political cultures.

We barely see any diversity within the highest levels of politics and government. In a 2018 study conducted during my term at the Australian Human Rights Commission, we found only about 3 per cent of the federal ministry and 5 per cent of members of Federal Parliament had a non-European or Indigenous background. Far below the estimated 24 per cent within the general Australian population who have such backgrounds.

Within the 22-strong Morrison cabinet, there is one Aboriginal man (Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt), but no other minister who has a non-European background. Six women feature in the cabinet.

We don’t just lag the US. In Britain, for example, politicians from south Asian backgrounds fill two of the four “great offices of state”. In New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern’s 20-strong cabinet includes five ministers who are Maori and eight female ministers.

So why are we such laggards? Aren’t we meant to be one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world?

Some of our lack of diversity reflects the stubborn cultural default of Anglo-Celtic leadership within our institutions. Calls for more multicultural diversity are often either casually dismissed or ignored.

At another level, it may also reflect the history of Australia’s multiculturalism. When multiculturalism was introduced as policy in the 1970s, it followed the dismantling of the last remnants of the White Australia Policy.

Even with migrant ethnic politics, the change didn’t emerge from a groundswell of popular sentiment. It was largely done top-down, helping governments to move on from the international embarrassment caused by Australia’s stance on race.

This history had a political effect. For migrants, multiculturalism came almost as a gift from government, rather than something that had been decisively fought over and won. As a result, our multiculturalism can lack some edginess. Advocates don’t agitate the way they otherwise might.

Some Australian cultural reflexes reinforce the tendency. Many of us like diversity, but only as a therapeutic source of national pride. We don’t always like it when it challenges us. A certain disapproval seems reserved for minorities who don’t express perpetual gratitude for the opportunities presented by this great land. If you’re from a migrant background and offer criticism of Australian society, you risk being lashed as an unpatriotic ingrate.

There is, you might say, a certain pressure for our multiculturalism to be nice and polite, maybe even compliant. Many minorities feel a social expectation to be happy “quiet Australians” who won’t disrupt the peace.

Compounding the problem, many multicultural true believers too often think that being smart and working hard will be enough to see them rise in our society. They wrongly believe that meritocratic diversity’s time will inevitably come.

That isn’t the moral of the story if we return to the Biden diversity cabinet. We’d be naive to believe that enlightenment secures representation. That only happens when minorities reveal their collective power and use it.

Let’s not forget that Black Lives Matter has defined the cultural currents opposing Trumpism. Or that African American voters delivered Biden the South Carolina primary, without which he’d have lost the Democratic nomination race. Biden couldn’t have won the presidency were it not for the very solid black and minority vote behind him.

So if there are signs in the US that a critical mass of diversity has arrived in Washington, it’s not because Biden and his team are moved purely by progressive idealism. It’s because the balance of political power there has shifted, and because diversity can’t be ignored. We’re a long way away from that here.

Tim Soutphommasane is a political theorist and professor at the University of Sydney, and a former race discrimination commissioner.

Source: Why Australia lags rest of world in political diversity

Elsewhere they get it but the Australian media is still living in White Australia

Haven’t seen anything as comprehensive with respect to Canadian media although there have been partial samples showing underrepresentatioon:

Few would argue that Australian media does well at representing cultural diversity. Certainly not in a way you’d expect when we are a multicultural society, often trumpeted as the most successful of its kind in the world.

Now, for the first time, we have the numbers that show us just how representative – or rather, unrepresentative – the state of play is.

In our report, Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories?, we gathered data to provide the first comprehensive picture of who tells and produces stories in Australian television news and current affairs. We examined about 19,000 news and current affairs items broadcast on free to air television during two weeks in June 2019.

In their frequency of appearance on screen, we found that more than 75 per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters have an Anglo-Celtic background. While about 18 per cent have a European background, only 6 per cent of those on screen have an Indigenous or non-European background. Within our sample, none of the commercial networks had more than 5 per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters who have a non-European background.

Compare this with the Australian general population. Based on the 2016 Census figures on ancestry, the Australian Human Rights Commission has previously estimated that 58 per cent of Australians have an Anglo-Celtic background, 18 per cent have a European background, 21 per cent have non-European backgrounds, and 3 per cent identify as Indigenous.

