When Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in early November used a celebration of Australian multiculturalism to open a speech justifying increased penalties for ever-younger potential jihadis, he made two rather profound statements. For the first time since Bob Hawke an Australian Prime Minister centred multiculturalism as a potential strength in building national security. In the same breath he demonstrated that it had failed in that task, as punitive sanctions were required because by implication multiculturalism had not been successful enough.
The reason for the failure was left to us to discern. I argue that the key reason for multiculturalism not providing “the cement for all Australians” that PM Howard had derided in 1988, lies in the refusal of national government after government since Hawke to legislate for its application to public life. Unlike the major states that have had no problem with multicultural legislation, the Commonwealth has surrendered the territory that effective multicultural policy should occupy, by pre-emptive buckling to nativist Right wing populists, and more recently, to jihadist ideologues with no interest in Australia. Continue reading “Why Australia needs a Multiculturalism Act and why Malcolm Turnbull should deliver one.”