Legal system, not citizenship reform, key to address perceived attacks on Australian values: Deakin expert

Media release
20 April 2017

The Federal Government’s proposed citizenship reforms will do nothing to address a perceived attack on ‘Australian values’, according a Deakin University expert on cultural diversity and intercultural relations.

“The Government does not need to change the citizenship requirements when there is a whole legal system in place to address the issues being presented,” said Alfred Deakin Professor Fethi Mansouri, Director of Deakin’s Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.

“If these laws are not adequately addressing issues such as respect for the rule of law or children’s rights, then the changes are needed to the legal system itself, not to citizenship requirements.

“For example, if there is a case of a child being forced to enter a marriage or being subjected to other illegal practices then this already contravenes domestic laws that should apply to all people regardless of their citizenship status.”

Professor Mansouri said he was concerned that the Government would incite unnecessary public alarm by choosing citizenship reform as a way to improve integration in Australia.

“It is a big mistake to link social cohesion and security concerns with citizenship and migration,” he said.

“Evidence tells us that Australians are mostly happy with the diversity of our society. They are happy for people to continue to follow the culture and faith provided they do not contravene our laws and obligations that are already part of the Australian ethos.

“There are certainly some extremist groups and individuals that are behaving in ways that contravene Australian laws that must be dealt with within existing legal requirements. However, linking these negative messages to diversity and multiculturalism will only inflame public concerns.”

Professor Mansouri believed that if the Government was serious about improving integration it should put in place an act that recognises multiculturalism as has been done in Canada and Victoria.

“What is not being debated is the lack of an Australian multicultural act,” Professor Mansouri said.

“Canada has had one in place since 1988 and Victoria has had one since 1994. These acts recognise and value diversity and promote a united community with shared laws, values, aspirations and responsibilities.

“Interestingly we have not seen ethnic Armageddon or similar concerns in Victoria, nor in Canada, since the acts were passed.”

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Media release Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI)