How we define who is Australian and what we mean by “Australian” has become strong focus over many years. With the rise of nationalism in Australia, there are those who insist they are the authority on this.
Redcuchulain asks why do nationalist monarchists like Hanson believe they have the legitimate right to dictate to the rest of us who we are? Does a true Australian worship the Queen, or do they stand in solidarity with an Australian President of an Australian Republic? Would Hanson pass the citizenship test?
One of the most wonderful things about Australia day is the number of people who choose to become Australian citizens. They make a permanent commitment to this country. It is easy to understand why.
I still look back fondly on the day when I became an Australian citizen. Yet, I can still imagine what those people are feeling as they take their oath. I fell in love with Australia the first time I visited here. For me it is the egalitarian outlook of most people, the beautiful country. It is also the freedom from the old baggage which holds other places back that makes this country great. We are still young enough to shape our own destiny.
I could not help noticing the oath this year and the irony that some people in the public eye now who claim to be bastions of Australian values would not be able to take the oath with a straight face. “Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background”
How could Pauline Hanson seriously take this vow and not choke on the words? Or: “compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good” when she recently voted to support the LNP’s latest round of cuts to welfare recipients and pensioners.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection, under the authority of Minister Scott Morrison, is in the process of seeking amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 that will give the minister draconian powers over not only asylum seekers, but anyone who has become or wishes to become an Australian citizen.
The Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, will give Morrison the power to set aside decisions made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on the character and identity of those applying for citizenship or who have already received it, in a public interest test determined solely by the Minister.
The DIBA submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular insight into the community’s standards and values. This particular insight therefore qualifies Morrison to overrule AAT decisions. It is the bill’s intention to grant a minister, in this case Morrison, the power to determine an individual’s “good character” or otherwise, regardless of any ruling made by the AAT. Morrison’s decision will be unchallengeable.
The bill also aims to give Morrison the right to determine “fraud” or “misrepresentation” in applications for citizenship. In such instances Morrison can revoke papers regardless of whether or not the individual concerned has been convicted of either offence.
That is, Morrison or the minister concerned has the power to determine “guilt” outside of any criminal proceedings, denying individuals the presumption of innocence.
The notion that anyone has particular insight or is entitled to absolute power because he or she is an MP and minister of the Crown is extremely dangerous. It is confusing the office with the human being who holds it. High office does not automatically endow its holder with integrity or insight. We are all too familiar with “killers in high places who say their prayers out loud” as Leonard Cohen puts it.
Morrison’s ongoing lunges for absolute power must be challenged. This is a liberal democracy. We do not have ministers who overrule the expert opinions of experienced tribunals. We do not have ministers who are above the rule of law and entitled to deprive any human being of the presumption of innocence. We do not have ministers who are answerable to nobody, whose decisions are unchallengeable, and who are allowed to carry out their department’s business in absolute secrecy.