• I’ll be subject to the newly stringent standards once I get to apply for entry into “the Australian family”. (iStockphoto)Source: iStockphoto
After hearing Malcolm Turnbull’s latest announcement, Ian Rose - a permanent resident who yearns for the privilege of citizenship - isn’t sure if his integration credentials have got what it takes (though the British passport might just nudge him through).
By
Ian Rose

21 Apr 2017 - 10:57 AM  UPDATED 21 Apr 2017 - 11:35 AM

The announcement Malcolm Turnbull made this week about citizenship and “Australian values” set my teeth on all kinds of edge.

For starters there was all that talk of “competent English”. A language can’t be competent, man. A language-user can be, if he or she uses one competently, shows competence in it. Hate to be a fusspot and all, but if we’re gonna get competent, let’s go the whole hog. Practise what you preach and talk proper, would you?

And for all of its rhetorical gloss, its deft appeal to reason, the speech sure had the ring of One Nation about it. 

I’m a migrant myself. Permanent resident of six or seven years, but still not a citizen.

Who remembers the then ascendant Prince Malcolm announcing his challenge to Tony back in September ’15? “We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people,” he said. It seems 18 months is a hell of a long time in politics, and the price of good intentions slides with every passing poll.

Besides the affront to English grammar and not-so-sly subtext, there were the personal implications of Malcolm’s latest declaration to vex me.

I’m a migrant myself. Permanent resident of six or seven years, but still not a citizen.

I meant to apply by now - a vote would be nice - but dopily travelled overseas a while ago without getting my visa renewed, an inadvertent transgression that sent me several squares backwards on the migration gameboard, with a forfeit reading “keep your nose clean for four more years”. One and a bit still to go.

According to Peter Dutton, I’m going to have to demonstrate that I’ve made every effort to integrate into something called “the Australian community” and adopted something else called “Australian values”, before I’ll be granted citizenship.

So I’ll be subject to the newly stringent standards once I get to apply for entry into “the Australian family”.

According to Peter Dutton, I’m going to have to demonstrate that I’ve made every effort to integrate into something called “the Australian community” and adopted something else called “Australian values”, before I’ll be granted citizenship.

And I’m not sure I’ve pulled all that off.

Indeed, as a homesick Englishman, I’ve sometimes resisted assimilation, for fear of losing my identity and reasons of personal choice, as well as out of sheer bloody-mindedness. (And surely being bloody-minded is within the rights of a permanent citizen?)

There is no way anyone is ever going to persuade me to call football “soccer”, for instance, or that any other code is worth following. (It’s the world game for a reason, folks, AFL a clumsy, violent pogo to its ballet, rugby plain silly).

I’m wondering if the new questions on the test will probe attitudes towards barbecuing and camping? If so, I’m done for.

And when it comes to “competent English”, I’ve stuck to my mother-tongue guns. Only the short-voweled versions of the words “yoghurt” or “vitamin” shall ever pass my lips. I wear flip-flops, not thongs, at the beach, and never anywhere else. Chips are crisps, clearly.

Sometimes I say “this arvo”, but I always feel a bit soiled afterwards.

In other measures of community integration, it’s true I favour Vegemite over Marmite these days, but I never trusted a Lamington.

And what are these “Australian values” they’re banging on about anyway? The bits on law, democracy, equality and sending your kids to school I’m down with, but there’s not much specifically Australian about all that, tremendous stuff though it is. I’m wondering if the new questions on the test will probe attitudes towards barbecuing and camping? If so, I’m done for.

Except, of course, I’m not. The new rules aren’t meant to make life harder for the likes of me.

For all the talk of an Asian century, nothing provides a firmer foot in the doorway to Aussie citizenship’s “privilege” than the lion crest on the front of a British passport like mine.

Whichever side of politics has overseen them, migration processes have always favoured those who speak the right first language, who can integrate nice and discreetly, who might often happen to be white. The new rules just make it a bit more official.

I understand another Australian value is something called “a fair go”.

Fair dinkum?

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