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Political, democratic problems with multiculturalism - response to John Marlowe

Australians have found it very hard to protest against high immigration because of constant subtle messages from government and media implying that they had no right to object. They have been given the idea that there was nothing special about them that gave them the right to object. They only lived here. Although only Australians might vote in governments, the importance of this was subsumed to a cult of plutocracy, where governments prioritised commercial and corporate demands over the wishes of the actual electorate. The mainstream press (the ABC, the Murdoch Press, the Fairfax Press) promoted a cult of elite authoritarianism and the official alternative press never really encouraged questioning of this process on issues of real dissent. And the elite authorities all endorsed 'multiculturalism'. One has only to glance at the membership of the Multicultural Foundation of Australia to realise how true this is.

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Pino Migliorino, Chairman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, cited by John Marlowe in "Immigrants calling for more immigrants - dare one criticise and we will brand them 'RACIST'!", says:

"In 1989, we showed international leadership and created a National Multicultural Policy, the principles of which are still relevant. We then retreated from this vision and began a discourse about integration rather than about dialogue, which, similar to the principle of assimilation, implies that one side has more rights than the other simply because they were there first, or what is worse, because they are superior."

For me there are two problems created through the policy of multiculturalism as practised in Australia, and they are not really about 'culture' in the sense of 'ethnicity'.

They are both political problems to do with democracy and the civil rights that should go with citizenship.

Citizens rights

1. The first problem is that, in a democracy, the incumbents -"those who were here first" - the citizens - are members of a community which should have the right to self-government. The right to self-government should not be limited, except by the citizens themselves. I believe that multiculturalism has been used as a way of blurring the fair expectation of civil rights for a citizen by implying that citizenship - or 'being here first' - carries no special rights.

Citizenship should be clearly different from the state of being an immigrant, tourist or visitor. In many countries (such as France) even being a 'permanent immigrant' means having the right to stay in that country only for up to one year. To be a 'permanent immigrant' with the same sense that term has in Australia, the person needs to become a citizen. It is problematic that being a permanent immigrant, according to the Australian definition, carries similar rights to citizenship in Australia, if it does not also carry the expectation of membership of a community that recognises itself as a political entity of members sharing responsibility for their community and its territory and is able to act to preserve these. An approach to this ambiguity is made in this article Rubenstein, Kim “Constitutional issues associated with integration: the question of citizenship,” Bureau of Immigration and Population Bulletin No 11, 1994, pp 41-43.)

Although citizens in Australia have far fewer straightforward rights than European citizens (who mostly have Civil Codes setting out their rights at law), an Australian citizen can vote. can run for office, (although our corporatised media dominates elections) has a right to primary and secondary education, and to hospital and medical treatment.

Australian citizens also did have, until recently, relatively good industrial relations laws. Premier Kennett in Victoria in 1996, allowed Victorian State industrial Awards to be dismantled and turned over to the Federal system, then Primeminister Howard undermined Australian industrial rights to conciliation and arbitration under s.51 xxxv of the Australian constitution, with his WorkChoices, which sought to bring as many people as possible under s55xx of the constitution, applicable to corporations and thus outside the jurisdiction of s.51xxxv. With this protection gone, Australian working conditions can now be easily undermined by labour hired overseas at lower wages and imported here as immigrants.

Australians used to own most of the resources in this country, as a group of citizens. Increasingly, many of these resources, assets and commodities have been privatised. This takes them out of effective control by citizens, see Justice Michael Kirby's skilful argument, here, in "Why privatisation is wrong." Population growth, in raising demand for resources, assets and commodities, makes them attractive acquisitions for corporations, political parties and wealthy elites. This is why those elites defend high immigration and why their media attack its critics.

Australians once also had chief rights to study in Australian universities, with only limited places allocated for foreign students, who were usually on scholarships, not coming as 'cash cows'. The commercialisation of universities contributed not only to lower ethical standards, but it also caused a preference for high fee-paying foreign students. This created competition for Australians who found that they had to borrow more to meet higher fees themselves. Where fees for Australians remained lower than those for foreign students, the numbers of places available for Australians declined.

In France and other European countries, universities are still free to citizens, places for foreign students are still limited, and they still come on scholarships.

Australians also used to have exclusive rights to purchase 'built property' , i.e. houses, in Australia. This right protected them from having house prices bidded-up by foreigners with better currency, such as happened with Japanese buyers in Hawaii. Unfortunately we have lost this protection recently as well. Just have a look at the National Foreign Investment Review Board's Annual General Reports over the years to see how much Australian Real Estate has gone into foreign hands. Over the past twelve years particularly, loosening of the foreign acquisition, land and house-buying laws, (begun under Primeminister Fraser) has seen Australian property flogged mercilessly via the Murdoch and Fairfax press property dot coms on the internet, and has also seen a huge number of solicitors, migration agents, bankers, real-estate agents, property developers and schools and universities touting property, migration and education in Australia over the internet.

Much of this seems to have been achieved by bringing in lots of immigrants to raise demand for Australian land, housing, jobs and education, thus pricing these things more and more beyond the reach of the majority of local people, who should be in control of what is happening to them.

Australians have found it very hard to protest against this high immigration because of constant subtle messages from government and media implying that they had no right to object. That there was nothing special about them that gave them the right to object. They only lived here. Although only Australian citizens may vote, a growing cult of elite authoritarianism - of a plutocracy - was promoted by the mainstream press - the ABC, the Murdoch Press, the Fairfax Press - and the official alternative press never really encouraged questioning of this process on issues of real dissent. And the elite authorities all endorsed 'multiculturalism'. One has only to glance at the membership of the Multicultural Foundation of Australia to realise how true this is.

In its turn, the policy of multiculturalism had been used to make citizenship ambiguous. The statement quoted above, from Pino Migliorino is typical in questioning the idea that "one side has more rights than the other simply because they were there first." This kind of introduced ambiguity has stifled protest by angry citizens at this obvious erosion of their rights, and the power of Australian citizens to govern their own country. To call the citizens of a self-governing community, "those who were here first," is to diminish the role of the community and thereby of its right to democratic self-determination; to imply that those who come here do not come to join that community, but some other community, governed perhaps by big business and the elite authorities, (who tend to own the very assets, commodities and resources for which population growth inflates the prices).

Erosion of democratic expression

2. The second political problem is the use of multiculturalism as a foil for growing the population without democratic consultation and implying that those who do not want more people must be anti-'multicultural' /racist.

As if it were not bad enough for Australian citizens to have their legitimate expectations of citizenship thus belittled and put aside, a second prong has been found for multiculturalism by the creation of a racist straw-man. The racist straw-man is trotted out and set on fire by the corporate press, the ABC, and the elite authorities any time that Australians object to population growth because of environmental and cost-of-living concerns as they see green spaces filled with houses, expensive and unwanted desalination plants replace clean and free running water, and native animals trapped by expanding infrastructure. And the elite authorities reliably receive support for this destructive process from the oddest sources.

Here is an example

Damien Lawson, FoFA [Friends of the Earth] National Climate Justice Coordinator, signed an open letter declaring that: 'We are shocked and angered that the ACF has supported Labor MP Kelvin Thomson's calls to cut Australia's migration rates". The letter concludes by calling on 'the ACF and Kelvin Thomson to withdraw their anti-migrant statements'. (28) The issue has since been addressed by the group's National Liaison Officer, Cam Walker:

[A]s always happens when population and the environment comes into the mainstream debate, it becomes a useful smoke screen for people
and organisations with racist agendas who can then call for limitations on population growth, while purporting to be concerned about the environments. [Source: Walker, Matthew P.A., "Population growth in Australia: how environmental groups are responding," People and Place, April 1, 2010.

If multiculturalism were simply a policy for giving people a fair go, no matter where they came from, whilst preserving the democratic rights of citizens to self-government, it would be a fine thing. But isn't that the purpose of human rights and citizens' rights in a functioning democracy anyway? And, can you enforce human rights without citizens' rights? No, you can't. So, why not have a policy for citizens' rights?

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Comments

"Australians have found it very hard to protest against this high immigration because of constant subtle messages from government and media implying that they had no right to object". The messages are that you can't be anti- immigration because the forces of Political Correctness are powerful, and force us to comply and be silent. Being anti-immigration is to make oneself a pariah, a racist, a xenophobe, in line with Hitler!

I am married to someone born overseas, in a non-western country. My children are of mixed race. However, we are both against more immigration! This is not about race, but patriotism, concern for Australia's future, fear of overpopulation, of Australia losing its identity, of further marginalising our indigenous people, of destroying what is unique about Australia - its forests, coasts, wildlife and vegetation.

Many people who come here do not care about Australia. It's just a place to live, to work, to make money and to call a home! Keeping their own loyalities, or multiculturalism, is not encouraging loyalty to Australia. With our "skills shortages", deliberately manufactured, means that people coming here feel they are "helping" us!

Dual citizenship should go. Loyalty to Australia, and our sovereign nation, should be the priority of anyone considering taking up citizenship, and permanent residence should be limited.

I agree with most of what you said. I am of the understanding that people whatever culture they come from should preserve the parts of their culture that doesn't damage or undermine Australia's way of life or break it`s laws. I believe in multiculturalism but as you say the skills shortage & all the other rorts attached. Multiculturalism has been used as an excuse to create money for Corporations. I don't agree with stopping migration completely but I think that there should be serious cut backs in the numbers migrating to Australia. The issue of asylum seekers is that we went into the iraq & Afghanistan & drove them out of their country so we have an obligation to them even if on the short term. They should be able to live in rural areas in small groups ,not all in one place. Migrants should not be allowed to all live in one place in numbers exceeding 500,000 as it is in some Sydney areas. I am of multi mixed race & try to embrace all of the connected cultural heritage but have never known anything else but Australia. While some of the people are not racist for asking for a reduction of immigration there are a lot of people that are racist that are hostile to other races.

