By JR on Friday, January 01, 2016
Are Australians still favorably disposed towards multiculturalism despite Muslim antics?
The article below relies a lot on a report from the Scanlon Foundation, a do-gooder outfit, so may not be entirely trustworthy. In particular, the question asked to assess attitude to immigrants was pretty dumb: "Accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger". The obvious response is "Which countries?". Syria, Iran, Iraq? I personally would agree that immigration from East Asia and the various countries of Europe has been beneficial but I can see no similar benefit of immigration from fanatically Muslim lands or from crime-riddled African lands. I very much doubt that I am alone in that. All immigrants are not the same, hard to acknowledge though that may be to the Left
I also note that the survey was done the lazy way -- over the telephone. Such surveys are widely used but can be wildly inaccurate. In my own survey research I usually trudged from door to door to ask my questions. I believe I may be the only academic who has ever done so. Academics much prefer armchairs to dusty shoes. So again, I rather doubt the results. They could well be much too high
It is however true that Australians tend to be a relaxed and easy-going people so they may well be more accepting of immigrants than some others
Australia has had three terrorist attacks over the past year and this month former prime minister Tony Abbott preached to the Muslim world that it must become “enlightened”. Yet the country sticks out from others fighting Islamist extremism as most of its population strongly support multiculturalism and legal immigration.
Neil El-Kadomi, Parramatta Mosque chairman, says the local non-Muslim community have largely remained supportive. A recent protest by far-right group Reclaim Australia outside the mosque drew just a handful of protesters. “It shows just what a small minority this is,” he says. “We have integrated well into the community.”
A recent survey by the Scanlon Foundation shows 86 per cent of people say multiculturalism has been “good for Australia”, while 67 per cent say immigration has “made the country stronger” — the highest level recorded since the survey was introduced in 2007.
[That's a barefaced lie. According to Table 9 in the Scanlon report, it was higher in 2009 and 2014. Pesky of me to look up the original figures, isn't it? I have always found that fun]
“This is the reverse of the trend you see in Europe now, where the National Front and Ukip are gaining sizeable support,” says Andrew Markus, a professor at Monash University in Victoria.
It is not hard to see why Australia is more accepting of different cultures. A quarter of the country’s 23m population were born overseas, which makes it one of the world’s most multicultural nations, with more than double the proportion of immigrants than either the UK or Germany.
“Australians accept they are a new country made up of immigrants, whereas Europe with its older cultures does not,” says Prof Markus.
He says in Europe multiculturalism has been interpreted by political leaders as immigrant groups retaining their own cultures and rejecting integration. In Australia it is now understood to mean respect for different cultures while integrating into mainstream society, says Prof Markus.
It was not always this way. Australia introduced its “White Australia” policy at the turn of the 20th century to deter an increasing flow of migrants from Asia. This policy was gradually dismantled following the second world war, and in 1975 the government under Gough Whitlam passed the race discrimination act, which outlawed racially based selection for migrants.
chart: foreign-born population
Since then there has been sporadic racial unrest such as the 2005 Cronulla riots, when clashes broke out between members of the Middle Eastern community and white Australians. More recently, the far-right group Reclaim Australia has held demonstrations to campaign against what it dubs “Islam’s radicals”. But there is little sign of any far-right political party gaining the type of electoral support that would give it real influence.
Australia’s tight control of its borders and its role as colony rather than a colonial power are two underlying reasons why support for immigration remains high, according to some experts.
Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s racial discrimination commissioner, says the country benefits from being an island continent that has a planned intake of migrants, most of whom are skilled.
“You don’t have the problem here of migrants and their descendants feeling estranged from the country,” he says.
Australia’s strong economy, which has grown for 24 consecutive years, is another positive factor. Unemployment remains low at less than 6 per cent and there are fewer of the immigrant ghettos that blight parts of France and the UK.
“We don’t have the level of structural disadvantage attached to ethnicity that you see in some other countries,” says Kevin Dunn, professor of human geography and urban studies at Western Sydney University .
But he warns this positive picture of a multicultural life in Australia cannot be taken for granted. Muslims experience discrimination at about three times the rate of other Australians, according to a recent study Prof Dunn oversaw, and people are emboldened to perform racist actions due to terrorist events and divisive media and political commentary.
“It is the political environment that determines whether racism flourishes,” says Prof Dunn. “This is the biggest risk to multiculturalism.”