Friday, February 24, 2006

Mr Costello feels guilty about dentention of migrants

“The point is reasonable but the presentation provocative”, says Michelle Grattan about the Treasurer’s Sydney Institute Speech. We agree. Of course citizenship means embracing the values of the nation (which are currently a subject of debate in themselves). But why the needless provocative statements about a particular faith/cultural group within Australia? Why not, as Grattan suggests, target “sophisticated globalised workers”? Why not those immigrants who bring gang warfare and organised crime to Australia? Is there another agenda here?

In the speech, Mr Costello described a citizenship ceremony he attended.

“One of the speakers this year extolled the virtues of multiculturalism telling those attending that becoming an Australian did not mean giving up culture or language or religion or opinions and it certainly did not mean giving up the love of their country of birth. The longer he went on about how important it was not to give up anything to become an Australian the more it seemed to me that, in his view, becoming an Australian didn't seem to mean very much at all – other than getting a new passport.”

While I support Mr Costello’s call for newcomers to embrace “Australian values” (which, as far as I can tell, are the humanitarian values of people of good will everywhere), may I suggest that this still need not necessitate the renunciation of the peculiar cultural practices and values of the place of origin. The only exception, of course, would be where those peculiar practices and values conflict with Australian law. Did Mr Costello need to attack a particular segment of the Australian migrant society to get this message across?

As an aside, I wonder if Mr Costello is aware of the double meaning behind his thoughts at the citizenship ceremony: “At this point, I was feeling quite guilty that we had detained these good people so long.” Is this the apology we have been waiting for so long?


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