Friday, February 25, 2011

Multicultural Australia in the spotlight

Multiculturalism has been the subject of some debate in the media and political spheres recently in Australia. It's no great surprise, following from recent pronouncements from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British PM David Cameron that were critical of how such a policy had worked out in their countries. And it goes hand-in-hand with the ever-present debate about asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Here's a selection of various takes on the subject.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen recently gave a strong endorsement of multiculturalism in a speech to the Sydney Insititute. This is touched on in the article Weighed down by the M-word by Paul Kelly in The Australian. However shortly after, Bowen seemed not to walk the walk, as he was roundly criticised for his illogical treatment of a 9 year-old orphaned Afghani asylum seeker. Two halves of the asylum seeker debate at Grog's Gamut blog, nicely unveils how the two major parties are playing both sides of the fence on the immigration/multiculturalism issue. Most noteworthy was the allegation that Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison had wanted to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment as an electoral strategy.

A national study into attitudes towards race was released this week. The Sydney Morning Herald's take on this begins with the headline: Australia tolerant of cultural differences: study. By contrast, SBS News takes the same story and calls it "One in ten" Australians is racist. Glass half-full or half-empty? Conservative figurehead Andrew Bolt is unsurprisingly suspicious of the whole shebang (Racism figures just don't add up). Also unsurprisingly, he declares Muslim integration the real problem. His colleague Alan Howe seems to take the same tack, but with a more positive outlook (We are all in this nation's mix).
Check also Ross Gittins' exploration of our nation's deep seated fears (A crack in the wall of xenophobia), and David Penberthy's article in The Punch (Multiculturalism: something we can all joke about).

As for my own views on the subject, I'll rummage around and come up with something shortly for ya.

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