Citizenship must be earned

Australia reaps the whirlwind of lenient citizenship policies.

Questions of citizenship have been of some concern to both Australians and New Zealanders, recently.

Australians became uncomfortably aware of just how many of the political class didn’t owe sole loyalty to Australia when dozens of MPs were booted from parliament under the constitution’s dual-citizenship rule. For our Kiwi cousins, the rapid escalation in deportations of New Zealand-born long-term Australian residents were a sobering reminder of the importance of citizenship.

Many online commenters expressed the opinion that the deportees had only themselves to blame. Anyone choosing to settle in a new country, it was said, should become a citizen at the earliest opportunity.

This seems a reasonable proposition. Yet, at the same time, politicians like Australia’s David Lleyonhjelm argue that Australia should be much more exacting, and that the path to citizenship should be drawn-out and arduous. This also seems a reasonable proposition. After all, the argument goes, many refugees especially only become citizens of convenience, with no real loyalty to or appreciation of Australia.

Solving the dilemma requires understanding just how much the nature of migration to Australia has changed. Until the advent of mass air-travel, migration to Australia was very much a one-way trip. European settlement of Australia was partly founded on the basis that it about as far away as possible to find habitable land. Even the post-War migration boom was undertaken by sea; the idea of ever visiting their native country again was a distant dream for most migrants.

By the 1970s, it was not unfeasible for migrants to visit the old country. Even then, though, that was a rare and expensive luxury. But over the next few decades, international travel became much cheaper and easier. My mother-in-law, who migrated in the 1950s, first went back for a visit in the 80s. In the last decade, she has been back twice.

Today’s migrants and refugees are even more mobile. There are many cases of “refugees” gaining an Australian passport and almost immediately returning to the country where they were supposedly in deadly danger, whether to collect an arranged bride or just for a holiday.

Migration and citizenship, then, are much more a matter of convenience today. When my in-laws left war-torn Europe they knew it was for good. They also knew that they couldn’t count on much that they didn’t earn through hard work. Assimilation and integration were the philosophies of the day: migrants were expected to adapt to the Australian way of life. Multiculturalism didn’t become government policy until the 1970s.

Multiculturalism was the other great change to affect migration to Australia. As poet Les Murray put it, under Multiculturalism, “the least adaptable are the purest then, the narrowest the most multicultural”.

Even though migrants are pursuing economic opportunity just as much as they did in the 1950s, less is being asked in return. Two-thirds of refugees are still unemployed after five years, six times the national average. Almost all are on welfare of some kind. Family migrants fare somewhat better, with about half employed.

But being gifted a safe haven and generous welfare seems to have earned Australia little in return. Middle-eastern and African migrants, in particular, endlessly bleat about “resentment”. While African communities have exponentially higher rates of violent crime, “community leaders” blame generous Australia’s “racism” for their bad behaviour.

Young Muslims like Numan Haider are gifted extraordinary opportunities in Australia, as he showed by posing for selfies in fast cars. Like others, he repaid Australia’s generosity with terrorist violence. Far from contrition, Muslim “community leaders” blamed Australian authorities.

When Australia gives everything with no expectation, we are repaid with blood and contempt.

Contrary to Australia, Switzerland asks a great deal of those who want the shelter of its citizenship. Migrants cannot be naturalised unless they have actually lived in the country for at least ten years. People on welfare or with a criminal record are banned, as are those who fail to demonstrate considerable proficiency in a national language. Even then, the State Secretariat for Migration must be satisfied that the applicant has sufficiently integrated into Swiss ways, are familiar with Swiss customs and traditions, and are not a security threat.

After all that, cantons and municipalities must still approve. After a personal interview, some cantons pass the final say to a communal assembly, or a naturalisation test.

Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers also describes a world where citizenship is hard-earned. The “Terran Federation” only grants full citizenship to those who perform Federal Service, usually military. My father used to say that, if you didn’t have to work for something, it wouldn’t mean as much. While Heinlein’s depiction is extreme, the philosophy is much the same: nothing is of value unless it is earned.

Where the Swiss model is designed to ensure a commitment to shared values, Australia currently hands out citizenship as easily as sweets. We harvest disdain in return: even the introduction of a quite easy citizenship test was met with howls of “racism”.

Making citizenship a hard-earned privilege would encourage good behaviour.

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