Dr Peter White's Blog

Thoughts and comments from Dr Peter White -- political, philosophical, spiritual, musical and more

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

I am retired from the Uni. of Queensland, and have numerous interests inside and outside of the uni. I play classical, bluegrass, country and folk guitar (hows that for a mix?) I am a member of the Australian Labor Party and am currently branch secretary of the Mt Coot-tha branch. I'm also involved in developing virtual reality builds and websites. Never bored!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Kicking and screaming to the 1950s...

Well, the Oz government (in Newspeak: ozgov) has done it again. This time, they have decided that:

1) multiculturalism is now passe, and they want to abolish the word from the official lexicon; assimilation is now the main aim -- or homogenisation of the population if you will, may be a better way of putting it. In other words, only the dominant paradigm/culture/WASP approach is right -- everything else is just not up to par.


2) the same mob wants to introduce a citizenship test for all aspiring citizens. This test will include a competency in English test. It's interesting to note that at least 30% of Australians have English as a SECOND language, learned most often after they arrived here, during which time most have become citizens. The oath/affirmation of allegiance has been provided in numerous languages for those who had difficulty with English.

A while ago, this government seriously reduced the funding of the organisation that offers English lessons to newly arrived migrants, the Australian Migrant English Program (AMEP). Makes good sense to insist on people learning something and then making it even more difficult for them to do so...

This dual approach to immigration has hit me with a reaction that the government's approach is to bring us back to the future of the 1950's, when the White Australia Policy was supreme, and used to keep out all those folks who didn't have a white complexion, or at least a European background.

At this same time the civil rights battles began in earnest in the USA. It wasn't until the end of the 1960s that the WAP was finally axed.

Many of my work colleagues are linguists and sociolinguists who have studied immigrants and their ability to assimilate into the Australian culture, as well as learning a new language, and have found that the vast majority have settled in nicely, and have enriched the national life far more that could have been imagined.

Now this current government, with their linear, narrow, petit bourgeois thinking, in a knee jerk reaction based on their perceptions of terrorism, is now going to generate yet more societal fractures by creating a mob of second class citizens based on language.

O brave new world!

More when I get my thoughts less muddled...

PB White