The Gillard government’s new multicultural strategy is short on substance and ignores more than half of all newly arrived immigrants, according to comments made last week by the Coalition’s immigration spokesman Scott Morrison.
Mr Morrison rounded on the government’s recent actions on multicultural policy, telling the media that since the government announced a raft of changes one year ago, including beefing up the Australian Multicultural Council as a “champion for multiculturalism”, a year down the track, the initiatives amounted to little more than “symbolism”.
“I don’t think anything has changed,” said Mr Morrison, adding that in his view that the government made only, “some announcements appointed some committees and published some glossy brochures.” Mr Morrison, who last year supported the government’s announcement on multicultural policy initiatives, describing them as “very worthy” added that the government-funded Australian Migrant English Program was also failing, and unable to help migrants take their place successfully in the broader community.
Ms Maria Vamvakinou MP, chair of the government’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration, which is currently undertaking an inquiry into multiculturalism, responding to Mr Morrison’s criticisms, told Neos Kosmos that the government’s strategy was “a combination of powerful symbolism and constructive practical application.
“We are proud to state clearly that we support the genius of multiculturalism because the Federal Labor Government believes in Multicultural Australia, Mr Morrison does not.”
Rebuffing the Coalition’s criticisms that settlement services were too focused on permanent migration, Ms Vamvakinou said: “I certainly hope Mr Morrison does not intend to wind back settlement services for newly arrived permanent migrants should he become Australia’s immigration Minister. Such a move would present a very real threat to social cohesion.”
Ms Vamvakinou said that evidence so far submitted to the inquiry suggests “there are areas that need further attention,” including the adequacy of English language teaching and settlement of temporary migrants, and that the committee would “make recommendations that address fault lines, wherever they may be”. Ms Vamvakinou said that evidence so far submitted to the inquiry suggests “ there are areas that need further attention,” including the adequacy of English language teaching and settlement of temporary migrants, and told Neos Kosmos that the committee would “make recommendations that address fault lines wherever they may be”.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has also contested Mr Morrison’s criticisms. Chairman Mr Pino Migliorino pointed to initiatives such as the National Anti-Racism Partnership, and the appointment of a national race discrimination commissioner as evidence of constructive action taken by the government. “Most importantly we have finally seen multiculturalism back on the national agenda, after a long period of neglect during which our diversity as a nation, and the strength this affords us, was not appropriately recognised,” said Mr Migliorino.
In regard to the Migration English Program, FECCA has said that it would welcome the provision of more learning hours, increased engagement with employment opportunities and tailoring the program to meet the specific needs of new and emerging communities.