Australia: Welcome, but it's like for like

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Sep 15 12:32:36 UTC 2006

Welcome, but it's like for like

The Daily Telegraph

September 15, 2006 12:00

IT MAY seem an anomaly to some that native-born Australians attain
citizenship rights automatically while immigrants are required to pass a
series of "tests" before they are granted the same entitlements - but most
will have no difficulty understanding the difference. It's a bit like the
adage about not being able to choose your family.  We're stuck with
eccentric old aunties, brothers who become "black sheep'', cousins who go
off the rails, whatever. And good families make efforts to help the
straying waifs, the hopeless cases, the lost sheep, because blood is
thicker than water. That's what families do. We'll extend that helping
hand to strangers as well - but the obligation is not the same. Most of us
will offer unconditional hospitality - once we know the offer is accepted
in the spirit in which it is given, once we know those in need of help are
also prepared to be friends, returning like for like.

So it is with the offer of citizenship. New arrivals are welcome to stay
in our country, so long as it is their intention to become a part of it,
accepting its social customs, its laws, its system of values. That
generally accepted set of principles appears to be the foundation of the
Federal Government's discussion paper on proposed changes to citizenship
requirements. Central to the proposed changes is the notion that all
intending citizens should be proficient in English and able to pass a
formal language test before being admitted as citizens. No doubt some
habitual critics of federal immigration policy will find reason to rail
against this idea. But this should be understood: there is no suggestion
that anyone will be obliged to forget a first language.

The idea is to ask them to learn a new one - English - so that they can
partake of the benefits this country has to offer, and participate as
fruitful contributors to its well-being. Who could possibly object to
that? Then there is the suggestion of a four-year period of residency
before immigrants would be eligible for citizenship. Again the idea has
merit. Surely those who aspire to citizenship should be required to show a
commitment. And again, it's also a bit like family, like a wedding.
Marriages and citizenship - both should be about the long term.

TV travesty

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Helen Coonan's great shake-up of media ownership
rules, trumpeted as a bold move to promote "media diversity'', is destined
to be outmoded - and dismissed - even before it is finalised. For on any
assessment, it is difficult to see exactly how consumers' interests have
been advanced. To the contrary, what appears to have been the Government's
guiding premise is the protection of the status quo, the protection of the
existing free-to-air television interests. And that is a great travesty -
for the net result is that TV audiences will be condemned again to the
same tired old mix of cheap programming, repeats and delayed telecasts.

Rather than taking the opportunity to allow the media industry to exploit
the new technologies of the "broadband'' era to benefit of customers, the
Government has gone into retreat, preferring to avoid the challenge. What
has been overlooked is speed of technological change. It's happening at
warp speed, literally, and the traditional "media'' - newspapers, radio,
and TV - are evolving on a daily basis, such that government regulation is
increasingly irrelevant. That reality appears to have escaped the
Government's attention.

And another thing...

FRESH from her tasteless khaki-with-lizard dress-up following Steve
Irwin's death, Today Tonight host Naomi Robson's next "mission'' was an
alleged attempt to save an Indonesian orphan from the clutches of a tribe
of cannibals. But Robson and her crew struck one or two problems, such as
the lack of appropriate visas - and the lack of any real intention to do
other than stage manage a grubby ratings grab. Very tacky,22049,20412945-5001031,00.html#


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