Author: Amy Remeikis and agencies
Australia will consider adding a “values test” for those considering permanent residency in order to protect its “extraordinarily successful” multicultural society, Malcolm Turnbull said.
The prime minister confirmed what his citizenship and multicultural minister Alan Tudge told the Australia/UK Leadership Forum overnight, where he floated the idea of a “values” test to fend off “segregation”.
Tudge told his London audience “our ship is slightly veering towards a European separatist multicultural model and we want to pull it back to be firmly on the Australian integrated path”.
“Some of the challenges to social cohesion that we are facing today are similar to ones that the UK is facing – such as ethnic segregation and liberal values being challenged.”
Speaking in Tasmania on Friday, Turnbull said testing potential migrants on values made sense.
“That is certainly one of the issues that we are considering but I have to say to you that we are the most successful multicultural society in the world,” he said.
“One of the reasons we are is because we put an enormous amount of effort, in Australia, into integration, into ensuring that our form of multiculturalism is one where we can all benefit from the diversity of cultural and religious and ethnic backgrounds that Australians have.
“This is a country where 28% of Australians were born outside of Australia, over half have a parent born outside of Australia – but isn’t it remarkable that we live together is so much harmony because of the values we share and those Australian values, of democracy, freedom, the rule of law, respect for women, equality between men and women.
“All of these values are vitally important and we must never, ever take them for granted and we should always ensure that we maintain them because that is what creates this extraordinary successful multicultural society that we have.
“We look around the world, and we should do that from time to time, and you look at all of the tensions and dissent and conflict, you can see what a great achievement 25 million Australians have made.”
Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese criticised Tudge’s speech, saying ministers should promote Australia while overseas.
“It’s pretty odd that an Australian government minister goes to the UK and talks our country down,” Albanese told the Nine Network on Friday.
He said Australia was an incredibly successful multicultural nation.
“Australia, I think, is a bit of a microcosm for what the world should be. People from different religions, races and backgrounds living together overwhelmingly in harmony,” Albanese said.
Tudge said Australians should never be complacent about social cohesion, and advocated “modest incremental policy” changes now rather than “dramatic initiatives down the track”.
“If we want Australia to continue its multicultural success, we must take active steps now to ensure that social cohesion remains strong,” Tudge said.
The government has already proposed an English-language skills test, for potential permanent migrants, which last month Turnbull said would aid with integration.
The government’s attempts last year to make achieving citizenship harder, including requiring all applicants to have lived in Australia for four years on permanent residency visas, as well as an advanced English-language test, were rejected by the Senate.
Immigration is shaping up as one of the upcoming election’s biggest issues, as the government faces pressure from conservative members of its backbench, and crossbenchers such as Pauline Hanson, to cut Australia’s immigration rate to ease population pressures in major centres.