It has been nearly five decades since an official multiculturalism was adopted in Australia. Yet that has had limited visible impact on our media.

To be fair, Australian media isn’t the only arena where this is the case. Anglo-Celtic and European backgrounds dominate the leadership ranks of politics, business, the public service and our universities. Our institutions fail to make the most of the talents within our society.

Diversity is often embraced only in name, and not in norms. If there’s a glass ceiling that many women in work hit, then those from minority backgrounds hit a cultural one. According to a survey we conducted as part of our research, more than 85 per cent of non-European background journalists believe having a culturally diverse background represents a barrier to career progression.

Representation, though, matters. It particularly matters for our television media: the medium shows us who we are as a people and as a culture. News and current affairs media have a special role in identifying and telling stories about issues of importance to all Australians.

Yet it’s overwhelmingly journalists who have Anglo-Celtic backgrounds who report, select and produce these stories. The result? Too often, media does a poor job of covering race issues.

For example, just about every time there’s a panel discussion about racism on commercial breakfast television, it involves an all-white panel that has minimal understanding of what has happened. Worse, commercial breakfast television currently seems to thrive on stoking prejudice. For sections of the media, racism is part of their business model.

Even our public broadcasters have their blind spots. For the past 10 years, the ABC’s Insiders program had no journalist who was a person of colour on its panel – something it has only rectified last month. Multicultural broadcaster SBS has recently been criticised for how it treated Indigenous journalists, and for the lack of cultural diversity within its senior management.

It’d be unthinkable for any television network to have a football commentary team on air, where not a single commentator would have experience playing the sport. By the same logic, networks should understand it’s a problem, in a multicultural society, when there’s little or no diversity within its news and current affairs.

Media elsewhere seem to get it. Indeed, Australian media lags significantly behind English-speaking counterparts. What we look like on screen can seem decades behind the United States and the United Kingdom. While they are themselves far from perfect, US and British media organisations have better collection and monitoring of data on their diversity. They’ve also been bolder at setting targets for minority talent.

For change to happen here, Australian media organisations will need to take similar steps. But more than that, there needs to be a cultural change in mindset. Too often, there is unwarranted defensiveness about criticisms concerning diversity. People can wrongly feel that a critique of systemic patterns of under-representation amount to personal attacks, or even a form of “reverse racism”. Deflections and denials come all too easily.

Talk about diversity and race will always spark debate. But it’s hard to argue with the evidence. In the case of our media, the numbers tell us we are still living in a White Australia, even if the White Australia policy was dismantled nearly 50 years ago.

Source: Elsewhere they get it but the Australian media is still living in White Australia

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.

UK

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.

US

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.

Australia

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.

Hungary

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.

 

Australia – Multicultural voices deserve to be heard: Tim Soutphommasane responds to ‘Go back to Laos’ comments 

 More nasty Australian discourse:

Source: Multicultural voices deserve to be heard: Tim Soutphommasane responds to ‘Go back to Laos’ comments | SBS News

Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane labels Hizb ut-Tahrir views ‘absurd’

A reminder that non-violent extremism can be equally dangerous to a country’s social fabric:

Australia’s race discrimination commissioner has slammed a controversial Islamic group over its claims “de-radicalisation” amounts to forced assimilation.

Hizb ut-Tahrir held a large conference at Bankstown in south-western Sydney on Sunday and told the more than 500 men, women and children who attended that Muslims were being demonised over their faith.

“Deradicalisation has come to mean making Muslims less Islamic, more Western, more secular, more submissive to secular, Liberal political … norms,” Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar said.

“It is nothing more than an agenda of forced assimilation justified by exaggerated fears of a security threat.”

But Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said this was “absurd”.

“Hizb ut-Tahrir’s views on citizenship are a rejection of our liberal democratic values and a denial of Australian multiculturalism,” he said.

“They further confirm this group’s extremist agenda.”

Dr Soutphommasane said that when migrants became citizens, they chose to become a part of the Australian community.

“There’s nothing oppressive about committing to our democracy, abiding by the law, and respecting the rights of others.

“Our multiculturalism means that everyone has a right to express their cultural heritage but also accepts the responsibilities of being an Australian citizen.”

Source: Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane labels Hizb ut-Tahrir views ‘absurd’