At the same time the government should be taking an even mix of migrants not favouring any particular race or religion to sustain a Constitutional Monarchy. This Political System is not & never has been a democracy. The system was rigged from the beginning when the Australian public were too small in population to really defend itself. The Two Party preferred system is not democratic, when you are restricted to two parties there are no choices the two parties are one group dictating terms & controlling things with absolutely no regard for public opinion except smaller issues. Most of the smaller parties of the past were inventions of the two main parties to give the public the false hope of democratically changing things only to have them betray public trust & hand preferences back to the enemy. The reason the two main parties don't want a republic is that it requires a new constitution & is the best time for democratic reforms. They know that a republic will be the end of their dictatorship & will resist it or try to steer it back to a two party system so they can retain their power & are under extreme pressure from corporations to do what they are told.

We should have impeachment laws for politicians destroying Australian industries in the interests of Corporations or foreign powers. We need a new system that follows the wishes of the people. It is not multi-culturalism that is the problem it is just the gross mismanagement of immigration. The Government should stop training migrants to take jobs from Australians & should train more doctors instead of hiring them from overseas exclusively. A fair few of those overseas doctors I can't understand or they don't finish listening to me before they start writing a script. I am sick of this anti-democratic system. Yeah you get to vote for half the government or the other half of the government, some choice, any new party is at a real disadvantage & will usually pushed out very quickly if it is not introduced by the main parties. Anyone who thinks they have freedom without any legally protected rights is a clown. The rights you exercise only exist out of the generosity of the Government until they change their minds, that is a gilded cage, not rights.If your rights are not law, then you have no valid grounds in support of your rights in court. Bring on the multi party system & human rights in the constitution. Bring on the republic !

The subtle message that Australians have no special rights in their country has been well absorbed by one of my friends who listens to the ABC and reads "The Age". We were discussing my opposition to rapid densification in the Melbourne suburbs and accompanying loss of parks and gardens and natural areas. She asked whether I was being "selfish", pointed out that many people want to live in Melbourne and emphasized that I in fact want to live in Melbourne. It was said as though I had no more right to live in the place of my birth than anyone else from anywhere else in the world! I was shocked and lost for words because it seemed to me that it is the bottom line of my rights to live in my own city! I acknowledge I have no right to live in Paris, or London and that the a Parisians and Londoners do have rights but I really thought I had a complete right to live Melbourne . It was amazing to me that a friend would as I felt diminish my right to one that was equivalent to anyone else in the world perhaps with many other choices! How well these messages referred to in the article above have been conveyed!

Great post, loved reading it, thanks for sharing.

Editorial comment: If the poster sincerely means what he/she wrote, then we would expect that he/she will soon be looking for a less socially destructive way to earn a living.

OK. I have said this before on this site, but it bears repeating. I made this comment recently about Canadian multiculturalism and I suspect it might be the case in Australia too.

"I think it is important that we not get upset with immigrants or with their customs. Instead, we should understand why they are being used, and level our guns against those who are using them. As we found out in the Toronto mayoralty election,the vast majority of "ethnics" didn't come here to be "ethnic".There is an immigration industry that is feasting off this influx. Immigration lawyers, ethnocultural leaders, human rights activists, Canadian academics---all of these people have a vested interest in promoting "diversity"---they make a living out of it. If my great grandparents were alive today, they, along with nearly all non-English speaking immigrants of their generation, would have told this coalition of professional parasites to get a life and get out of the taxpayers trough.

Most immigrants want to be part of the mainstream culture, but they are being used as a battering ram to shatter it. The main barrier to their assimilation, aside from a determined effort by government to stop them from Canadianizing, is the fact that most newcomers must work long hours at very low wages to put food on the table. They were, after all, imported as a slave labour class, for the most part. 80% of immigrants are unskilled and half of them lack the most basic job skill--fluency in one of the two official languages. They don't even earn the $25,000/year needed to reimburse governments for the services they consume. They are too tired and busy to read newspapers and attend meetings to learn more about what is happening around them. Some are barely able to understand most television programs. Most rely on their children to interpret Canadian society for them. I grew up in a multi-ethnic environment, and that was true in an overwhelming number of cases. They are not pushing this "diversity" agenda---or any agenda. They are just trying to survive. Blame the power-brokers.

Multiculturalism is government policy because it serves corporate interests and militates against efforts to form a united front against them. If people see themselves as members of an ethnic identity group, rather than citizens, then commitment to the collective goals of citizenship is weakened. Citizens care about the society they live in. Hyphenated Canadians, on the other hand, are encouraged to follow the lead of their tribal leaders, who enjoy the status of junior partners to the political-corporate establishment. I don't care if people wear funny clothing or prepare different cuisines or celebrate different religious holidays---as my great grandparents did. So long as they invest their energies in joining me and other Canadians to fight the dominant culture---the culture of money."

BTW, Superb article, Sheila